The first floor is fruit and vegetables, the second meat, fish, cheese, breads, wines, clothing and sundries. Its noisy, its crowded and at first confusing; now we have the stalls we go to regularly where we know we'll be greeted warmly, our bad Italian tolerated and kindly corrected, little extras will be thrown in and a piece of cheese or one or two olives proffered for our tasting.
It is unusual to see two men shopping together here in Rome and we sometimes get stares from other customers. At first it was a bit disconcerting but now we just smile and say buon giorno. One Saturday morning when I went marketing by myself the Nonna (grandmother) at one of our preferred vegetable stalls was most concerned that "il aultro signore e ammalatto?" I assured her that Laurent was fine and we settled down to choose vegetables for the minestrone.
One of the great things about the markets here is that there is still a certain sense of seasonality to things. As an example figs - in September and October there were fresh sweet juicy figs from Italy, in November and December Turkish figs that were not as tasty and now there are none to be found anywhere. And we have a wide variety of choices - at the moment there are three types of cherry tomatoes available and which ones you buy depends on what you are using them for.
Its also artichoke season and there was a choice of five or six kinds. We asked one of the ladies to prepare six of the globe artichokes for us and within a minute she had them trimmed, acetated with lemon juice and ready to be steamed, sprinkled with Pecorino, breadcrumbs and parsley for Sunday night's dinner.
Our deli of choice is always Mauro's; the first time we went there the young lady in the picture was so helpful, pleasant and jolly we just kept coming back. And the cheeses, cured meats and olives are the best in our particular market. They also do some very nice antipasti - grilled eggplant rolls stuff with sun-dried tomato and marinated in a spicy olive oil is a favorite in our house. And the fact that Mauro is a bit of a hot daddy doesn't hurt either.
There's so much available at the markets here in the way of seafood - fish, shellfish, eels etc. We still haven't gotten adventuresome enough to actually buy any. Neither of us are familiar with many of the fish caught in this area of the world other than Rumbo (which we have frequently at our local trattoria Lemoncini.) And though there may be 5 different varieties of eel available I'm not about to prepare them in my kitchen.
The people at our favorite butchers' are more than happy to put up with the strange mix of Italian-French-Spanish-English Laurent and I attempt to communicate in. There have been times when we've resorted to pantomime - my attempt to buy a whole turkey rather than bits and pieces is still the talk of the second floor. And being Italy, of course, other customers are more than willing to get into the act - advise is freely dispensed on why you don't want a particular cut of meat or what you should do with the one you just bought. Unlike most of our neighbors we have a very large upright freezer - most Romans will buy meat in small quantities every day or two. We tend to buy larger portions, which must raise the unasked question about how many people there actually are in our family. I'm often tempted to wave my hand in an extravagant manner at our bundles and exclaim: Per i otto bambini (For the 8 little ones). And I think we get the odd stare now!
The market photos were taken by Laurent this past Saturday, February 23, 2008.
26 febbraio - San Nestore