I am not an early morning person, I like to go to events that start at 7:30 am or later, but I can be talked into most things. So when some friends of mine suggested that they pick me up at 5:30 am to go to the Cheapside market, I was ready to go.
I am ashamed to say that I have been to Markets all over the world…the flower market at 3:00 am in Vietnam, Markets in Laos, bird markets in Hong Kong but never to the one right here in Barbados.
That is not the real truth; about thirty years ago, when I was much younger, I attempted to go to the Fairchild Street Market and was so intimidated by the vendors that I had to run away without purchasing a thing.
Back then, the marketing method was extraordinary as I couldn’t buy just cucumbers; I had to buy plantains as well, or they didn’t want the sale. So they got no sale instead.
I set my alarm for 5:00 am and was up and dressed in time for my 5:30 am pick-up. The temperature was lovely and cool. It was lovely to be driving through the streets as the world was coming to life. We collected another friend, and off we set.
We parked in the Post Office parking lot, and with a tad bit of apprehension, we set off to enter the Cheapside indoor market. I had read all the controversy over the years about moving the vendors off of the streets into this building; thus, I was curious to see how it all worked.
Boy, was I pleasantly surprised? The Cheapside Market venue is lovely with wide-open aisles, an open courtyard with trees growing in the middle. Everything was clean. Very well done, in my opinion. Much cleaner than most markets I have visited from around the world.
Our first stop was the Meat area. This is an all air-conditioned area, again spotlessly clean, with different butchers selling their fresh meat from their own stalls.
You can ask for the cut of meat that you desire, or they have different cuts of meat displayed in cold display cases. We bought from an accommodating gentleman in the G. Forde and Children booth. We laughed at the name as we would have expected it would say, and Son…Perhaps he has daughters that work with him? :)
Then came the vegetable and fruit shopping experience. Again it was a wonderful experience. The trays were almost overwhelming to your sense of sight. Bright orange pawpaws alongside blood-red tomatoes, bright green sweet peppers, shaggy bunches of seasoning…you name it, they had it.
The vendors are super friendly, and everyone willing to help out each other. You go to a vendor to buy cucumbers, and you ask if they have flavor peppers to sell, and that vendor calls out to others around her in a cheerful manner inquiring for you if someone else has what you want.
I was shocked that there wasn’t a fierce competition between the vendors. You can also choose your own produce; you can touch the vegetables and fill the plastic bag that the seller gives you. Everything is carefully weighed, and you pay for your purchase—such a pleasant experience.
The sound of the market is buzzing with excitement, people chatting or doing business. It’s not a quiet place, but it has a soothing feel. The smells are something else. As you pass the Spice Table, where you can buy any spice, you can desire the smell is nostalgic for India’s markets. You can smell the tangy curry and the powerful garlic mixed—a sensory experience.
We continued up and down the various aisles. I was hunting specifically for flavor peppers, and finally, I hit gold. One vendor had plump fat red flavor peppers, and I bought almost all that she had. I throw them in the freezer whole and cut them up, and add them to all of my dishes. I am nearly all out, so I will have to head back to the Market again sometime soon.
You can buy just about anything and everything. A stall sells all homemade honey, shark oil, coconut oil, jams and jellies, juices, and candy. Things I haven’t seen since I was a young girl can still be found in Cheapside Market.
They also have a whole bakery section that sells fresh bread, coconut bread, banana bread, sandbox buns, fly cakes, coconut turnovers, and more.
We took our own carry bags, and mine was full to the top by the time we were done for a fraction of the price of vegetables from the supermarket, and I was shocked at how long these fresh things lasted.
I felt very accomplished for finding all these bargains. I will go back. I will go back alone as I felt completely safe and at home. I also discovered that the market opens until early afternoon, so my next visit does not have to be at dawn.
I am going soon. Does anyone want to go with me?
By: Anna Page