Shopping on Saturday, Market Day in Belize City
by Michelle Rivana Buckley
Saturday’s were a day that family would be out and about shopping at the old market to purchase their food and vegetables. The market would be bustling with the loud shouts of vendors. Going with my father to purchase his freshly baked Johnny Cakes and his Mercia (spicy blood sausage), getting his meat from August Meat Shop or the Delicatessen on Cemetery Road was a treat. On payday you bet it was dining out time with him or my mom.
The city came alive early morning and by noon it would be a treat to go to Dits Restaurant to sit down and eat the most delicious meat pies; so golden brown and filled with gravy, so rich two would not be enough. You would wash the pies down with a soft drink followed with a slice of milk cake. The milk (caramel) so thick you couldn’t help but get it on your fingers. Hmmm eating every crumb and then drinking your bottle Coco Cola, Orange or Strawberry Fanta, 7 Up so lemony, or Miranda soft drinks. I tell you soda in bottled in Belize tasted better than those bottled in America. Our other option was H & L Burgers. Their burgers were so juicy and mouth watering as we call it. The lines were always long and it was worth the wait. Fresh ground beef was used. The aroma filled the air. We would share one burger between my sister and I. This was on the South side of town on Albert Street. Going across town we would stop and get tamales from Gonz Tamales Shop. It was a small wooden hut. Their tamales was well prepared with cull so rich and tucked inside was a leg of the chicken. The flavor of ripe tomatoes and habanero bursting thru. You could walk around the city and find your favorite panades vendor. Panades is corn masa made with refried beans or fish into a half moon patty, served with pickled onion or cabbage slaw mixed in with pieces of habanero. Miss Maisy at the corner of Woods Street sold the best panades.. To top it off if you saw Mrs Taba in the neighborhood near Cemetery Road and Johnson Street you would get the best homemade Ducunu you could find. Ducunu is ground corn cooked in coconut milk and sautéed pork fat or salt pork and steamed in corn husk. So yellow and warm with a mild sweetness from the corn. Again you couldn’t eat only one but two. Let’s not forget the Paletas (paletas is popsicle made from milk with chunks of fruits in it) man who sold those papaya and sugar corn paletas. He kept us cool.
Saturday evening was a treat for kids at Valencia Icecream Parlor. It was a large dine in restaurant that had beautiful large plastic cones around its interior for decorations and bar stools at the counter. The room always smell like vanilla. Another spot was the Icecream shop that was opposite Angelus Press on Queen Street before the buildings were burnt down. My favorite Icecream shop above all was Solis on Cemetery Road. As regulars he would give us a extra layer on your cone. His chocolate soft serve was the best. He had strawberry, vanilla and chocolate which spiraled out with the press of the lever from his icecream machine. He also made various flavor in the wooden icecream tub.
Saturday evening you waited patiently for the Panadero man to come by on his cart. You would be able to buy sweet breads beautiful decorated. I always chose the ones called Greasy Greasy. It was a flaky pastry sprinkled with cinnamon and white sugar. A treat so rich! Later at around 5pm the Chicharron man would come by on his bicycle selling warm chicharron with thinly sliced plantain chips in one pound brown paper bags. He would be sold out so fast all you could hear was his bell. He came from the slaughter house with his warm and meaty goods. A delight for us because he was always smiling.
At night you would get your one, two, three (rice and beans with stew chicken and potato salad) as I called it from Mr. Meighan. He was always parked in front of Barclays Bank on Albert Street with his cart. That man can cook! The rice and beans would be swimming in His gravy from the stewed chicken. You had to wait your turn and don’t let there be a large group of British soldiers waiting because he would be chatting and it seemed like eternity before you got your food. It was worth the wait. His customers would stand around eating their plate of food. He even sold the rice bun (burnt portion) and chicken feet. Besides Meighan there was Tux fried chicken. Boy did I enjoyed eating that golden bird in the morning with very thickly cut French Fries and the whole jalapeño pepper. So tasty was that chicken I have never tasted chicken like that, so crispy and seasoned to perfection. I use to save mine for the next morning. It was a kick pouring the ketchup on my fries and letting them swim in it. Ketchup back then was thick and tasty maybe because it came in a glass bottle. How many of you ate your rice and beans or your scrambled eggs with Ketchup. Heinz probably got rich from our many purchases. Life was simple, the food was like a gem it brighten so many lives as poor as we were.
One could not help but support our local business community they were part of our family and our city came alive on Saturdays. Who cared about diabetes, high blood pressure and all. Those food were whopping and nothing wasted. One could not help but have a good start to the day.
Painting by Rachel Heusner
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