This Little Piggy Went to Market…

We were on our way to the market, as lead by our guide, the ever-capable and personable Paco, when my co-culinary-conspirator, Susannah, mentioned in a hushed tone that she had never visited this market before, as she had been warned-off by friends and people-in-the-know, that it was too dangerous to visit, especially for a non-Mexican – easy pickings, apparently. And this from an intrepid writer on all things Mexican for the likes of Conde Nast and co.

However, rather than put us off, this only served to make us more curious. We jumped on the metro with Paco who, as we travelled to La Merced, informed us that this was a new destination within the Distrito Federal for Culinary Backstreets. We were the guinea pigs. Again, this heightened our enticement at the approaching escapade.

The market is mammoth, it would fill a huge stadium and then some – sprawling and intricate, by turns crowded and colourful but never overwhelming, helped by great ventilation that stops the odours being too pervasive. It is like a world unto itself, where locals charge through with trolleys and items on their head or shoulders, surging through the narrow lanes but never impacting, like a dance of dealings.

As this was a culinary outing, our first stop was on wee plastic stools at the Mexican answer to McDonald’s: Mc Tacos. And what tacos, prepared freshly in front of us. The steak taco was an impressive start to the day, and made me thankful I had had no breakfast. Next up was a long low table full of locals enjoying what looked like a hearty soup. This was our next course: hen-broth. A deliciously tasty chicken soup that the people of the market enjoy first thing in the day. It is often rather chilly as dawn breaks so this serves to warm one up and give sustenance through the morning.

From there we ventured through an array of such brightly coloured products and smiling faces that all thought for our welfare or concern at being pickpocketed had dissipated entirely. We were greeted by smiling faces everywhere and reassuring shout-outs to Paco, as we ambled along.

I will refrain from describing in too much detail the meat part of the market, or, according to Paco the “aisle of terror” (needless to stay, it is not for vegan nor faint of heart), and instead head on to the strangest part of the market, where no photos are allowed, much less exuberant: the area where you can purchase goods that dabble in the dark arts. Only in Mexico…

A morning in La Merced is not the first time Anton has ventured where no piggy has dared to tread – a quick glance at his previous Sounder posts gives you an idea how thread-bare his passport is…

The market is mammoth, it would fill a huge stadium and then some.

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