Market, Turkish Delight, and the Whereabouts of Idaho

From Boxgum Grazing, Young, NSW. Owned by Sam and Claire and their son, Sid–


Today we woke up at 3:15 a.m. We were going to Market. That’s right, Market with a capital M, because it’s not worth getting up at 3:15 for just plain market. The situation involved Ethan saying, “You can’t sleep in this morning.”

Usually I’ll sleep a bit longer and he’ll get up and make some breakfast. He’s a morning person, I’m not. He’s also very kind. We ate a breakfast of scrambled eggs. My stomach felt queasy, like it does on ski mornings.
There was not a hint of light on the horizon.
Claire pulled up at the gate in the Market truck at 3:45. She looked bright, chipper and wide awake by the light of the headlights. I envy such people. She said (and this is for real), “I like being up so early! We have the whole place to ourselves.”

As I climbed into the passenger seat of our Subaru, I muttered to Ethan, “Well, you can have it.”
I had said I would go to Market, so I was going. You must get me to promise to go the night before. My sister Linnaea almost made a fatal mistake when she woke me up early in the morning for a surprise bachelorette road trip. I was not the most enthusiastic bride-to-be.
Driving in the morning in Australia is like driving in the morning anywhere else. We were quiet, following the taillights in front of us, keeping our eyes peeled for roos. Only two weeks ago, we’d been following Sid down this same stretch of road when the morning came to a grinding halt.

On that mornng, a roo came leaping over the fence just in front of Sid, who was driving the Market truck. He slammed on the brakes. Ethan and I, driving just behind him, thought he’d managed to avoid it, but when we saw him get out we knew there was a problem.
The three of us met at the front of the Market truck. The front had been totally shattered. The joey, in the pouch of the kangaroo, had been killed in the collision. The big kangaroo was nowhere to be seen.

We picked the peices of plastic and chrome grill off of the front of the truck. The radiator was dented, and we soon found that it was leaking. The Market Truck would not be driving the two hours to Canberra’s Market.
Sid, oddly enough, did not seem panicked. All of us hopped in the Subaru and raced back to the Farm (only a couple of miles away), keeping a close watch for roos.

Sam, as it happened, was not a morning person either. We quickly contrived a plan to move the cool box with all the meat from the Market truck to one of the farm trucks. When it was decided, there was a great deal of chaos of running around in the dark and in the work shop. There was a fair bit of panic and general shouting. After all, there were several thousand dollars of fresh pork and beef sitting in the bingled market truck.

Sam and Claire roared off in the farm truck and we followed in our Subaru.
Once we arrived, there was a frantic process of unloading all the meat and stacking it on the edge of the road.
Ethan and Sid were there to do the heavy lifting, and miraculously no one had their fingers crushed as we transferred the cool box to the farm truck. It was an intense half hour, with flashlights, commands, and running feet.
All was done and loaded, the cool box firmly strapped on, by 4:40 am.

On the contrary, everything this morning ran according to schedule. Ethan and I were able to participate in the normal Market Day.
We arrived at EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra) at around 6. The sky was still completely dark, yet everywhere there were people. We joined the other stallholders, setting up tables and hanging up Boxgum’s banners. We unloaded meat and laid tablecloths.
Astonishingly, at 6:00 there were shoppers. They had their recycleable bags and wallets with them. They were shopping while everyone else was still setting up! Ethan thought it was quite rude of them, because the early early shoppers make everything move earlier, and make the stallholders have to come earlier.

I was still waking up.

At 7:00, the place was bustling. Here is how someone buys from Boxgum:
1. Approach the counter, please.
2. Select your peices of meat.
3. Stand for several minutes trying to catch the eye of one of the people inside the stall. Don’t try to get the ding-y blond girl to notice you. She’s had coffee for breakfast and she’s still asleep. Oh, wait, she woke up!
4. Hand her the money and the meat. Let her know if you want it wrapped in paper (Newspaper, recycled, very green indeed!) and taped. Needless to say taped, she’ll probably tape it anyway. They tape everything at America and she probably still has residue. She won’t ask you if you want a bag, you’ll have to tell her, because she only has time to ask you if you want paper before she rushes away again.
5. Don’t expect her to do math in her head, even if it’s 2.50 plus 2.25.
6. Take your wrapped meat, your change, and say “Cheers”

The hardest part about being in the stall was the same as it was the last time we came to Market: counting the change. If someone handed me a handful of foreign coins and monopoly money (that’s what Australian currency looks like), I had to first recognize what they gave me, then I had to figure out what to give them back. And I had to remember what they look like, so the right meat and the right change goes to the right person.

It was even harder if they moved. If I turned around for one instant to wrap the meat, they’d move down the counter. I’d scan faces until I saw the costumer I was serving waving their arms.

There were so many people, so many faces I’ll never see again. My American accent slurred into an Australian one on certain words. I found myself saying “Cheers” and “G’day” with the best of them.
I saw such a variety of people. Tall, short. Scandinavian, Indian. Several women who looked like models came to buy the meat. I told one girl that it was good to see someone who was my height. A woman in a leather jacket came up to buy pork medallions and forgot to pay. Claire said it was all right, that I shouldn’t chase her down or anything.

A man cameĀ­ with his toddler perched high above his head. The little boy was grinning down at me. Some parents let their children pay, then told them to take the change and say “thank-you”. The kids seemed overwhelmed with the prospect of such responsibility. I guess I would’ve felt the same in their shoes.

There was an excitement, a whir of activity, when we dealt with customers. It was as if every interaction gave us a shock of energy. We talked to them, we made eye contact, we smiled at them. If I saw them later, I’d recognize them. The world was made smaller.
When things slowed down, Claire let us head for the market stalls. Such a variety of smells and colors! So many things to do if you have money.

I bought three macaroons. One of them was nasty, the other two were delicious. Each cost a dollar and was the size of a quarter. Ethan headed for the gluten and bought something with pears and sugar in it.
There were stall-holders selling cheese, bread, honey, jam, vegetables and fruit, juice, meat pies (an Australian thing), flowers. I would have loved to have a basket and the money and need to fill it. Going to Market with a basket on my arm seems like it would be a very romantic excursion.

They also sold food: Sandwiches, crepes, sausages with sauerkraut, gozleme and milkshakes.
I stopped at a place selling Turkish Delight and talked to the stallholder. He was from Greece, with a heavy accent and an apron that said, “I don’t need a recipe, I’m Greek” on it. I was from Idaho, with a work-and-holiday visa and a need to try Turkish Delight. You see, I’ve read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, among C.S. Lewis’s other works.
Ethan sauntered over when he saw me talking.

Turkish Delight proved to be a fruity, chewy sort of cube with corn flour on it. It wasn’t amazing. Certainly nothing to sell your siblings for. In the end, the only thing we left with was his quip, “You can survive anything when you’re young.”

We started to grow hungry. At Market, the Johnsons could subsist on a cup of coffee, but Ethan and I were famished. Besides, there’s hardly anything to a Australian cup of coffee. It’s about 7 ounces.
Ethan went hunting for a stall that sells meat pies, and I headed for the sausage place. They have big bratwursts served with hot sauerkraut. It’s gluten free. It’s eight dollars. Funny how they don’t give you any discount for being gluten free and not eating their bun.

Two men asked if they could join us at the picnic table we were sitting. As soon as they sat down, they started laughing and conversing in a language that sounded something like French, German or Russian. Apparently they could speak English too (I heard a few English words), and when there was a break in the conversation I asked them we’re they were from.

They were from Austria, which they loved. They came to Australia, which they love. “What is Idaho like? It’s wet there, isn’t it?”
They seemed surprised to learn that where we live is a high desert. I guess they didn’t know where Idaho was in the first place. I don’t mind, most people don’t know. Australians know of three places in America: California, Las Vegas, and New York City. Fair enough: all I knew about Australia before I came here was that Sydney was the place where Nemo was kept in a fish tank.

On our way back to Boxgum’s stall, I stopped to get some more Macaroons. They are like a pavlova (or a meringue) around a soft paste. This time it was someone else who served me. He was Indian, as was the young man who served me before.
From a few minutes of talking to him, I learned that half of his family lived in the United States and Canada. Funny that we don’t hear people saying, “The States”, when we’re over here. It’s simply, “America” or “Americar” as the Aussies are fond of pronouncing it. He also had no idea where Idaho was. I felt like I was giving road directions as I said, “Follow the coast up from California, it’s up North, one state away from the coast.”
He gave me a quarter-sized macaroon for free. It was delicious.

As we packed up Boxgum’s market stall, we were surrounded by other stall-holders doing exactly the same thing. Australian markets are, after all, no different than American ones. It had been cold that morning in Canberra, NSW, but the sun was starting to come out. It felt like an Idaho summer.

Speak Your Mind