The Market

Claire Wohlers - Ecuador


March 10, 2014

Ibarra (the city nearest to Zuleta) has, hands down, the most impressive food market I have ever seen.

Taking up two sizable city blocks, the market is overflowing with colors and scents unlike any other. From meats, to cheeses, to fruits and veggies, to flours and dried legumes, to eateries, this market has it all. It lies at the heart of Ibarra and is semi-open air (some parts are in-doors, others, only covered).

Every time I get the chance, I explore and patron the market. The two (exploring and patronizing), usually go hand-in-hand because it is almost impossible for me to enter the market without buying something. Usually some sort of tantalizing, brightly colored, exotic-looking fruit. And if I’m hungry, I always stop at my favorite food stand in the market that sells $2 “Secos”. Secos are rice plates. I always order an “apanado” , a grilled steak plate, that comes with rice, steak, avocado, a fried egg, potatoes, and a lime. While at first I was worried market food would make me sick, I now opt to take the risk, usually without consequences and never with regret.

To get the the cooked lunches section of the market, one must walk through the butcher section, filled with innards, entire pigs, hooves, and cow heads, which makes me feel guilty, and simultaneously happy. While it’s not fun knowing I ate “Buster”, the neighbor’s toro, I prefer it to how the meat industry functions in the United States where animals are kept in inhumane conditions and meat that is considered “undesirable” is thrown out or fed to other cows. Here, I have 3 cows so I know how they are kept.  They all have names, they graze freely, and eat corn husks and fruit and veggie peels. They probably will all come to an unfortunate end, but at least, they will have lead decent lives.

This is my favorite part about the market. Nothing has stickers, nothing is processed, and everything is cheap. Having markets like these keep people eating healthy and connected to their food and hopefully, connected to local, humane, organic farms.

While, I still love the San Francisco farmers market, the market (and my Spanish teacher, Aida) will be what I miss the most about Ibarra.

Claire Wohlers