LIFE IS GOOD IN BODRUM’S FARMERS’ MARKETS
Just about every week-day is market-day on the Bodrum Peninsula. Monday in Güvencirlik, Wednesday in Ortakent, Thursday in Bitez, Friday in Bodrum town as well as Konaçik. A moveable feast of own-grown foodstuffs, as well as labour-intensively hand-collected wild greens, native mushrooms and mountain herbs from this fecund land are carted to designated spaces by the farmers of the area to healthfully grace the tables of the residents.
The markets, which at one time offered only produce and other home-made edibles like breads, paper-thin filo-dough, jams, freshly-laid eggs, cured olives and fresh cheeses, have by now expanded to stalls specializing in fish from the surrounding seaside, fine cheeses and sausages made commercially, an array of spices, nuts and dried fruits, some kitchen-ware and even inexpensive clothes, but the original farmers are still the main attraction.
There can’t be a better food-shopping experience than buying fresh, original-taste, full-flavor produce from people who make it their life’s work to personally grow and gather each leaf and each root that they sell. Here are green peppers that smell of capsicum rather than the plastic of the facsimiles in the super-markets back home, tomatoes that are freshly sweet-sour and not like tennis balls, parsley, dill, mint and arugula that perfume the whole kitchen when you bring them home instead of just being reminiscent of the real thing, pears that burst juicily in the mouth and not just look pretty and pear-like.
There are farmers’ markets all over the world, even in the epicenter of New York City, but those on the Turkish countryside, and especially the ones of the Bodrum area, so rich in wild-grown, vitality-redolent greens and herbs are a treat to behold in this age of Monsanto seeds and genetically modified monstrosities.
The farmers are to be admired. Not only do they devote their lives to growing and gathering, they also get up before sunrise on market-days to lug the stuff to the towns, set it all up and make do with whatever business they can get now in the slow winter months.
I have been attending the various markets for the last few months, noticing some of the same faces in all of them. Reticent at first to pose for an ordinary tourist, they have began to trust me as a quasi-local. Now they receive me with huge smiles and let me photograph them at will. They also give me tasty little morsels to make me happy. A ruby-red cherry tomato here, a few cashews and plumply dried apricots there, a snippet of cheese, a sinfully rich olive, a bite of peynirli börek (cheese pie), several seriously perfumed mandarin oranges (in season all winter): voilà, free lunch!
And when the shopping is done, a sit-down with a glass of ruby-red tea surrounded by bags and bags of goodies all around the chair basking in the still-hot winter sun. Life doesn’t get much better than this!