Brunie (blue blouse) and I (straw hat)
choose fruit from the weekly market.
This is Part 2 of a 4-part series describing
a typical Saturday ---Market Day ---in Glória.
Note: Some of the names in this story have
been changed because I can’t remember the
real names of all of the people in the town.
The town square where the market was laid out was bare except for an old bandstand in the middle. There were no trees nor grass, as they would have been trampled by vendors and townspeople.
Dona Maria had covered her designated area with four-foot high ceramic jugs ----the kind used to store water in nearly every home in town that didn’t have a cisterna in the back yard to collect rain water. A man from a neighboring village had spread his aluminum cooking vessels and enameled chamber pots on squares of burlap. Venders opened sacks of dried black beans, rice, or flour. Others had set up shabby wooden booths with canvas canopies to shelter themselves and their wares from sun or rain. We passed a dark man selling large ropes of tobacco and an ancient woman with her display of sandals and headed toward the vegetable vendors.
With Seu João’s help, we chose the best of his onions, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and yams. Seu João weighed them on his balance scale using brass weights and placed our purchases in my basket. We headed to Seu Paulo’s booth to select from a dozen varieties of bananas. We collected a dozen green oranges from another vendor. The oranges weren’t green as in “unripe” they had green skins, not orange.
We quickly passed a display of jaca, jackfruit. The watermelon-sized greenish-yellow fruit emanated a distasteful sweetish odor. We threaded our way between brooms, fabric, baskets, and straw hats, greeting our neighbors along the way. We chose rice and black beans ---staples of the Brazilian diet ---scooping them into aluminum pots. We purchased a plump live chicken from Dona Maria Fatima. Brunie carried it up-side-down by its feet.
Next we headed through a narrow cobblestoned street to the meat market in the next block. We visited Zé Pedro’s booth to purchase two kilos of beef which Brunie placed in her metal pail. Seu Agnaldo placed a kilo (2.2 lbs.) of pork on top of the beef.
Next we crossed the town’s second plaza, this one filled with trees and plants and benches emblazoned with “From the Benevolence of Mayor....” followed by his name. I often wondered if the next mayor would tear out those benches to install new ones with his own name on them.
In the post office, I pulled letters from my pocket and paid for postage to the United States. Dona Alícia used syrupy glue to affix eight stamps to each letter. Then she hand stamped them with purple ink to cancel them. Dona Alícia placed our mail that had arrived on the bus the night before ---six letters ---on the counter. Brunie and I received more mail than anyone in town, with the exception of the Banco do Brasil.
The telegraph operator, emerged from the back room. “Dona Brunie. Dona Carolina. I am so pleased to see you,” he said with a voice as syrupy as the glue. I hope I will see you at the movie tonight. He was a married man who like to flirt. We said hello, then ignored him.
We grabbed our mail and headed for the bakery. The proprietress, carrying a mug of steaming coffee, greeted us with, “Bom dia, meninas. Tudo bem?”
“Yes, Dona Anna. All is well with us,” answered Brunie. “And how are you?”
After greetings and inquiries about the woman’s family were completed, Brunie asked for pão. The woman wrapped six tiny loaves of bread --- about the size of sausage buns ---in white paper. When I asked for mantega, Dona Anna stepped aside so that Brunie could take butter from her refrigerator. Brazilians had numerous superstitions, one of which was an irrational fear of mixing anything hot with anything cold. After Dona Anna had sipped her hot coffee, she would not open her kerosene-powered refrigerator for several hours. Brunie lifted a large crock of butter from the shelf and scooped a large blob of it onto a piece of waxed paper with a flat wooden spatula. She weighed it, wrapped it in butcher paper, and placed it on top of the meat in her pail.
Finally, our shopping done, we headed home.