In Mexico, land of vendedores one could alter Shakespeare’s phrase to read “all the world’s a market”. But a new type of mercado has just been inaugurated: the Mercado el 100. This weekly outdoor tianguis recalls Paris’ wildly successful marché biologique or New York’s see-and-be-seen Union Square market. That is, it provides a venue for small local producers of presumably organic and artisanal products to strut their stuff. I visited the second manifestation of this noble project and couldn’t help being tempted by the beautiful purple lettuces, crinkly frissée, pungent arugala, emerald green peppers. Fresh cheeses called out as well but had been snapped up by the time I got there. Tastings of various baked goods were so popular I couldn’t tell what they were. People chatted, swapping recipes, ideas. (I explained what arugala is to a young woman, handing her a taste - but she didn't like it - ni modo). The local food movement has arrived in el D.F.
Locavores. Sounds like those creatures in Night of the Living Dead. But it’s actually a name given to a select group of nature lovers who insist on eating nothing that is grown more than a few miles from where they live. A bit extreme, you may think. Perhaps, but the idea is good, something to at least aspire to if not live by. (Mercado de 100 gets its name fron the hope that everything sold here will be produced within 100 miles). In this ever-globalizing world, more and more people are getting involved in practical solutions to pollution and global warming – caused by the transportation of our food from one side of the earth to the other - and just plain bad food, the result of drek-like products mass-produced and sold cheaply by ‘Wal’-type establishments. Mexico’s a place where, unlike in the USA, traditional markets still thrive and offer many foods grown or made nearby. But with the opening up of trade, the percentage of foodstuffs brought from as far away as China – and this includes such Mexican staples as chilies and corn- is sad to behold. That’s where Alan Vargas comes in. He’s a visual artist, political activist and dreamer. Working with Slow Food maven and star restauranteur Gabriela Cámara, hot chef Jair Tellez, and French foodie Nathalène Latour de Saint Viance he has brought his dream to reality. “I did it because I like good food”, remarked Vargas, proudly surveying the bustling Parque México market on a recent chilly Sunday afternoon. Shoppers were grabbing organic lettuces, honeys and cheeses like they were going out of style. The idea had been born during Slow Food meetings several years ago but took much frustrating and hard work to bring to fruition (pun intended). Thanks to the labyrinthine bureaucracy of our metropolis’ government, hair was pulled out, sleep was lost and the opening was delayed many months. But the market, small but growing, is now in place. At present it will alternate between the Foro Lindberg in the park, the Casa de Francia (Havre 15 near Reforma, Zona Rosa) and the Plaza Rio de Janeiro, (Orizaba and Durango, Colonia Roma) – see the schedule below. Prices are surprisingly reasonable. When I questioned Alan as to whether there is a public in Mexico City willing to shell out extra pesos for the kinds of things that in New York would generally cost twice as much, he replied “check out the prices per kilo in the Superama around the corner and you’ll see we are often even lower than they are”. And the quality doesn’t even compare. Support this noble cause and be there next week.
The market takes place in either Plaza Rio de Janeiro or Luís Cabrera (Calle Orizaba) on Sundays from 9-2. Check their website for exact times and locations.