Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chad's São Paulo Diary: The Fruit Man

27 October

Biennale's are hard work. They should have them in cities where there is nothing else to see. Sahara Biennale, something like that. We headed off to the Mercado Municipal, the major food market in the city. On the way we stopped off at Benespa, the State Bank Building. Here they allow tourists up for a strictly cntrolled 5 minutes on their roof. You get the most fantastic views of the city. Three-hundred and sixty degree skyscrapers.

To get to the market you have to walk through the district of kitsch. Its cheap jewellery, cheap vases, a whole shop of imitation flowers to put in them and, bizarrely, costume shops. its absolutely bustling, like these are the things necessary for existence. Refreshingly, but annoyingly, there is no tourist junk (annoyingly because a t-shirt even mentioning São Paulo on it has become the holy grail of this trip.)

The food market is marginally less bustling, but no less bewildering. If you want some sense of authenticity to counter the madness outside, this is the place. Loops of chouriço, rolls of cheese, chewing tabacco and olives. Fresh rabbit, honey, pimentos, cashews, pickled garlic and bacalhau. The last is a type of salted cod, which is the market's speciality. Very salty but really good. Us eating all of the above:

The fruit was pretty amazing too. Shapes that are a far cry from the humble apple and colours to give a solid blow to your average mango's ego. I was just beginning to feel like a Paulista natural, when the fruit seller totally fleeced me. He tried to charge me R$ 80 (Reais is the currency here) for a strawberry dates and a mystery fruit. This is almost R360. Managed to bargain him down through hand gestures and scowly looks, but afterwards I realised I had still paid 4 times the right amount. Been grumbling about the sly fruit man all evening. Looking forward to heading back to the Bienal, where for a short time we can pretend to be free of mercantile capitalism.

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