It’s a miracle, well kind of…
Even the ant has his bite. ~ Turkish Proverb
Two fantastic things have happened this week. One, we finally bought a car (this is the miracle) and two, we finally made it to the Chacao food market before closing time. It normally closes before 2 on weekdays, but we went on a Saturday before noon. This was both good and bad.
I’ve written before (A Lesson in Patience) about the incredible difficulties of finding a car here in Caracas, so it was with great fortune that a friend of a friend of Juan’s sister was selling one. Did you get that? That’s the most trusted way of doing business here. If you know the person, or they come recommended, the chances of a smooth transaction are high.
I’ve also mentioned that gas here is, for all intents and purposes, free. Let me put it this way, a can of coke is more expensive than a TANK of gas. The subsidization of gas here is, for lack of a better word, strange. I know every country has their issues, but for a country that has millions upon millions of people living below the poverty line the best it can do is give away gasoline? Ahhhh, my brain goes in circles considering this here. I struggle to understand the why’s and how’s of it. I think I’ll leave it for another day.
Having a car is another piece of the puzzle falling into place. It’s funny, Juan and I have always tried to live in cities where we wouldn’t be car dependent. You know, live in a place where we could easily commute using great public transportation. Montreal, by the way, was the best to date offering city dwellers and tourists alike the metro (a subway), buses, and the Bixi (a bike rental service where you can rent by the hour or the season). Bixi = bike + taxi. It’s genius. Fortunately, and unfortunately, a car here means freedom!! We no longer have to borrow Juan’s mom’s car (I’m pretty sure she loves her renewed freedom) and there is no need to plan; we can just get up and go. The unfortunate part is that we’re adding to the already overly polluted city. I guess I feel somewhat better knowing that the car is only a few years old. The emissions are low, so it assuages my guilt.
We bought the car sight unseen (crazy prospect, isn’t it?), so once it was in our possession Juan wanted to test it on the highway. This was relatively easy seeing how there was a mass exodus out of the city for those wanting to celebrate carnival. I tested it as a passenger, checking the windows, air conditioner, the seats etc. I remarked that we will never, ever have to use the heater!! I giggle at this. Tee hee. Juan will be the principal driver here for two reasons: one, I’ll never drive in the city (it’d be suicide for me or manslaughter for someone else) and two, it’s a stick shift. I never learned to drive one. I’m kind of kicking myself for that, but I learned to drive on my first cross country Canada trip. The huge camper van we had was automatic. I’ll learn to drive it once we get to the island. It’ll be good fodder for a post.
Anyway, once we finally made it to Chacao (a neighborhood) we needed to find parking. Parking on the street in Chacao is safe, but Juan wanted to park in the market’s parking lot. Parking lots here could also be another blog post, needless to say, one needs patience. Seeing how I don’t have a lot of that, I left Juan to find his way while I went in search of some goodies.
Upon entering the market I made a mental note, not to ever go there on a Saturday again or at least come earlier in the morning. We had planned on the latter, but Juan’s test drive took us a bit further than we had anticipated and into a shady neighborhood, one I was anxious to get out of. No pictures were taken there. I digress. The market was loud and lively. This was due in part to a mini carnival parade (percussion section included) making it’s way through the stalls. I love markets. I could spend hours looking at every fruit, vegetable, herb, and knick-knack. Juan, not so much. So I used this opportunity (of not having him around for 10 minutes) to discover things he’d walk past.
Not having him around also allows me to practice my Spanish. I found a store that was just up my alley. It had teas, and natural products, and really kind people. I could tell immediately that they would be patient with me, so I asked a lot of questions, even about things I knew the answers to. I ended up buying some jasmine rice (which is hard to find here), some dried lavender and some pomegranate suckers. The best find/deal for me were the wooden spoons. I’m a tactile person. I love the way things feel. I have to touch things in order to know them better. These spoons are so smooth and the colors are so rich. I just stood there and rubbed all of them. You know, to feel which ones were the best. The prices were shamelessly low, so of course I had to buy them.
After wandering around for a bit, it was time for a little coffee. Again, the people were super friendly. While waiting for our order, Juan had me try a little bit of hot sauce that was sitting on the counter. I love hot sauce. So much so, that I think I must have been Mexican in another life. This hot sauce was nothing like I have ever tasted!! It was not just hot and spicy, the flavor was really complex. I mean layers of complexity. It was phenomenal. My mouth was so happy! Juan turns to me and says, so do you want to know what’s in the sauce? I look up to where the bottles were sitting and I could see an ant on the label. Strangely, I wasn’t disturbed my this. It was more fascination. I mean how could something like an ant taste so damn good?!
The formic acid, the same acid that stings you when it bites, is what gives it flavor. Of course there is also garlic, pepper and salt added, but it’s the acid that makes this salsa spectacular. I have a feeling the kind of ant has something to do with it as well. This particular salsa is made from ants from the Amazon. I’ve seen them and they’re huge! Once home, I told a friend about my new culinary discovery and she couldn’t wrap her head around eating bugs. I understand her squeamishness, but it has opened a new world for me. I can’t wait to use this as a marinade.