We’re on Nomadic Day 23 here in Wellington.
I don’t know about you, but that’s way longer than any other vacation or break from the regular schedule of life that I’ve had since … um, let’s go with ever. It’s long enough that it’s starting to become difficult to differentiate between the days of the week, despite trying to hang on to some semblance daily norms like EV6’s bedtime routine.
That’s why I was so excited to visit a farmers’ market this morning. Saturday morning farmer’s markets were a regular fixture of our Philadelphia life for much of the year, no matter which configuration of the three of us decided to attend. Even if this one paled by comparison, it would at least let me know it was Saturday.
As it turns out, the Newtown Fruit and Vegetable Market in Wellington dwarfed our little Landsdowne Farmer’s Market. Or, maybe it just seemed big because there were so many vendors squeezed into such a small space all selling similar things. It created an effect similar to a hall of mirrors, such that you saw endless rows of peppers, pumpkins, and kumara no matter which way you turned.
Not only were there (perhaps literal) tons of fresh food, but it was much cheaper than in the many supermarkets we’ve visited like Goldilocks sampling bear housewares. A bag of veggies almost too heavy for me to carry was only $35! Plus, I snagged a beautiful brocade-covered canvas bag for just five dollars from a delightful woman who said she appears at the market fortnightly, and I honestly would have probably paid just to hear her use that word casually in a sentence.
The market helped introduce a little bit of gravity into my week, but it was a trip to the local Mediterranean Food Warehouse, that made me feel more at home here. It’s a high-end Italian-influenced grocery store and eatery chain whose local outpost commands one corner of a large intersection nearby.
Something that got a little lost in my pasta sauce lament last week was that I’m not only missing the super-sized selection of American supermarkets, but the particular blend of groceries you see in a typical Philadelphia area store.
Essentially, I tended to take my unfettered access to Locatelli Pecorino Romano for granted.
It’s easy to forget that groceries around America don’t always have a wide selection of cheeses from DiBruno Brothers, or a massive selection of tortillas and various canned Goya beans. Those selections are particular to the ethnic makeup of Philly.
So, perhaps you will understand when I tell you I teared up a little bit when I turned encountered a wall of familiar imported pasta boxes situated just across from a cheese counter.
Yet, it also reminded me that my experience of being Italian is a regional one specific to South Philadelphia and divorced from a homeland which I know very little about.
Chatting with the friendly cheesemonger from Italy, the things I asked for rang no bells with him – and, saying I was from Philadelphia didn’t exactly ring a bell as to why I was so knowledgable and choosy about my hard cheeses.
I still came away with a bloc of my coveted Romano, and now I know where to get crushed tomatoes to make my own marinara sauce.
If the morning was dedicated to finding traces of the familiar, the evening was about finding something different and magical – the Vegan Vault night market!
It’s a once-monthly affair that collects a dozen or so vegan vendors into a single cavernous semi-underground space, filled with brightly colored walls, partially denuded office stools, and a makeshift stage that looks to be built on top of a row of late 19th century bed frames.
It had the sort of slapdash magic that so enamored me to Camden Market in London, which in turn always makes me think of the Floating Market in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.
We’re on Nomadic Day 23 and Kiwi Day 11, but sitting here with a plate of grapes and hard Italian cheese makes it feel a little more tangible, while our evening’s adventure was a reminder that the magic of New Zealand isn’t entirely caught up in the stunning views.