The sun of the day tries to peep through the darkness and the smoke of the fires at the entrance. Boeremark has already been open for an hour and a half already, as the first regulars got here even earlier, after only five hours, as always.
AB (rhymes with “child”) Heinz and I meet at seven. “In the windmill, more or less in the center.” He comes here early on Saturday morning, when he is not traveling. And also not when it’s the first Saturday of the month, which he considers full of casual spenders rather than serious shoppers.
I find a windmill in the duck pond but no AB and there are 350 stalls in this market. He calls to say he never realized there could be a second windmill and we meet at his house, where we have a quick “cappuccini” with Diane de Beer, also a regular, and three of AB’s bemused friends. Diane, here today in a long scarlet trench coat, with countless red clips in her hair is an art blogger and books mostly at De Beer Necessities. I noticed a sign to my right for Morcovy. I would have liked some of them, AB too, but “maybe later”. I also see a strange looking label here for bath bombs, but there is no time to wonder about that.
By the time I got there at seven, there were already hundreds of cars parked and hundreds more trying to do so, a no-nonsense woman in khaki directing the parking lot in the huge parking lot, shouting in Afrikaans “Daye kant, verdier!” There are thousands of shoppers and visitors who get up very early on Saturdays because this place is well worth their time to get the early worms, before the market ends at 9:30am. Some stalls stay for a while, but, says AB’s friend Jannetje, “If you got to ten and knew what you wanted and where to find it quickly, there was still a chance of getting it, even though the market would have started to dissipate.”
AB just got back from a big cooking and dining trip to Vietnam and he’s got plenty of groceries to get him this morning, but it’s really his favorite way to start his Saturdays anyway. He and I are on a brisk, business-like trot. And he points out Pap en Kaiings (Kingdoms are little bits of crispy, crispy ham, for anyone who hasn’t had that fun yet), as we pass by in a blur.
Suddenly we hit one of AB’s favorite fresh organic produce stalls. Here are quite a few items that are not so easy to come by like lettuce or purée and celery. I promise myself a bulb of the latter later, after this rush. AB visits friends later in the day and makes up a guest of “new stuff” for him to take away. I see gorgeous eggplant and bright green peppers going into a bag. I am Impressed.
We passed smoky braziers and many little toe fires burning in the booths, people stamping their boots and breathing clouds of conversation. AB waves a gloved hand ventilating the air in the booth as we stroll along, “I don’t know if one should eat pampoenkoekies for breakfast but the choice is here.” Another booth has a line waiting for really breakfast melkkos. Shadows are still long. The sun is shy.
We turn a corner and find a more fresh produce stand all the way from Magoebaskloof. To be here by five, these cultivators started at two in the morning. It is interesting that they travel here as this is a very worthwhile market for their products, for many other companies also from Highfield, even from the Free State. As AB fills his bag with more ultra-fresh produce, I’m reminded with a smile that the tastes are gooseberries from the head.
“It has become very global,” says AB. There is an interesting Turkish position there. But look here, these guys from Korea with their hot tub buns have started making more boerestyle flavors for this market. It’s usually brown sugar, honey, and cinnamon with peanuts.”
In SkaapKraal Padstal where we’re headed, many of the popular early cuts and lamb cuts are on sale, as are free-range eggs in many sizes. This is a real reason for our fast pace. However, we can’t help seeing some very beautiful baskets, both smooth and hard, especially some which seem to be called garlic baskets, perhaps for shape, rather than containers, as A.B. thinks because the stall-holder is not sure. Anyway, this sign has Gartic Basket on it, so it’s just a guess. Here I make a mental note to revisit.
I make another note at a stall of Mozambican knit hats. AB which I see smitten here and looks great in his own country. I think he has what I call a hat tip. I am aware that my head is not a good hat, though I have for a long time worn the square cap of a Madagascar woven box as a hat and it looked well, I thought. These are still better.
The SkaapKraal Padstal is more of a large, double-sized gallery than a painting. They may have almost run out of eggs in the early hours, but there is a wealth of lamb or lamb chops, mince, liver, and I’m glad to note my return round, Skilpadjies. The farm where all these good-looking, well-priced produce come from every Saturday, is a family farm near Cullinan. Addy’s friend will be happy. I already made it clear that we are coming here soon, just from my Whatsapps this morning. Halfway through the shop, AB breaks down to show me some fingerless lambswool gloves in fair, bright, and sexy Island patterns. “Gifts,” says AB. Citrus on the farm and their appelkooskonfyt apparently for sale, plus what I imagine more, some makataan konfyt.
On the hoof, AB points to a spice stall we pass. “There are a lot of different types of cinnamon in this place but I can never find old fennel seeds anywhere.” I was really baffled by the RIP kind of notice on the back of the kiosk, but I see they have all the spices, something I don’t often find.
A booth with lots of cinnamon and a confusing sign. Photo: Marie Lys Emond
We pass Diane, possibly on a similar flower quest. AB presses into a booth with gorgeous flowers, roses I’ve never seen before, including the kind of copper he knew he wanted. No, not to the people he visits. flowers for him.
It’s past eight and the market is bustling with humanity. Humanity has brought its canines so there are handsome dogs at every turn. “It’s great here,” AB smiles, his nose blooming back to himself. These are the proteases. “It’s not exactly the season for a whole bunch of them. When it’s warmer there’s every kind of protea you can imagine. Here it is.”
I am very fascinated by shopping companies. AB, who now buys handmade loaves, has a bunch of bulky bags, but I’ve seen trolleys, changed strollers and shiny wooden boxes on wheels to haul them, which AB says they rent from the market themselves. This is the desire and this is the demand for the transfer of large quantities of purchases. Vehicles and luggage say a lot about how people use this market. It’s a serious shopping situation with side snacks and coffee.
Most people haven’t started on Saturdays yet, but the market, as it approaches nine o’clock, is getting a little windy, as is the smoke from this morning’s fires. It seems to have been a long time since I left Jozi by the Gautrain around six o’clock. I think people were getting here by lamplight then. I had seen the colors of dawn from the train east of the line up to Hatfield station in Pretoria. When I settled into the Uber to Silverton, just 10 minutes away, the sky was still deep blue.
AB slowed the pace and we’d stop to sample some Spekbos, and marvel at two young women who got their start working with spekboom leaves when they lived in Oudtshoorn. I am amazed at their ingenuity and perseverance. Of course, the leaves are excellent to eat but how many people know that? It is wise that they choose this market to expose and sell their interesting wares.
AB prefers another coffee place, run by a group of deaf people, where he meets others at nine. They were looking for “boereseep,” which sounds like tallow to me. However, they did collect a small collection of wonderfully shaped soaps, some of them herbal. Janetjie gets her hot pannekoek from a nearby stall where she noticed a long line earlier. “This was the last batch of batter,” she says triumphantly, placing the Styrofoam dish on the table between our coffee cups. “There are two pancakes for each of us.”
I try to lift one up with my fingers and the sour brown cinnamon juice drips onto my notebook and makes my hand satisfyingly sticky. I lick them. The coffee is very good, also very local. The sun is warming up a bit and for some reason I’m seeing the crazy bath bomb sign again.
I know I will never have all the things I wanted back. it is too late. It’s half past nine. I missed the turkey place, trout from Milly’s near Dullstroom and many more. It’s a huge place. next time. Because there will be many times for me now. Addie wants to book a nearby B&B for the occasion and David wants to drive here from Josie until dawn in his sports car. I’ll go with both because Pretoria Bormark has people who shop in a way that makes supermarket shopping look easy. This is by no means a convenience store, but walking around with a real grocery and commodities shopper shows me how valuable this real kind of real commodities market is to both buyers and sellers.
Pretoria Boeremark 665 Moreleta St, Silverton, Pretoria – Every Saturday morning except on religious public holidays. DM
The writer supports Nosh Food Rescue, an NGO that helps Jozi feeding schemes with food that has been “rescued” from the food chain. Please support them here.