I always do this when I’m on the road.
I beg your pardon – I love doing this when I’m on the road, and that is, visiting local markets.
There’s just nothing quite like it!
It’s an incredibly sensory experience – the vibrant colours of local produce, the smiling people, and the smells – oh the smells! They remind me of growing up in Singapore and going to the fish market with my grandparents to pick up some food for the day. Simple nostalgia.
And though it might be selfish to indulge, I’m much older than I was back then, and am beginning to appreciate those memories just that much more.
The people in the markets are also incredibly warm and unassuming. When they saw me roaming around, camera in hand, they’d yell out and pose for me. This created a strange domino effect, until I was being yanked in all directions for photos to be taken.
Produce, and its preparation for the public is also a delicate art form. This was most notable at Mina fish market.
Half the complex is split into men in blue uniforms and the other half, in red.
The men in blue were vendors, manning the stalls and pushing beautiful, fresh produce to be sold. The men in red were the preparation team, they’d wash, clean, descale and skin any purchased seafood – right there, on the spot.
Every time I visit a market place, there is always a common thread of symbiosis present between people and food. The food brings the people together, the people now gathered together produces a collective culture.
It is this culture that I revel in.
What makes these people unique and different?
What can their interactions and conversations tell me?
And most importantly – what can the food tell me about them?
When I was in Abu Dhabi, I was blessed enough to stay with Yaz and his family and was lucky enough to be part of a couple of lovely family meals. Middle Eastern dining is built on a sense of community, with giant dishes of steaming delicacies served (or heaped) on to plates. The food is warm and inviting, just like all the people I met. The conversation around the dinner table vibrant and engaging, just like the conversations in the market place.
It is this culture that I revel in; where food brings people together, who in turn, bring culture to life.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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