Friday, September 07, 2007

Sweet peas

One of the great things about living in a pokey little city of about 200 thousand people is that everything is next door to everything else. Right around the corner from my flat is a square, which still has quite a few elegant apartment bocks surrounding it and was obviously a bit of a civic centre in centuries past. These days it houses a car park and a playground, as well as being flanked by the usual collection of German shops; a chemist, a doctor’s surgery, two bakeries, a bookstore, a luxury tea shop, an ice creamery, a newsagent and a supermarket. On Sunday the bakeries are only open until midday and the queues stretch out the door. I imagine the entire neighborhood sitting down to fresh bread rolls and pastries for a Sunday brunch, chuckling about scoring the last poppy seed roll.
The nicest thing about my square, however, is that twice a week there’s a grower’s market there. Literally fifty metres from my house I can buy fresh produce, cheeses, olives, flowers and bread, as well as the occasional handicrafts. It doesn’t matter how much money I take to the market, I inevitable spend it all.
Yesterday was typical, I intended to buy myself some flowers and maybe some stone fruit. Unfortunately, the moment I wandered in I was caught by the idea of buying some Gouda for Simon, since it’s usually him who buys the cheese. A the cheese stand I tasted some family cheese and two kinds of Gouda, one of which was described as caramel/walnut and which was exactly that, an odd combination of cheese and caramel tastes. Then I was entranced by the cream cheeses on offer, some with tomatoes and herbs, others with chives. I got about eight euros worth of 12 month old Gouda and a container of cream cheese with bear leek, a kind of garlicky chive which I love.
With my wallet feeling a little empty I went back to the flower stand I had spotted on my way in, where I thought I had seen something interesting. I was right, sweet peas and plenty of them, in all sorts of incredible colours. I had never seen sweet peas at the market before, and since they’re one of my favourite flowers I had to get them, hang the expense. At first the lady didn’t want to bargain with me, but after I hung around pathetically for a few minutes she gave me a euro off and I got three beautiful colours for a measly five euros. Then I asked her what they were called: Wicken. A rather harsh name for such a pretty flower. I told her in English they were called sweet peas and she couldn’t quite believe it, telling the boss: hey boss, these are called sweet peas in English! What! He grunted, Sweet peas! What do you know! He told me that these particular colours only grow in the “four lands”, that is the area just south of Hamburg. The reason I’d never seen them before is that there’s only one grower, who has four greenhouses just filled with sweet peas.
After that it was two pineapples from Ecuador and I had no money left, a full basket and the knowledge I had bought nothing very useful but had enjoyed it thoroughly anyway. Can’t wait for next week.

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