My days of a heavy Friday night celebrating the end of the week are nearly over since moving to Barbados, although I still give it a try occasionally just to appease the inner lush. I just stick to the one bottle of wine. Okay, I try my best to keep to the one bottle. This is due to the necessity of having to get up early on a Saturday morning to shop at the local Barbados vegetable market, based in Cheapside, Bridgetown.
It is a partial covered market with stalls inside, and some lined along the pavements around it. Saturday is the main day of the market and anyone in the “know” will get there at least by 8am. 8am. On a Saturday! This is what island living has done to me.’
When I lived in Dubai I would have been sound asleep at that time on a Saturday, sleeping off the excess of the Friday brunch. As an aside, there is nothing like having a hangover in a sunny country. There were a few Saturdays that I have laid on the sofa wearing sunglasses whilst clutching a large glass of water and a Berrocca tablet blaming that “last drink” I should not have slurped. Those sunglasses stayed on all day. Indoors! Blackout curtains in a sunny country are essential.
The perils of not getting to the vegetable market on time is that the good vegetables will go. As a vegetarian, vegetables are essential for me and I want the big fat, juicy tomatoes. Not the small green ones that will only ripen after a month of sitting on the window sill in the sun. However much a chore it feels to drag myself out at an early hour on a weekend, it disappears once I reach the market and I chat to the regular stall holders that I visit. I now have a routine of certain stall holders that I will always visit due to the quality of their produce.
Being a tall blonde with a couple of Sainsbury’s orange “bag for life” in her hands, I stand out but eventually have been regarded as a regular. The interaction at the market makes me actually feel that I “live” here too, with the hustle and bustle of the market, opposed to the soulless walk around a supermarket. The quality of the fruit and vegetables at the market is so much better than the local supermarkets, and more importantly a lot cheaper. A lot of it is grown locally so you have comfort in knowing that you supporting local farmers rather than a soulless corporation.
The biggest challenge of shopping in Barbados is that it is a weekly lottery of what produce will be available. Especially if you eat low carb vegetables. I can have all the lists, sub lists and meal plans prepared but they are meaningless until I get to the market and see exactly what produce is available. It will vary slightly between season and also upon what the stall holders were able to purchase. The sense of relief when I can almost get all my weekly vegetables from one of my regular stalls could cause me to almost light up a huge cigar, reach for a large rum punch and do a little dance! One week I found a stall who was selling zucchini which is rare outside a supermarket. She’s never had it again. I still live in hope and pass her by every week, just in case.
If I can’t get what I want from Cheapside vegetable market, it’s then a dreaded visit to one of the supermarkets here. The vegetables are much more expensive and often are of dubious quality. “Fresh” is a term loosely applied.
Cauliflower is my favourite vegetable and the price of it varies every week. Sometimes it changes during the week. More than often the price is so high you can hear my loud British swearing in the vegetable section. It’s a sad state of affairs when a cauliflower is viewed as a treat!
All in all, a worthy visit and worth that groan as I get up on a Saturday, leaving the husband loafing on the sofa in his dressing gown, as I bravely start the weekly challenge that is the weekend shop. Sobbing quietly inside, as I drive to the market, recalling the days of ordering online grocery shopping being delivered directly to my kitchen and picking a delivery slot after 11am so I could sleep in. I can now always nap in the afternoon once the shopping is done.