Monday, April 24, 2006

Carboot sale (One fine autumn day)


I have always been interested in how car boot sales are being conducted. Several times, David and I planned to participate in the local one, (in fact, he has put together some old stuff--pre-loved things we could not find use for anymore--in a big box ready to go into the car boot any time), but the not-so-pleasant weather every time, would always prevent us from going.

Last Sunday, we decided to go for a drive to Queen Elizabeth Park in Masterton, (a 30-minute drive from our place, Featherston), where we hoped to get some good photos of autum leaves, or at least of those fallen ones being tossed and turned by the autum breeze. On our way, we called by a mushroom farm and bought a box of huge, flat, fresh mushrooms!

It was mid-morning when we reached Masterton but had to stop first at the car boot sale on Essex street. It was in a large vacant space where several cars' boots were opened and makeshift stalls were set up, and just about anything was on sale.

Car boot sales, according to Mr. Google, "are a mainly British form of market in which private individuals come together to sell their unwanted household items".

Since some of these people want to get rid of old stuff (like books, kitchen utentils, used toys, used clothes, pre-loved books, old tools, magazines, memorabilia, plants, herbs in pots, etc,) almost everything was sold at almost knockdown prices.

In New Zealand, the car boot sale has evolved into a combination of a garage sale and a flea market, where not only private individuals who want to get rid of their unwanted household things participate but commercial sellers as well. Like, Jack, who was selling eggs from his chookie farm. When we found his car at around 10:30 a.m. he had already sold at least 40 trays of his eggs. It was also brisk business for a group who were selling fresh veggies like cabbages, water cress, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, etc., which were unloaded from a truck in several plastic crates.

Wandering around the area, we found several items of interest to us. David fancied a plate made of alluminum with interesting old photos of a lake in Queenstown printed on it. I was delighted to find an old couple who were selling at least four kinds of nuts harvested from their garden--chestnuts included. The chestnuts were not being "roasted on an open fire" though. They were fresh. Just the same, I bought a kilo for myself.

David bought for me a pack of figs, a kind of fruit which has a bulbous shape with a small opening (the ostiole) in the end and a hollow area inside lined with small red edible seeds. I have never seen nor tasted this fruit before so he wanted me to give it a try. But I was more excited about my chestnuts (it's been years since I last had a taste), so soon as we arrived home, I tossed a handful into a pot and roasted them on the stove top. The old woman from whom we bought them told me to toss them for about ten minutes, so I did, humming "chestnuts roasting on an open fire...". It was just disappointing that they were not as fragrant as the ones we see being roasted in big woks in Quiapo or elsewhere during Christmas season. Anyway, they were still uncooked after ten minutes, and since the pot where I cooked them has burned at the base, I thought of just giving them a wee zap in the microwave. Which was a bigggg mistake! A few seconds after pressing the start button, the chestnuts started popping up like firecrackers being fired up, giving me a wee fright. Lesson learned, never, ever cook chestnuts in the microwave.

Dinner that day was baked mushrooms, tomato soup and toast, plus popped chestnuts.

Here's how to make those yummy, baked flat mushrooms:


4 flat mushrooms
4 tsp olive oil
4 tbp grated cheese

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees. Lay mushrooms upside down on a baking tray. On each piece, sprinkle a teaspoon of olive oil. Then top with grated cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

By the way, strolling at the Queen Elizabeth Park at this time of year is just amazing. Each time the wind blew, huge trees would let go a rain of leaves in red, gold and yellow, adding to the pile of already crisp, brown leaves that has carpeted the lawn. And as the winter season approaches, more leaves will let go of their hold on the twigs to give way to new growth next spring.

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