45 minutes | May 18th 2020

Episode 90: In Defense of Wet Markets

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Conversations about wet markets with four people who know them very well: Ro Vasquez of Eat Like a Local in Mexico City, journalist Austin Bush in Bangkok, Paul Rimple of Culinary Backstreets in Tbilisi, and Auburn University food historian Xaq Frohlich.


If you’ve had the feeling recently everything seems extra bad all at once, in a way that exceeds even your worst and darkest thoughts, well here’s a theory: maybe it’s because everything is related. It’s all one sweater, and this global tug on a single thread just unwound the whole damn thing from. So the big issues—from climate change to corruption to racist bullshit—have just been laid naked by this pandemic, and they there flashing us right outside the window, all at the same time.


But if we know now that it’s all related, we can perhaps contemplate how to win these longstanding battles in the years to come. And one of those battles will be over markets, the subject of this week’s episode. Traditional markets like the wet markets of Asia are being labeled as the enemy, when in fact, they are our once and future salvation. This episode opens with the sound of the quotidian pre-quarantine bustle of the Deserter’s Bazaar in central Tbilisi, Georgia. It’s the sound you get when a butcher named Jumber with forearms like fire hydrants makes short and joyful work of a side of mutton inches away from the person who is going to take that meat home to cook for their family. That sound is precious, that sound is endangered, that sound needs your attention and protection, in the Republic of Georgia or wherever you are. 


From Roads & Kingdoms, this is The Trip: The World on Lockdown. 


Show notes:

Breathless Australian 60 Minutes Wet Markets in Bangkok investigation

Culinary Backstreets Tbilisi tour

How to butcher a side of lamb at Tbilisi’s Deserter Bazaar (video)

Eat Like a Local CMDMX

Austin Bush website

The Food of Northern Thailand by Austin Bush

Xaq Frohlich’s writings on Roads & Kingdoms

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