When I first visited Milk Pail, the European-style wet market at San Antonio Centre, I was at a loss as to where to begin. Many Stanford wives had waxed lyrical about the freshness of their produce and how cheap the vegetables were, but I was absolutely stumped when I stepped into the place. The plastic bags for the vegetables all seemed hoisted way too high. The varied crowd of shoppers were relentless and brash. The shop assistants were stocking vegetables in a busy manner. My trolley was in everyone’s way.
The types of vegetables were so foreign looking. Where were my familiar vegetables, my favourite kang kongs and kailans of the Asian world? Worse still, everything was sold in lbs rather than kg. I couldn’t figure out if something was worth buying or not. Was a head of cabbage which was cheap per lb but really heavy be a wiser choice than some light-weighing exotically- named butter lettuce which cost more per lb? Would I get tired of eating so much cabbage? Which was more nutritional? Which can stay fresher throughout the week in my fridge? How many variations can I actually come up with when cooking cabbage?
And the cheese selection was HUGE. There were about 8 fridges of cheese except that I knew nothing about 90% of them. The usual no-brainer Kraft sliced cheddar cheese I usually bought from the ubiquitous NTUC Fairprice supermarket in Singapore was to become a far away memory.
I observed the shoppers to see what they were buying. All of them had this determined face and were just grabbing and going. To look and act indecisive was not the way to survive here.
To up the ante of this stressful atmosphere at Milk Pail, I happened to visit Milk Pail near its closing hours recently. As if choosing vegetables was not difficult enough, I had a time limit because the shop assistant was pulling the blinds down on the vegetables. I could not stop my eyes from widening with fear but I had to stop myself from acting hysterical. Steadying myself, I told the shop assistant to stop the blind-pulling for a while because I was not going to leave without buying my week’s worth of vegetables!
Today, I find myself graduating from marketing at Milk Pail when I emerged unscathed with my week’s worth of veggies minus the stress I used to feel. It’s really the place to go for fresh produce which fuels my usual diet. Am already looking forward to bringing my mum along to Milk Pail when she visits me from Singapore, although that’s still many months down the road.
Jasmine from Singapore blogging from Palo Alto