There’s only one way to describe the mercados in Lima, Peru: you just died and went to …well, you know. First off, Jesus is everywhere, from the entrance way to looming over the dusty jars you need for kombucha. And cheeses are everywhere, too, along with tofu, fresh fish, sandwich stands, and did I mention avocados?

In China? You would think you just died, but uh, not gone to heaven. As my doctor would say, you’re only one parasite away from your ideal body weight in China. But in Peru, where fresh markets are as plentiful as petty thieves, the shopping experience is a bit different. No bartering over the price of Bok choy, fewer cigarettes dangling out of fishmongers’ mouths, and a lot more refrigeration. Since the Holy Mother of Jesus is also waggling her finger on every corner, hopefully sticky fingers are guilted into being good. She is in the deity case, which is not to be confused with the dairy case.

I never had the heebie-jeebies about purchasing meat in Chinese markets. Most would be kept under tents, and wise shoppers would shop early and at crowded venders. If meat was still around when the sun went down, it probably wasn’t the best quality.

In Lima, the markets are a hybrid of whole-foods and that cute farmer’s market you go to in the summer with their insanely high prices. Coffee, a variety of bananas for every color of the rainbow, and a few vendors coming in from “the jungle” to sell their unique honey, chocolate (to die for, but not worth getting malaria or Typhoid over), and specialties. This jungle market in Magdelina is open on Sundays, featuring a blend of everything your tastebuds desire, including plantains stuffed with cheese. As for me? I’m partial to Thailand’s grilled bananas with caramel sauce. Save the cheese for pizza.

Another thing? The toilet paper guy. Move over Mr. Wipple. Do any or my readers remember the Charmin squeezer? Paying for your paperwork is the norm when traveling abroad, and Peru is a country with a non-flush policy. This guy is at the mercado in Surquillo.

The markets are colorful from the food to the shoppers. But after four months of not cooking (due to traveling and couch surfing), I bought what my tastebuds have craved. No, not the fish, or the organic produce, but popcorn from the Amazon, to my dentists’ chagrin.

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