Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shopping at the vegetable market

(note: i accidentally didn't wait for this to publish after the first time i typed it, so this is a retype. therefore forgive me if i miss some details)

Everyday in Montevideo there is a vegetable market in one of the neighborhoods....on the street...."old school" style.

On Tuesdays they come to our little (fu)barrio. It's about a block away, so we went. There are a number vendors....many are selling identical-ish products of varying quality, so you can shop around and it tends to keep the prices down (and honest). Haggling is not expected and I didn't see anyone doing it. If you did, they'd probably give u a "look"...dunno.

Most all items are clearly marked in chalk on tiny chalkboards and the scales, i'm sure are relatively honest....there is lots of competition for the same customers....so if they were purposely off i'm sure they'd be run out of business by their competitors.

Anyways, as you'll see shortly, if you're used to North American prices then haggling may seem a little silly anyhow. I wrote down a number of prices of things that were all in pesos/kg. For simplicity sake I'll instead describe what we bought, and how much it all cost in dollars, units, ounces, and pounds.

The total bill for the four vendors we patronized was 437 pesos, or $18.20

items purchased:

18 oz. jar of "organic" honey
1/2 pound "hard" upscale cheese
1/2 pound ricotta
1/2 pound of yellow cheese with holes in it (don't remember the name)
7 bananas
3 potatoes (quayle)
2 lemons
2 juicy red tomatos (best/most expensive we found)
20 cherry tomatos
1 onion
3 carrots
4 celery stalks
2 papayas (brazilian -- probably overpriced -- more on this later)
4 kiwis
1 pineapple
30 big snow peas
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch of spinach
6 REALLY good mandarin oranges
20 strawberries (about a box worth)
1 head of brocolli

so, as u can see it's pretty reasonably priced.

interestingly, the last place we went is where golden lotus bought the papayas...this guy was relatively expensive. he must be going for the highend/imported market. :)

Golden lotus tried to buy some asparagus (a bunch wrapped by a rubber band). he wanted 3 bucks for it....they were the small/tender kind. the kind i like (as far as asparagus goes) -- more surface area/volume for carrying olive oil, salt, spices, cheese...anything to override the taste of asparagus! :)

3 bucks? remember, the 18 oz of organic honey was less than $2. So, i asked him about the less desirable biggger asparagus (same size bunch)...he said $4.


He pointed to a label that was wrapped around it that proclaimed it a product of Argentina.

Argentina? Isn't that across the river?!?! :) Like someone in Longview telling you it's "imported" from Portland -- well not *exactly* but u get the point.

I gave him a look that was like, "uh...yeah...and?" We agreed to disagree on the value of the asparagus :)

In summary, the food is remarkably similar to what we can get in the states... The quality is equivalent or better from what I've seen (the price is no comparison, obviously). This is important...more important than one might think...unless you've ever tried to buy lettuce, or a good cheese, or tomatos in parts of Asia or the Pacific Islands and know what i'm talking about. While available (kind of) in the major western hotels, it's imported and expensive, and can be rare and difficult to come by.

All for now. it's ciao(chow)time.



Enzo from SociedadSouthron Forums said...

My wife and I are surprised at how much fresh fruit and vegetables you can get for $18.20. This is the main reason we want to relocate to UY. Is there a particular reason you are vegetarian or just for the health benefits? Here in the North East US, it is too expensive to be a vegetarian as all the good produce is ridiculously expensive, and the organic stuff is only for the rich elite.

FuBarrio said...


Thanks for the comment...more than anything, my girlfriend cooks for me and she was a veggie (will still enjoy cheese, eggs and other dairy) :)

Now that I've been at it a while though I don't really want to go back.

However, being a straight up veggie here is more difficult than in Northern California.

Tofu is rare, however, we get it delivered to the house each week by a Japanese lady who makes it in her house for us (some other clients i imagine) and the Japanese embassy....

The *really good* news, if you're a meat eater, is that the meat is even more ridiculously inexpensive (as is the higher end cheese in the street market -- especially when compared to "whole foods" type pricing)