Food Markets of the World
Nelli Sheffer and Mimi Sheraton
1997. 205 pages, 30 recipes.
OK, here's a hypothetical situation. You've arrived in a fascinating city in some far off land. You have only two hours to spend in this city. You have a choice: You can go to the museum that Fodor's says is a must-see for tourists or you can go to the open-air market and rub shoulders with the locals.
There's no question I'd get my string bag, camera and phrase book and head to where the food is. It's not that I don't like museums, but there's something about a marketplace that's so thrilling, confusing, mysterious, and "real", that I don't feel I've visited a city until I've visited its market.
Food Markets of the World is the next best thing to being there. Whether "there" is the My Tho market on the Me Kong Delta, or the colorful cacophany of a souk in Marrakesh, or the snow-frosted Advent market in Munich. Once you open this book you're on a six-continent tour making stops at fifty markets along the way. Photographer Nelli Sheffer's big, juicy color pictures pull you right into the hurly burly of the marketplace so effectively that the sounds and smells seem to spring from the pages.
Veteran food writer and inveterate market lover, Mimi Sheraton provides in words what Sheffer does in pictures. (Markets are practically in her genes; the daughter of a wholesale produce seller, she loved her childhood trips to Manhattan's Washington Market.) Like the best tour guides, she adds depth to your experience. She observes that "India's markets, although as crowded as those in the rest of Asia, emit softer sounds of a different language and voice pitch, and more mellow and familiar scents." She notes the spicy scents, especially that of cloves, in the Nairobi markets and the potent pungence of the fish pastes in South East Asian markets.
Visually, this is like Family of Man goes to the market place. Except Sheffer doesn't give into pat sentimentality. (No photos of cute little pets with winsome children.....although there is a picture of a cute little pig with a cute little boy; but this pig is on his way to slaughter.) Sheffer knows how to be artful without getting arty. When he does focus on the food, he shows the glory and the grit. (No pristine Edward Weston-esque close-ups of peppers.)
Sheffer captures the tumult and humanity of the marketplace. There's the woman whose arm is up to her elbow in the radish display, expressing that univeral hunch that the best is buried at the bottom. There's the Vietnamese fish merchant hurrying over a bridge with a huge block of ice (already starting to melt) hoisted on his shoulder. There's the dramatic close-up portrait of five market porters in the Delhi market, hooking us with their unflinching gazes.
Food Markets of the World offers a unique opportunity for us market
lovers to do page-by-page, market-by-market comparisons. In the Lyons
market the bowls of apples are lined up with loving precision. In the
rural Peruvian market of Pisac, the display of many varieties of potatoes
makes an artful free-form mosaic. There's the storybook magical abundance
of holiday sweets in Munich's Advent market.
Of course, recipes are really not the point here. This book is primarily a trip into (in Sheraton's words) "...the sweet disorder of scents, sights, and sounds" of the market places of the world.