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Travel Blog: India, Day 8 - The Market

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You ever watch a travel show on TV and watch the likes of Anthony Bourdain stroll through an obscure street market in Southeast Asia?  Sitting at home in Pensacola, Florida, by far one of the most sensible conservative shopping environments one could find in the continental US, I always wondered if the markets in other countries were really that busy and colorful in other places, or if the TV crews purposefully shot them to look as exotic and non-Western as possible.  Well, on this last trip to India, I found out. The markets really are that incredible.

After our harrowing race back to town, I accompanied my host through the back streets of the neighborhood to emerge in a brightly lit square, where the town market was in full swing.  Again, my presence caused a bit of a splash.  Several people followed me around to observe me in the most transparent way possible, eyes narrowed and mirroring my movements.  I'm usually okay with the Indian street stare-downs, but I have to confess that it got a little old by this point; I actually started to wish that one unpleasant-looking codger in particular would make a move on me just so I could knock him down.  But no harm was done on either side.

In most of India, meals are curried or fried.  If the meal is an Indian fry-up, it's a pretty simple affair: chicken and oil, plus whichever vegetables are going to be served with the rice.  Curry, however, requires quite a few ingredients, and they are usually bought fresh that day.  The staple shopping list for a full curry meal, assuming that you don't have any herbs laying around, includes:

  • Meat (usually chicken, sometimes goat or mutton)
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chiles
  • Assorted vegetables

The above ingredients are simmered in a particular order in a bit of oil, spiced with turmeric and a few other seasonings, and eventually become a curry whose base ingredients are cooked down so as to be barely recognizable, but still incredibly tasty.  My hosts all over the country were desperately hoping that I wouldn't be able to handle the spiciness of their curries--"is it too spicy for you?" seems to be the country's national motto--but I am proud to say that I was always able to eat Indian curry.  The cumulative effect was less than optimal after a month, but I definitely enjoyed the the individual meals.

The market in India

The market in India

The market in India