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Nicholas Gilman is a renowned journalist and food writer based in Mexico City.

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Close to home: The Mercado el 100

Close to home: The Mercado el 100

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. http://www.mercadoel100.org/

 

READER'S COMMENTS:

Guillermo November 8, 2010
Buena reseña, como siempre. Había escuchado críticas sobre este mercado: 1) que no es una idea realmente novedosa pues los mercados de xochimilco, milpa alta y zonas similares siempre han vendido productos de las cercanías (aunque hacerlo en la Condesa implica un mayor reto) y 2) que faltan productos mexicanos como el maíz y los chiles. Tendré que darme una vuelta a ver qué tal.

Nicholas Gilman replies: Bueno, en los tianguis mexicanos tradicionales siempre se han vendido cosas 'locales' nada es novedosa, es mas una reacción a la tendencia aqui a ir al 'Comer'... en lugar de comprar a la manera tradicional, y a apoyar los micro-negocios que han regresado a maneras de producir de antes. En este mercado no hay nada que criticar, esta apenas empezando. Y los yuppies no compran tanto maiz y chiles, ese es un asunto mas grande....

Margot November 8, 2010
Great article, Nick! Will share it.

Alan Favero November 9, 2010
Nick! está increiible! mil gracias por tu apoyo, escribiste algo super lindo! está padrisimo, gracias de nuevo!

Gina G. November 9, 2010
Sobre todo sustentar lo que se esta comenzando a hacer respecto a un comercio justo y libre de pesticidas. Eso esta bien interesante. Que bueno que hay personas como tu Nick que estan al tanto y lo difuden...aca en Guadalajara hay algo parecido los sabados.

Jair Téllez November 9, 2010
Aqui el punto es acercar a los que producen con los que consumen porque esa relación cercana y mas personal se traduce necesariamente en productos de mayor calidad; que si los productos son peras, manzanas, chiles o aguacates o si los que compran son gorditos, gueros, chaparros, mexicanos o no, pasa a segundo término.. en horabuena por la reseña y el mercado.

Guillermo November 9, 2010
Lo que me resulta más interesante, además de lo q dice Jair, es q me imagino q en la zona hay quienes están probando hidroponia y azoteas verdes debido a la falta de terrenos en la zona

Paolita November 15, 2010
This is really neat! I think it is wonderful a group of people went though the trouble and hard work of putting this market together. It is also wonderful that people like Nick are supporting it. I hope this is the beginning of a trend!

Rodrigo a November 20, 2010
Where is Casa de Francia? Thanks.

Anonymous November 21, 2010
will be in Mexico on Dec 11, and would love to check out this market. Where is casa de francia

Nicholas Gilman replies: The addresses are in the text; Casa de Francia (Havre 15 near Reforma, Zona Rosa) Not far from where Insurgentes meets Reforma. The organizers tell me that they are hoping to eventually get a permanent spot, preferably Plaza Rio de Janeiro.

Roberto DeLaCruz September 6, 2011
Estoy de acuerdo con Guillermo, faltan los productos mexicanos como los chiles. Esto es lo que he eschucado.

Nicholas Gilman replies: Roberto, Guillermo, el propósito de este mercado es a crear un espacio para vender productos que no tienen otro foro. Estos tambien son 'productos mexicanos'. Hay chiles, etc. por todos lados. Yo hago todo lo posible para promover la cultura del mercado tradicional, y no del super estilo-gringo. Pero a criticar este pequeño esfuerzo de poner a la venta estos productos de calidad, hechos no solamente en México sino cerca a nuestra ciudad, es inútil y contra-productiva.

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