Essential: Open-Air Markets

While we teach the importance of pre-trip preparation in meal planning, eventually there comes a time when this isn't feasible.   Sometimes the trips we take are either longer than we have cooler capacity for or we are traveling internationally and cannot prep all of our food ahead of time; we are forced to 'restock' on the road.  So what are we to do?  We travel to see the world, experience new cultures, and gain an appreciation for what it means to be human.  There is no better way to immerse oneself into a new culture than visiting their local open-air or farmer’s markets.  Visiting open-air markets allows us to interact with local cultures while purchasing the freshest locally grown/harvested foods.

While grocery stores are common around the world, in larger cities, their environments are generally not conducive to human interaction.  The goal is to get in/out as quickly as possible.  We rush past one another, grabbing the item we need from the shelf, without any interaction with the people we pass by.  Conversely, the atmosphere of open-air markets invites interaction between people.  Beautifully presented foods surround tightly-packed walkways as families purchase ingredients for the evening meal .  Fish mongers sing about the morning catch of snapper, fresh from the sea.  Fruit vendors entice the passerby with slices of apple and pear.  One is drawn in and cannot help but interact with each other.

There is a connection between the local producer and the end user that is not seen in grocery stores.  The livelihood of the market vendor, who in many cases is the producer, depends on providing the freshest and best possible products to their neighbors.  The produce, carefully arranged in baskets, was most likely on a tree or in the ground the day before and the fish and meat was most likely in the stream or field that morning.  By purchasing from local producers, we are getting the freshest possible ingredients.  Fresh ingredients retain more of their nutrients and this translates into meals with more flavor.

Purchasing food from local producers injects money directly into the communities we are traveling through.  We are able to purchase the freshest/healthiest ingredients for our meals.  Most importantly, it gives us, the traveler, an opportunity to interact with the communities we are traveling through more deeply than if we were to rush into out of the grocery store.  So the next time you are out traveling and running low on food, visit your local open-air/farmer's market; you will do more than just buy groceries.