Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday at the market.

The Pike Place Market is one of my favorite places in the world, even on a rainy day that is gloomy and wet and grey. We used to come here all the time, but now my visits are rare. I must make time to come here, I think to myself, but somehow I never do. My dad is more perservering, so after breakfast we head out to the market. Because of the rain there are fewer tourists, although someone (as usual) is posing by the bronze statue of a pig that marks one corner of the market. Young people with digital cameras take pictures of the different products on display. There are a few changes - one stand that used to sell produce now has rows of fresh pasta arranged neatly in wooden bins, the crêperie where I used to buy giant crêpes dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with lemon juice is gone.

We walk past the Chukar Cherries stall, with its gleaming tins and clear plastic bags of chocolate-covered cherries and nuts and dried berries. Past the produce stand where we always buy vegetables. Should we buy our vegetables now or come back? asks my dad. The guy who works there asks if we need any help. We'll be back! I call, over my shoulder, as we head towards the other end of the market. Past the restaurant that was featured in Sleepless In Seattle, the sausage shop that has the best sausages, the fish stalls with their perfectly arranged fish and shellfish on pristine beds of ice. The smell of donuts fills the air as I open the door and walk into DeLaurenti, the Italian food market that has been there for as long as I can remember.

Whenever I come to DeLaurenti I stand there indecisively, dizzy from the array of chocolate bars from different countries and of varying cocoa content, of olive oils (a whole wall of gleaming bottles filled with liquid gold) and balsamic vinegar (another wall of glass bottles, this time filled with black gold), of pasta in all shapes and sizes. Once my father sent me there for some cheese and I stood there in front of the glass case with such a look of confusion the clerk behind the counter took pity on me and walked me through my selection. (They're good at that). There are salamis and patés and different kinds of prosciutto and vats of olives and pickled vegetables. And we haven't even ventured up to the floor where the wine is displayed. I could spend hours here, and I have. But onwards.

Across the street there are more produce stands, shops selling ethnic jewelry, another fish market, little restaurants tucked away in corners, a kitchenware shop crammed floor-to-(very tall)-ceiling with all kinds of cookware and bakeware and dishes and gadgets and cookbooks and anything you might need. You have to squeeze in sideways if someone else happens to be looking at something in one of the narrow little aisles between canyons of wire shelving. And we emerge, blinking, from the other side of the shop (it has doors at both ends) to head towards Le Panier, my favorite bakery, where we go for croissants and chocolate éclairs.

By the time we return to the produce stand and gather some escarole and green beans and "little green balls of death" (as they call brussels sprouts) and onions and a few carrots, I have all sorts of bags in my hands. There is a sandwich from Michou, a little shop selling hot baked pastas and all kinds of salads and other side dishes as well as sandwiches, for lunch, after we take all of this bounty home. It is still raining, but I have all sorts of nice things in my bags and I can't wait to go home to open all these packages and put the good things away for later. But not too much later.

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