The place is huge, comprised of three separate covered areas, each a full football field in size. And every Tuesday, someone (or many someones) set up and take down this entire market. It's incredible until you realize how cheap labor is down here, and then it seems quite credible. What is hard to fathom is the sheer variety of what you can buy here. Check this out:
Today's venture, however, was not a waste. These funky, tasty little morsels pictured below are something I'd been hoping to find at the market all the previous times I'd been here, and I was elated to finally strike gold:
Corn fungus gold, that is. Huitlacoche (pronounced "wheat-la-coe-chay") to be more precise. This ugly little member of the mold and mushroom family grows only during a brief season and is highly prized as the "Mexican truffle." Some I know can't stand the stuff, but I also know that Rick Bayless buys it from an Illinois farmer whom he has convinced to inoculate his perfectly good midwestern USA corn with the spores of this nasty looking fungi. Apparently Rick harvests it and freezes it so he can use it all year long. If it's good enough for him, I for one am buying a kilo of this stuff. I'll report back after eating it.
And here to our left is Janan sampling a variety of fruits just prior to fitting me up with a multi-kilo load of tasty items. Now I know what the burros feel like around here.
But I'm not complaining - the fruits and vegetables down here are amazing. The large halved fruit under her hand is called "che-chah-moe-tay" if I recall correctly, and it tasted like honey and vanilla and sweet pear all combined with a crisp acidity to keep it feeling clean rather than cloying. So a few of those got stuffed into my shoulder bag too, along with the black berries, huitlacoche, and a few other things I can't recall...
Anyway, while I didn't end up buying a new phone, an air conditioner, a Converse All-Star belt, or a bright orange pair of pants, I did manage to stuff my shoulder bag and a few other plastic bags to the bursting limit with fruits and vegetables prior to leaving, and all for a total of about 220 pesos (around $18.50, which included the rather tasty and filling lunch Janan and I both had). So Janan packed it all up in the car while I wandered around for an extra hour or more, wondering if I really needed to purchase one of the limitless other useful items being sold at rather rediculously low prices, such as large plastic blue tarps, batteries in every size, used tools and knives, crucifixes and numerous other items of religious paraphenalia, CDs from latino artists I'd never heard, bootlegged movies (poorly overdubbed in Spanish, of course), saddles or other horse riding gear, heavily used paperback novels and/or shoes, toy guns (not like the real ones available all over Texas - down here, a real gun gets you several years in the slammer regardless of who you know, including Jesus), every conceivable type of tool ever invented by man (including tools made of stone, wood, and leather), and, of course, a plethora of delicious smelling pork products.
And of course, a cup of either cumquats or pomegranate seeds to much on while wandering thru the market is a good idea, especially after the fried fish tacos. At least I think those are cumquats. Not sure.
So if you get down here, you have to join for me a tour of the Tuesday market. It's phenomenal. And unlike back home, most of the fabricated items are not from China (most are from Mexico, believe it or not), and the food actually comes from farms close by (still a foreign concept, understandably, in big cities like Chicago where "local" means from within a 500 mile radius). And don't worry about Moctezuma's revenge. Janan is correct, I had an "issue" a day and a half after my first visit to the market when we just arrived in mid August (I once again ignored my better instincts and ate all the salad that came with my fried fish). But another thing I absolutely love about Mexico: should you, too, have this "issue," I'll take you to see the Señora at the local Pharmacy and explain in broken Spanish that your Gringo stomach is adjusting to the exuberant tango that thrives in the local street cuisine, and for under $40 US you'll walk equipped with antibiotics and flow remedies that will have you back on the dance floor in half a day. No doctor visit or American drug companies involved, which saves you roughly six hours of precious time and $200-$300 US. And that buys you alot of cervecas and tacos down here, my friend!
So, having been here over 6 weeks, I indulged on that delicious fried fish and cabbage salad that I suspected gave me a bit of trouble when I first arrived, and fearlessly had my fill of the market and strolled home rather peacefully in mind and spirit. Hard not to, when your walk home from the busy commercial center looks like this:
I honestly can't remember the last time I walked 2 miles home, but I wish I did it more frequently.