When I think of "market"—especially an outdoor market—I think of fresh produce. Thus I am always disappointed when I go to the weekly markets in the countryside. I might find some scraggly green onions, a few unhappy heads of cabbage, some potatoes and avocados, but other than that at this time of year it seems most people are selling dried beans, corn meal, plantains (which, I'm sorry, but I can hardly consider a real vegetable), and unperishables: canned tomato paste, oil, cubes of maggi, salt and seasonings, soap, toothpaste, cheap candy, notebooks. There is nothing I want to buy, and yet I want to buy. . .something. Even I have a hard time feeling right about life if I go more than a few days without spending any money. For breakfast, Fleurimond would boil me an egg, which I supplemented with bread from the Fond Verrettes bakery. It's not good bread, in my opinion, but it's fresh bread. The main meal of the day: french fries, or rice with pidgeon peas. In the evening: whatever french fries or rice I hadn't eaten at midday. But even though I was hungry I found I didn't want the same thing I'd had earlier (but now colder). I wanted hot cocoa, or pumpkin soup, or carrot cake. I didn't want a boiled egg and bad bread and water for breakfast. I wanted hot coffee with cream, orange juice and a crusty bagette with real butter.
Mostly, I spent a lot of the week craving saturated fat and fresh produce. It felt unnatural—even claustrophobic—to not be able to buy a candy bar or orange juice, to know that there just was none to be had in the area.
One of the interview questions asks people to select whether 1) they are a family in the area with some means, or 2) they don't have a lot but they eat each day, or 3) they are malere, the truly destitute. Many people choose category number two, but they correct the question: they do not truly eat each day but they do goute—the verb for taste, or snack. All day long I would be with people whose relationship to food couldn't really be called eating—simply tasting a bit of food—and I, with all the bread and eggs and rice and peas I could ever want, could do little but fixate on how in the world I might manage to procure some chocolate.
Walking through a crowded Port-au-Prince street on my way home today, I saw Caribbean cherries, mangos, tomatoes, grapefruit, custard apples, watercress. Even though I didn't buy any of it, it was enough to feast my eyes on it and know I could buy and eat. The produce was available and I have money. What a wonderful combination! And so like America! Is that not the essence of the American dream—variety, availibility and purchasing power?
This afternoon, back in Port-au-Prince, I made some coffee, my first coffee in nearly a week. (They grow and sell coffee in Fond Verrettes but tend to roast the beans with so much sugar it's like drinking coffee syrup.) Then Woni, bless her, said, wouldn't you like some of this delicious flan with rum raisin sauce to go with your coffee? Mmmm, it was heavenly!