Flacq Market, Mauritius
Fat Fruit & Chilli Cakes
Honda Hero bikes buzzed like dragon flies, sari’d women shielded the sun from their faces with glorious coral coloured umbrellas, street hawkers sizzled the air with deep fried chillies, samosas and gateaux piment sold from carts and wooden framed glass cabinets. Older women squeezed fruit as only mature women know how, testing for ripeness. Flax woven baskets bloated with market vegetables and men rapped the price of their bitter gourds, potatoes, young fresh ginger and tomatoes and aubergines, all shining like semi-precious jewels. Long stalks of lemon grass lay elegantly alongside freshly cut forests of mint and coriander. Each stall announcing its produce via our noses, long before our arrival. Freshly cut pineapple swirls glistened whilst pears, apples and pomegranates pouted in unison, tempting passing traffic to bite a chunk. Boys called from their ice cold vats of whole milk flavoured with Mauritian vanilla and almonds, quenching hard working market shoppers.
The human currency in Mauritius is the white flash of teeth in a broad smile. Warmth without agenda, with a colour spectrum ranging from deep molasses to milky chai. Mauritians are a blend of East Africa and generations of indentured Indian sugar cane labourers, installed during British occupancy post French colonisation. English is spoken with a French creole accent.
The market in Flacq on the East coast of Mauritius is a capsule collection of Mauritian life, men in their Sunday best standing eating at the same street food stalls alongside less gentrified market traders. Markets are a great leveller for social blending, after all if you want the freshest, tastiest fruit and vegetables where do you go? So park the temptation to visit a ‘cultural show’ when travelling, if you want to see a country’s personality visit the market.
We drove back alongside the Eastern coast road, whipping past fields packed with swaying sugar cane ready for the twice yearly harvest. Set against lush dense mountains, banana trees fronted the gardens of Lutyens style bungalows reminiscent of New Delhi’s white washed vernacular. Gardens led to palm fringed honeyed beaches whose shores welcomes the intrigues of the beguiling Indian Ocean, stretching across three continents, maybe Twain’s words are true, “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first then heaven; heaven being copied after Mauritius.”