When you really want something, there is sometimes an unpleasant price to pay, not necessarily involving money. I really wanted something today, here in Moldova, the small country where I now live. Actually, I’ve wanted it for a while and found it not achievable so far, not at any price, no matter how nice I smiled and batted my eyelashes. Sometimes as a new expat in a foreign country, smiling and batting eyelashes is all you’ve got.
Today I am trying again. Perhaps things have changed. Perhaps today I will find what I crave to have.
I can’t breathe. They’re too close, all these bodies, faces, arms, hips, elbows, legs and feet. I push myself through the mass of bodies, looking around with eager anticipation, hoping to see what I came for.
True, this physical intimacy does not involve a bed, a couch, or an office desk. Instead I’m schlepping my body through a large open market along with a multitude of other prowlers, and all the touching of various body parts is not what you’d call arousing. It’s downright uncomfortable. But.
Anything leafy and fresh and crisp.
Now, I love open markets and I’ve seen a few foreign markets around the world, so I was looking forward to going on an exploration of the market in Chisinau when I first arrived in Moldova in April. The market is large, and it looks like just about anything China and Turkey grow and produce is available there. Clothing, plastic ware, cleaning products, household goods, bedding, toys, canned goods. In shops and stands you can find local fresh meat, sausages, fish, cheese, honey, you name it.
And then there’s the produce.
My first time in the market here, in April, I was on a quest for greens, anything fresh and leafy. I found a cornucopia of cabbage, old onions, soft potatoes and muddy carrots. The imported produce looked better –tomatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, pineapples and so on. I did not find kale, escarole, watercress, spinach, or anything else leafy except some limp lettuce.
Being a rather rabbit-like consumer of green leafy vegetables, I was heartbroken and worried about my intake of vitamin K. (You know how important vitamin K is, don’t you?) I didn’t particularly care about escarole or watercress persé, just any facsimile or local variety would be just fine, but it appears the Moldovans don’t go for the green leafy stuff. Even in a restaurant when ordering a “green salad” you often get a mostly red mix of tomatoes, cucumber, sweet pepper and onion and a leaf or two of lettuce thrown in as decoration.
Now that it is July, the produce section of the market is a festival of peaches, cherries, new potatoes, peas, beans and various herbs. The place is redolent with the scent of ripe raspberries and peaches. It’s a joy to behold, even as my feet are getting stepped on, my ribs poked by elbows and my arms stroked by other arms. It’s a veritable orgy of fruit lovers here.
But where are the leafy green vegetables? Escarole, spinach, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens? Nowhere, is where. There is now a decent supply of green and red lettuce, and so I procure these. I find some beets with the leaves in edible shape, and I buy these. I ache for some Swiss chard or baby spinach, but alas, I find them nowhere.
So, again, my hunting and gathering efforts are not successful when it comes to other green, leafy legume, not even now that it is spring, the season of leafy green everything. I have to console myself with raspberries for just over one US dollar a pound (1,65 euro per kilo), sweet cherries and peaches, equally cheap, and fresh peas and beans.
So, watch me now as I am happily messing in my kitchen, washing cherries and shelling peas, and tell me, with nothing more than beet greens to show for my vitamin K quest, was getting intimate with strangers too high a price to pay?
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What foods have you searched for in foreign countries? What price did you pay or try to pay to get them? I know of a person who carried fresh shrimp on ice in her suitcase to a shell-fish free country. Are you reading this L. P.?