So I’ve now been in my new home of Tofo for one week and two days. Eating out is cheap enough here to be able to do it for every meal, but it would obliterate my budget, so after a couple of days I ventured out into the market to see what I could find. The kitchen is pretty basic, but it has a couple of gas rings and some pans, and my cooking skills are pretty slim.
The market consists of a couple of lines of stalls, under cover but fairly open to the elements nonetheless. Stallholders stack their wares on trestle tables, crates and the ground. There is a supermercado (‘Mr Fresh’), but it’s tiny, the sort of thing you get attached to a petrol station in the UK. I’ve bought water, pasta, beer, rice, coconut milk and so on from there.
I needed to buy fish for the braii mid week, so I tried my hand at buying fish from the fish stall. About a dozen buckets scattered around the stall display the fish, all sorts of things I’ve never seen in the UK before, which was fairly intimidating – I didn’t want to sound like a total noob but I was clearly not going to be able to get a couple of salmon fillets here. All the fish was intact, too, and as soon as the guys manning the stall sensed that I wanted to buy, they all seized fish and started brandishing them in my face, each wanting me to buy a rocket fish, a barracuda(!), lemon fish, and who knows what else. They weren’t really interested in helping me find a fish that would grill well, or would serve x number of people, they each just wanted the sale. I can understand it, they need to make a living and that looks pretty hard around here. But still, it made me a bit uncomfortable.
I am absolutely hopeless at haggling – I think I have Westerner guilt, and the idea of haggling over 50mtz (about 50p) makes me feel bad, because it’s a sum I can easily afford, but I also know that it’s how things are done here, and I can’t afford to subsidise every vendor here! So my attempt to haggle went badly, and I ended up paying the full price the guy wanted for his lemon fish and red snapper. It was still only about a fiver, so I figured that wasn’t too bad. He also gutted and descaled them for me, but to my horror, left the heads on, so when I got home and opened the bag, two pairs of googly eyes were glaring up at me.
I also went to the bigger fruit and veg stall, and bought bananas, mangos, fresh chillies, cucumber, peppers, cashew nuts and eggs. Again, I failed to haggle, but it was pretty cheap anyway. The women running the stall were a lot more easygoing than the men on the fish stall, and offered me a banana to try, as I was unconvinced – they weren’t the perfect shape and colour you see in Tesco! However, despite the green, wrinkly skin, it was delicious, and I bought a bunch.
There are lots of locals working the beach, offering coconuts, bracelets, bags and sarongs to tourists. Sometimes they’re a bit of a nuisance and won’t take no for an answer, but on the whole you just say não obrigada a few times and they move on. It makes me sad to see the number of young kids working, trudging up and down the hot sand carrying heavy sacks of coconuts, desperate to sell one, and being rejected nine times out of ten.
Next step: learn to haggle!