Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shopping like Malaysians

Grocery shopping is an inescapable chore that we tend to leave for the weekend, when we have a little more free time. Malaysians cannot escape this routinary errand either. That’s why every Saturday merchants set up their markets is diverse sections of Kuala Lumpur, so Malaysians can shop for their weekly provisions.

The first market we visited was covered. Inside, the zigzagging hallways resembled a labyrinths filled with buckets full of huge fishes, live chicken tied to food stands’ tables, baskets with fresh fruits and vegetables and bags of salty dried fish, which made it hard for you to walk through the market.

The place was chaotic and tranquil at the same time. Each item seemed to have its place in that disorganized place, and the vendors did everything with meticulous precision: they would pick a fish from a bucket with their hands, hit it hard on the table until it went numb, and then they killed it by hitting it with a stick. Afterwards, they would cut its head off with a sharp knife as they held it strongly with the other hand. At that point they would take out the scams, throw the blood to the floor, and place the fish in the front of the table so they could start the process all over again.

In the second market we went to, everything appeared to be dirty, noisy and anarchic. In this open-air market those who sold fruit displyed their merchandise next to the fishermen, and these offered their stinky products next to the ladies that sold embroided underwear (an item not highly demanded in an atmosphere that smelled like fish and still water).

Here, sellers were less careful with the merchandise and they screamed loudly to gain the customers' attention. Considering the large number of people that frequented this place, merchants here did not sell live chicken. Instead they hanged the entire unfeathered chickens over their heads. This image of recently skinned white and black chicken, with bent necks and stiff legs that seemed to be pleading for mercy was so strong, that I was unable to digest the chicken that mom prepared for lunch with love.

Grocery shopping like Malaysians was an unforgettable experience. But I think I am a victim of having been raised in the city, and when we talk about meat I prefer not to meet the live animal beforehand.

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