Sonia knew that I wanted to work on a farm. I would also ask Sonia for the names of all the fruits, vegetables, and prepared dishes that we ate, and she would tell me, in both their Cuban and Tican (Costa Rican) names. Sonia makes many dishes and uses many types of food that I have never seen before, and to say the least, I cannot keep them all straight. (In Spanish class I was explaining how my host mom (Sonia) asked if I preferred papas fritas (french fries) or chichurrones and I said that I told her I preferred chichurrones, making Sonia very pleased. Chichurrones are pork rinds, whereas chichurritos are the cuban word for plaintain chips, which is what I meant to say. So the professor just thought I was crazy in mistaking chichurrones for the Tican name of plaintain chips, patonecas. She did not know what chichurritos were.) Anyway, besides Sonia knowing I was interested in farming and the names of food, the first day was no anomaly. I continue to eat large amounts of all of her delicious dishes at her insistence. So entonces, my excitement at being asked to accompany Sonia to the farmers’ market was no surprise.
At 8 am Sunday morning, Sonia, under 5 ft tall, and I, pulling a folded up shopping cart behind me, headed out to Zapote for the farmers’ market. Along the way, we stumbled upon my classmate Lauren, a lanky, soft-spoken blonde, at which point Sonia scooped her up with us. After a half hour of zigzagging our way along the streets of Curridabat, the three of us reached the market. It is the largest market I have ever seen. The orange, yellow, reds, and greens stack against each other, row upon row. There are juices and plants. There are pupusas and empanadas. Before we arrived, I had thought Sonia was just being overprotective when she said that we should have a meeting place in case one of us gets lost.
After watching Sonia barter for bruised platanos and carting around her rapidly accumulating produce, I tell Sonia I’d like to buy an avocado and some other produce for my lunches at school. We snake through the rows of papayas, bananas, brocoli, pina, Lauren dragging the cart now and me carrying Sonia’s three grocery bags. We get distracted by various fruits we have never seen before. “Que es esto?” “Pruebalo.” Or “Aqui.” And the vendor proceeds to cut open the guayabana or breaks open a mamon chino for me to try, Sonia always nearby perusing the produce, returning to us to place the boniatos in the cart and comment on the fruit (and trying some herself.) “Can I buy three of these jocotes?” I ask (The Jocote is a small fruit, of the same family as mangoes). “Take it.” “But…are you sure.” “Take it.” The vendor says.
I try to buy carrots and Sonia says “No. Tambien las necesito” and grabs them out of my hand while thrusting 1000 colones at the vendor for all of the carrots. She almost doesn’t let me buy strawberries, “Estas gastando el dinero,” (wasting my money) she mutters, says she has some at home, “ya.” When Sonia has wondered off in search of coliflor, instructing us to stay put, Lauren buys 6 cucumbers and I hurriedly buy two guayabas and some kind of orange.
As I am talking with a vendor in mid-sentence, Sonia approaches, coaxes the avocado out of my hand and steers me like a child away from the vendor. She says they are not good, estes aguacates no estan buenos, too green, and we will find others. Aquellos? I ask. She says those are too caro (expensive) and only “No,” with a look of disgust to another set. Another row over, she finally selects a green turning-black avocado for me, “Este.” She raises it up, admiring it in the sunlight, medium-sized, slightly soft to the touch.