Sunday, 15 May 2011

Varvakios Agora: The Liveliness. The Vibrancy. The Realness.

Everyone has odd things they like to do. One of my favourites is walking around food markets, and in Athens, the central food market is called 'Varvakios Agora'.

On weekdays, if for whatever reason I make it to the centre early, instead of spending the extra time locked up in the office, I'll stop by the market to look around. Here, at this time of day, you'll find people shopping in bulk, in my mind for commercial use. On weekends, if I'm up in the morning and not doing anything I'll go to look around. Obviously busier, I guess people doing their shopping for the week.

There's the meat market, the fish market and the vegetable market. I remember the first time I came, the intense meat smell and fish smell respectively needed some getting used to. Now, it doesn't bother me. Then there's the people shouting; offers, trying to get you to stop and shop at their stand. pushing, shoving. Doesn't sound very civil.

So what is it that keeps me going back? The liveliness, the vibrancy, the realness of it all. Supermarkets are so cold. Soulless. Everything nicely packages. Perfect. I'm sure many people would like to believe that this is how food is. From non-existence to prepared, packaged and shelved, with no steps in-between. Yea, right, and babies are delivered by storks!

Then there's the endless possibilities. I like imagining all the things I could make with the various things on offer. To see an artichoke is to ask myself, do I know how to prepare it? Cut remove the leaves and the fluff, leave just the heart. Place in lemon juice to prevent darkening (actually its the ascorbic acid or vitamin C that does the trick, so one would wonder, why waste a lemon when a vitamin C tablet will do the trick). Then use them raw, thinly sliced, in a salad, or with potatoes and carrots and dill: a la Polita (or as they are done in 'the city', which refers to Constantinople - or Istanbul nowadays), the way my grandparents made them. And the stalks? What about the stalks? I didn't like artichokes when I was younger, but always loved eating the stalks. So many memories are associated with food, it all comes together here, in the market.

Finally there's the miriad of food facts I don't know that I want to know. I want to know and to recognise all the cuts of meats, all the types of fish, and what vegetables are in season. I want to learn to recognise the good from the bad and the bargains. There's just so much food knowledge waiting to be learnt!

I visited the market of Friday and on Saturday. I bought a rack of beef ribs on Friday and veal loin on Saturday. I spent Sunday, boning them into three wonderful rib-eye steaks and three equally wonderful sirloin steaks. I plan to make mice for burgers with the trimmings as well and stock with the bones. I could have asked the butcher to cut the meat into steaks for me, but then I wouldn't have learnt how to do it myself!

I didn't buy any vegetables this time round, but took pictures instead!


  1. Beautiful! The market is bursting with fresh produce! Thanks for sharing these wonderful images, it's almost like being there.

  2. I'm blad you liked them and thank you for taking the time to leave your comment!


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