When I was little, Mom would take me grocery shopping every Saturday. As a reward for good behaviour, she would buy me a bottle of ice-cold Magnolia chocolate milk, which I would drink once we got back home, while I watched The Osmonds and The Muppet Show.
Years later, after we moved to a new neighbourhood, I would still accompany Mom to the nearby palengke (wet market) on Saturday mornings. This was good training not only in budgeting and menu planning, but also in overcoming squeamishness and developing a strong stomach.
There was the butcher’s stall, with slabs of fresh meat piled high on the scarred wooden boards. One time, a man came up with an entire slaughtered pig across his shoulders and dumped it on the counter in front of me.
Then there was the chicken stall, where you could prod, poke, squeeze and even sniff the various parts before you made your selection. And the fish stall, where you pointed out the swimmer you wanted and got to watch as it was cleaned and gutted before your eyes, scales flying like shrapnel every which way.
Our last stop was the fruit and vegetable stand, where two old ladies (one short and fat, the other tall and skinny) beamed at you as they weighed out your onions and tomatoes, long beans and bitter melons and eggplants, mangoes and bananas.
Mom and I live in different cities now, on opposite sides of this vast country we now call home, but when we get together we still try to keep up the old tradition. Like today. We drove to Jean Talon Market and went slightly crazy over the colourful mountains of late summer bounty. We bought peaches and plums, sausages and honey, and – bonus of the day – zucchini flowers for tonight’s pasta. And of course, no trip to the market would be complete without a treat at the end of the afternoon. In memory of those long-ago chocolate milks, I selected a vanilla and chocolate gelato.
Feast your eyes on the photos, and look forward with me to a lovely and fruitful fall!