Avocados. I’ve been desperately awaiting avocado season. My neighbor has an avocado tree in their backyard, and every time I see it, it’s a tease because there’s still a month or two before they can be eaten.
I was recently listening to a podcast called “The Food We Eat” by the NPR TED Radio Hour. They talk to Mark Bitman, who discusses the food situation in America. He explains, “part of the problem is…the way we think about food right now is we expect to have any food we want within minutes.” He continues to say how, “if you want a mango, you can have it; if you want a tomato, you can have it.” Food is shipped all over that food is not eaten seasonally. Americans have an expectation to eat what they want, when they want it.
In the U.S., the standard of convienence and ability to eat anything within minutes, has been something I have struggled with here in Madagascar. There is so much convienence due to packaged, frozen, canned, and processed foods. This convienence is not the same here in Madagascar. Meals cannot just be made within minutes, and I don’t have a fridge, so nothing can be sorted for longer than a day or two. The majority of Malagasy people cook on charcoal, which takes a lot longer than cooking on gas. Secondly, unless you want to live off packaged ramen, cookies, or chips, you have to cook.
Living in a big market town does add a lot of convienence to my cooking. I don’t have to travel to another village to go to a market, and there is a market everyday (small, rural towns only have a limited market on certain days, if they have one at all). I can find onions, garlic, ginger, potatoes, greens, and bananas everyday.
There are also carrots, green beans, cabbage, and tomatoes, but if they’ve been there a few, they aren’t always looking the freshest. Bananas, depending on the quantity available that day, are usually very cheap and abundant. Beets, which are one of my favorite finds, are a little on the expensive side for a Malagasy budget, but I love to buy them.
Then there are the seasonal fruits. Lychee season sadly just ended. (I ate them buy the kilo, so good). Right now there are passion fruits, pineapples, and mangoes. I bought a pineapple the other day that cost the equivalent of 50 cents. Even though I’m still desperately dreaming of avocados, it’s eye opening to eat locally, but also seasonally. Everything may take longer to cook, but the ingredients are better.
While I continue to struggle with the lack of convienence and access to certain foods, I find myself adapting to it. I don’t look towards eating packaged foods as much because it’s not there. While I was listening to the podcast, I was so amazed on how used to I was having the access to any foods at anytime I wanted, without even realizing it. I’ve began to accept this change in access and convienence, which has allowed me to take time and pride in everything I cook. The access to the same foods at the market forces me to amp up my creativity with my meals, but allows me to eat with the seasons, and eat only real foods. Here are some photos of my market: