An advantage of visiting a place more than once is that you’re no longer hostage to its sensations, or to its beauty. The second, third, tenth times around you might avoid being bowled over by the aromas and flavors, tingly with the aura of the landscape; you’re likely have your wits about you, and that means you can make reasonable decisions about where to go, how to eat, and what to leave with.
I found myself in this delightful situation in Tunis. I’d been just enough times to know exactly what I wanted to eat (see here, here, and here for starts), where I wanted to visit, and I had designs to package loads of good stuff to take home with me. Thankfully, my Most Gracious Hosts obliged, and we headed to a few food markets and stores to grab some of the best [read: most transportable] of what Tunisia has to offer.
There were fresh markets and fish markets, where enthusiasts… er… debated the virtues of the trade.
There were gorgeous fresh herbs: mint, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, and so on.
And in case your pace was hurried, you might slow it down with a few soon-to-be escargot.
There were fresh, soft cheeses, lovingly molded and infused with herbs.
And a special shop for all manner of dried goods, presided over by the eager Ouejdi,
Glass orbs with gaping mouths nearly overflowed with nuts, beans, legumes, grains, and candies, waiting to be scooped up and taken home to soak, roast, or crunch.
Some stockists kept bins and drawers full of elixirs and other magic ingredients, or piled them in petit mountains garlic, tisane, or dried fruits, where they couldn’t be ignored.
The far reaches of the souk culminated in a most gracious flower market, hidden away in the belly of a trader’s maze, and blooming with confidence.
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