Buying Spices at the Waterfront Green Market

Susannah Nokovic Winters Simpson

Susannah Nokovic Winters Simpson

Saturday is overcast.  My husband and I are only married four months and we are doing things we think married people do like agreeing to pay to use the parking garage, then holding hands as we climb down four flights of concrete stairs, stairwell covered with murals: marine blue, summer yellow, leaf green,  these scrolled in black spray paint, personal slogans, and symbols. The market is listed as ‘The Best Green Market in the Country,"  and though we live half a mile from Royal Palm Beach's Green Market, we wanted to see what the "Best" looked like. A woman with a French accent dressed in black is selling spices and teas. She said my turquoise dress and glass beads were "Perfect for your coloring" which they are, but I reminded myself that, after all, she is selling things, making small talk to make a sale. The words on the labels are enough to prompt a sale: Turkish asafoetida, zhug from Yemen,  cinnamon from Vietnam, Moroccan Atlas Blend, curries from Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, India, African Bird's Eye powder, Ras El Hanout, Baharat, Cote D'Azur, white peony, tamarind, coriander. Today, we all walk away from the news, the guns, the deaths, the controversies. Instead, we are walking by booths of hand-turned wooden bowls and pepper mills, and greeting cards that sprout wildflowers from recycled paper. Send your Abuela, your Grammy, a note across the country. These seeds embedded in the card will sprout in her garden. Lots of dogs, lots of bicycles, We are there to touch and eat and see and smell hope. Blends of tea and people, spices and lineage, heritage from across the globe, we meander among each other. A beautiful young man and his lover are smelling a spice blend from South Africa, he says "I am  South African--let me see." I pick up a bag labeled "Afghan," open the resealable seam on the small bag, bury my nose in it. It all comes flooding back, my childhood in Kabul, the rice pilau, the kabobs. I tell her "I grew up in Afghanistan" she nods, she is not surprised. The marketgoers must tell her their stories as they smell home in small baggies on her table. 

Susannah W Simpson’s work has been widely published and anthologized. Founder and Co-Director of the Performance Poets of the Palm Beaches Monthly Reading Series, her book Geography of Love & Exile was published in 2016.

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