How to Fleece the Market

Take the snacks. You have no dinner to spoil.

People don't eat as much when it's hot out, since your body requires less energy to warm itself. Less energy = less food. That's the word on the street anyway, and since summertime already involves more activity, more outdoor travel, and, as such, more cash, you can skip on sustenance. All the better reason to try to feed yourself entirely on free tastes and supermarket samples, as I recently did. First stop is the Pike Place Market. Corner Produce is the bread-and-butter of the moocher's sampler platter. I've found the employees—one in particular—to be ever-ready with compliments and tidbits. A slice of a delectable red pear, an assurance that "they'll be sold out tomorrow," and a compliment almost convince me to bag the whole operation and load up on pears, produce, and whatever the girl tells me to. Instead, I eat my pear and look at the ground. "Thanks," I mutter, "I'll be back, uh, soon." "Have a nice day!" she says. The pear still sweet on my tongue, I hurry past the fish throwers, hang a left, and arrive at a small kiosk labeled Garlic Garden. I, unlike everyone else in the world, am not a huge fan of garlic. A hint can be OK, but personally, I think the stuff is overused more than the word "irony." There is, however, nothing ironic about Garlic Garden's name. The place serves garlic, only garlic. And as a freeloader, I can't be a chooser. At the small table in front, the woman at the counter has set up a small tray with a bit of garlic spread and a small bowl of pea-size bread pieces. Unfortunately for me, it looks like fellow moochers have already hit the place. A sign warns me to take just one sample. Sure enough, it tastes like garlic—strong garlic. "It's good, huh," the woman says. "Mmm," I say, and force a smile. Past the fish guys is another fruit stand, Sosio's Fruit Produce, and this lady's got peaches, which hands down is like my fifth favorite fruit. They too are tasty. I chow one down, avoid eye contact, and head north. At this point, with only fruit and garlic in my stomach, it's getting a little bit cranky. Across the aisle from Sosio's is Market Grill, which serves up the tastiest blackened cod sandwich I've ever had, but at 10 bucks it's off-limits today. I tear myself away and head for the jelly stand a bit farther down. Only problem is, this isn't any normal jelly stand, it's Mick's Peppouri, only I haven't noticed this yet. Mick's has bottles and bottles of jellies set up with bags of little mini-tongue-depressor things to scoop with. I try all of 'em: lime pepper jelly, garlic pepper jelly—"it's good on steaks," the lady says—and lastly, super-duper, burn-a-hole-in-your-esophagus jelly. One taste and I hightail it out of there, looking for something, anything, to douse the flames. But nobody else has any samples. The honey lady is closing up, so I walk by Sosio's again really slowly, once, twice, three times, but the lady's not having it. Back at the garlic place, the lady recognizes me and asks me if I want to buy anything. I ignore her. With nobody left to mooch off, I end up back at the Market Grill. At this moment, the place is packed and people are happily munching sandwiches and dripping cod juice down their shirts. It looks incredible. I dig out my wallet.

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