I enjoy going to the country markets and one of my favourites is the market at São Teotónio near Odemeira, in the Alentajo. I refer to the term “country” because I’m not so keen on the markets held in the tourist towns of the Algarve. These are usually full of the rip-off-tat such as fake designer clothes, watches, sunglasses and general toot (slang for rubbish). To be fair, there are also many useful items for sale as well, but when I can buy these from local shops and supermarkets for the same price or even less, and the stall holders won’t negotiate what’s the point?
You also have to contend with the over-eager gypsy sellers who thrust their wares in your face while clinging to your arm to detain you in a desperate attempt to make a sale – they make my skin crawl!
Mr. Piglet says I over react. My body language resembles that of a cat warning a dog not to approach. If you close your eyes and picture the way a cat’s hairs stand on end with hostility as it spits and snarls in warning at a dog, that’s me! Or perhaps I resemble the Rooster below?
I know stall holders have to make a living but if they allowed people to look without accosting them surely they would stand more chance of making a sale?
Anyway, I digress! (I think you can tell they rile me)
One of the reasons I love the São Teotónio Market is because it has a separate area where many of the stall holders are genuine producers and you can buy anything and everything from rabbits, chicks, roosters and ducks, to local honey, meat and cheeses. Plus all the vegetable seedlings, plants and trees I need for my garden. I’m not keen on the imported toot from China. Actually thinking about this statement EVERYTHING seems to be made in China now! Yes, OK, I’m a market snob!
I am fascinated by the poultry and song birds for sale. Mr. Piglet considers himself fortunate we do not have a large garden because I’d be a real sucker and want to re home them all.
I love the local honey. Perhaps I should change my name from Piglet to Winnie the Pooh!
There was even a “still” for sale to make your own medronho (strong liquor).
The “feel” of this market is somehow different and more friendly. For example when I asked the plant stall holder for advice, in my hesitant Portuguese, several people gathered round to listen and offered advice. Despite the language barrier you realise there are as many opinions about how to grow a particular vegetable as there are people.
However, weeks later the plants have matured and it looks like I’ve ended up with five cucumber plants plus one “miscellaneous” instead of the four zucchini and the two cucumber plants I’d asked for! Something definitely got “lost in translation” somewhere along the way.
The sausage stall fascinates me with its selection of stuffed intestines available in a variety of shapes and sizes. They could be something else of course, but we won’t ponder on that thought too long. Moving swiftly on…
I was never keen on goat and sheep’s cheese, but my taste buds are definitely changing. However, I’m still yet to discover why some of the harder goats cheese resembles soap, both in texture and taste. Does anyone know why?
As lunchtime approaches the air is filled with wonderful aromas. Our senses now on red alert we are unable to resist temptation and stop at one of the food areas for lunch.
Rustic no-frills BBQ’d chicken, chips, salad and a generous jug of red wine eaten al fresco as we people-watch, is perfect and absolutely delicious.
As we study passers-by it suddenly occurs to me that the majority of older Portuguese men wear Trilby style hats or flat caps.
You can easily spot the Brits and Germans because they usually wear baseball caps. I keep threatening Mr. Piglet I’m going to buy him a Trilby or flat cap. I think he would look rather dapper.
The market at São Teotónio is held on the first Monday of every month and well worth a visit.
What do you like or dislike about the markets in your country?