Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To market, to market...

To market, to market to buy a…………….., home again, home again

Though every neighborhood has small markets, and even street vendors who set up tables to sell eggs, vegetables, and fruits to near-by apartment dwellers, the main markets in the center of town are the most active.  There are sections devoted to vegetables, another to fruits, still others to flour, fish, meat, cheese, etc.  The noisiest part though is where the live chickens and turkeys squawk flap their wings and feathers, yet never move, because their feet are bound.  Many vendors have stalls or tables, yet others just open up the backs of trucks or trunks of cars, out of which their produce is sold.

One of my first days here in Mingechavir, the mom in my host family took me for a marshrutka ride into the center of town.  She told me at one point we had just passed the “department store”.  I looked, but could not see anything that reminded me, even in the slightest, of a Macy’s.  Later, coming home from the university one day, I realized what she may have meant.  There is a very long one-story concrete building with a corrugated metal roof.  I walked through and past all kinds of little shops inside—clothes, house-hold goods, paper-products, shoes, even several bridal shops—but they all amount to small alcoves or little shops under this one roof, not unlike the lower levels of Seattle’s Pike Place Market.  Like a department store, there are individual shops selling all the various things one usually needs.

 Note the red sash, often on a bridal gown to signify purity, and removed by the groom's friends during the wedding reception, not unlike the bride's garter as one of our customs.

The meat stalls at the market are quite interesting.  You order up the cuts you want, and pretty much the entire animal is available.  The most fascinating sight is the sheep’s head on the table with the four legs and hooves surrounding it; these are usually sold together to make the specialty known as xash, pronounced hash.  The head and hooves are boiled together (sometimes with the innards) in a salty broth.  I tried it the other day, and I think I was given a ‘choice’ piece—I received one of the hooves—but I didn’t find too much meat on it; parts of the head, though, did have some rather tender pieces of meat.  Now, those who know me well know that I am always adventuresome and like trying new cuisine as part of the cultural experience.  But, I have also come to realize that there are some regional specialties that never make it out of their respective regions, and for good reason.  This just might be one of those.  And for those who prefer, this same dish can be prepared from a cows head, hooves, etc.  As they say here, ‘nush olsun’…bon appetite.  

 In front of one of the many butcher shops

 Sheep may gently, and safely graze on the playing fields between apartment buildings...until called to market

 My hoof
 We may have telephone poles to climb, but here the poles are laundry poles in the yard, with pulleys at various levels to match up with the pulleys on the balconies and windows, to hold the lines for hanging the laundry

The hanging laundry adds some color to the landscape, and although some have washing machines, I have not yet seen a dryer here

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