Before you read this post, please take some time and read this thought-provoking, insightful and worrisome Op-Ed piece from this weekend’s edition of the New York Times, My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables), and remember one thing: the moment that you start taking money from a governmental organization, you’ve given up a small piece of your freedom. Farm subsidies and the ensuing restrictions are just one of the many problems associated with allowing the government to manage and interfere with peoples’ lives on such an intrusive level.
Okay, that said, on to the pictures:
My mother and I went to the giant Farmers’ Market on Airline this past Saturday. We stocked up on produce for the week, she for her clients (my mother is a professional chef, but cooks for private clients only) and me for my bewildered husband and I to eat. Husband: “What’s a pomelo? Did you really buy five pounds of oranges??”
Needless to say, speaking Spanish is very useful if you’re shopping at the market on Airline. However, for those Spanish-challenged Houstonians, some of the signs are helpfully translated for you.
The sheer quantity of dried goods sold at the market could fill the Goodyear Blimp twice over. They even sell real cinnamon, not just dried cassia.
Every stand had at least one enormous box of habañero peppers for sale. They looked like little nuggets of gold panned from a stream.
Don’t have time to make mole from scratch? Don’t fret; you can buy it premade here. And it’s good.
The market also sells some of the largest, beefiest carrots known to man. They make your storebought carrots look puny and sad by comparison.
In the mood for fresh eggs? You can find any size, shape and color egg that your little heart desires at the market’s Egg House. It’s a giant, walk-in cooler the size of a mobile home that houses beautiful, fresh eggs from floor to ceiling. Just grab a carton and fill it up.
After walking around for a good hour, and purchasing three giant boxes of food and produce for paltry $45, total (including beets, watercress, potatoes, 10-15 onions, cornmeal, avocados, bananas, pineapple, pears, apples, leeks, spinach, cabbage, okra, dill, various oranges, eggplant, spaghetti squash, honey, strawberries, etc.) we headed next door to El Bolillo, a panaderia that’s just as popular as el gran mercado on Saturday mornings.
Walking into El Bolillo, the smell of the yeast and fresh bread nearly knocks you over. It’s intoxicating and overwhelming in the best possible way. The quantity and variety of breads and pastries that come out of the kitchen and into their cases like clockwork is brilliant. If you’re a carbivore, this might very likely be where you’ll end up when you die — if you’ve been good, that is.
Need some bolillos? This is the place. They are absolutely steaming hot; standing next to them was like standing by a small, comforting campfire. The pastries and bread go so quickly that they’re almost always hot, or at least warm. As such, the method for choosing your pastries is to grab a giant waiter’s tray and a pair of tongs and have at it. You can pile the tray to the ceiling with hot bread without suffering any minor burns.
Aside from just bread, El Bolillo makes all kinds of Mexican pastries, the kind that I grew up on as a kid. My favorites are the fat, semi-glossy marranitos, or “ginger pigs” as I used to call them. They don’t actually contain any ginger, and therefore aren’t gingerbread at all, but they are pig-shaped, so at least I got one thing right as a small child.
El Bolillo also makes beautiful cakes for weddings, quinceañeras, birthdays, confirmations, and other occasions. The women manning the registers are stunningly swift and expedient, bagging your pastries and ringing them up in mere seconds. If only that kind of service existed everywhere…
We had to concentrate in order not to overload our tray with unnecessary and calorie-laden pan dulces, which is always a difficult task. But even with all that self-discipline, we ended up with a 50/50 mixture of bread and pastries. On top, you can see the piping hot churros that we munched on as we drove home.
If you like fresh produce, eggs and bread — and you like them cheap and cheerful — head down to Airline the next time you’re in the market for good food. Just remember to bring cash and a big, sturdy bag to tote all of your goodies around; pineapples get heavy after a while.