Farmers Markets: NZ-style
Ahh, the waft of fresh sea air. Breathing in a lungful at one of the beach suburbs, Auckland, NZ. We had already been to Gisborne to see family, on the east coast of the North Island - renowned for its' Rhythm & Vine Festival every summer and the beach-hop, it's a beach party culture every summer.
Typically, Farmers Markets were held in the weekend in NZ. They took over a section of carparking area in towns, outside of shopping centres, even beside the port. Saturday farmers markets in Gisborne, customers queued up for fresh mushrooms, big luscious strawberries in season, free-range eggs, wines from local vineyards and more. A key New Zealand angle is that many returning New Zealanders have brought back ideas from around the globe, so we have offerings of almost every local food imaginable, as well as a range and depth of local produce that we take for granted... oysters and mussels are now farmed, resulting in different fast food offerings, as well as whitebait. And of course an explosion in the production of avocadoes. NZ could probably export guacamole to Mexico.
Memories... today was sweltering in Auckland. What to do, I wondered? Which brings to mind another Sunday, a couple of years ago..
We thought to visit a Farmer's market, that Sunday. Maybe compare notes of NZ markets and Spanish 'mercados'.
Having been to countless markets in and around Santa Pola, Elche and Alicante in the Costa Blanca, Spain, it would be interesting to see the foods on offer and the breathe in the fresh aromas of enticing wares. Perhaps catch a bargain or two.
To Takapuna market, a Sunday takeover of the carpark in central Takapuna, on the North Shore of Auckland. The market was busy, choc-a-bloc full of people, more were arriving as we picked our way past very exciting aromas and interesting stalls. Fresh vegetables and fruit, clothes, toys, accessories, bric-a-brac, gifts, books, lots of delicious-looking breads, dukkah, cakes and pastries and more. Some of the stall-holders were Greek who sold a vast array of Greek specialties. Others were Italian with their scrumptious looking cheeses and cured meats; Moroccan - spices and herbs; Korean ...in fact, a very eclectic mix of stall-holders and patrons with a tempting display of foods and fresh goodies.
It was a very hot day and boys and girls with their parents were having ice-creams to cool down. Dogs on leashes accompanied their owner; ooops, mind that wee dog there (balance issues /stroke). Stallholders were calling out, at the tops of the voices: "... fresh pita breads two for one...", as it had drawn near to closing time. One cheese stall had fresh feta to try, very crumbly and creamy was one comment from a Mediterranean looking chap. I bought a skirt, a top and there were more things on offer that looked interesting, more browsing for next time. We tried the French pattiserie offerings, the Turkish baklava, the Greek pita breads. All very authentic and delectable. All too soon, the stalls were closing up, we wandered to the shopping precinct located in the next street...
Ohhh, triathlon cycling challenges were on the whole day - and we were in time for it - great.
We had walked into one of the seven venues that hosted the Triathlon meets in NZ every year. Sweating lycra-clad athletes grunted as they rocketed past past every minute, the streets were busy with people in the hot sun, and some children were on their Dad's shoulders in bright summer clothes.
The main street was closed off as we watched the cyclists, cheering them on. A lady said, ..."would you care for some refreshments?.." I turned. She was standing there with a heavy contraction on her back. It reminded me of Turkey a long time ago, when there was a ''chai'' (tea) man with a similar contraption, though older and more ornate, strapped on his back. Aha! It was a giant flask; that kept things cool or hot as the case may be. She was offering an iced raspberry/cranberry concoction, which looked delightful - obviously doing a promotion for the coffee store for all the thirsty spectators. We accepted the delicious drink from her, and bade her thanks. We watched as she made countless friends offering a freebie drink on a very hot day. Fabulous.
The shops were all open and many people were milling about, having coffees or lunch. Overflowing out onto pavement areas, it was choc-a-block full of visitors and locals. Aromas of freshly brewed coffee intermingled with piping hot croissants, lamb roasts, luscious beef dish that the table beside us had ordered. Yes, it was Sunday, but gone were the days when the thought of Sunday markets, Sunday trading was banned. One busker was playing a lively folk tune. Further along the street were snatches of music, spilling out from the cafes into the street. Dress stores jostled with arty design stores. All were doing a brisk trade. Time to go, but we'd be here another day to look at more interesting things.
Back from reminiscing... Look at the time, 20 mins. to get there? Go there next week instead.