Find out Information about the Spanish food markets such as La boqueria in Barcelona and discover its important role in the Spanish culture.
Figures from the European Union show that people living in Mediterranean countries like Spain can expect to live longer on average than people in other countries. The Mediterranean, particularly the Spanish, diet consists of lots of oil, salt and fat, so how can this possibly be more healthy? According to some experts it is not the type, but the quality of the ingredients Spaniards use that makes the difference. Almost everything in Spain is organic and fresh, and products such as meat and vegetables are almost always bought from a local market which for most Spaniards, is simply a way of life.
Why and when to visit
The health advantages of organic foods are not the only advantage to shopping at local markets. Spain's geography and climate mean that different regions (dry, mountainous, coastal etc.) grow different types of crops, fish different types of seafood and farm different types of livestock. This means that Spain has one of the world's most diverse menus, from full-bodied stews in the north to marinated pigs snout in the centre and fresh prawn salads in the south. Restaurants stock up daily on produce from the markets to bring us the freshest, healthiest dishes on the continent.
Spanish food markets are found in almost every town or village, some are daily and some are weekly, in larger towns and cities markets are generally open from 8am until 2pm, Monday to Saturday, every week. By far one of the most impressive markets in Spain is La Boquería in Barcelona which, if you visit the city, is a must. Whether you're searching for ingredients for a fine meal or just wandering through it is an assault on the senses; sights and smells range from fish to fruit, and that is not to mention the colourful sweet counters bound to impress children and adults alike.
What to buy?
The Spanish climate means that most fruit and vegetables are home-grown. The perfectly rounded apples and smooth peppers we are used to in other European supermarkets are nowhere to be seen here. Fruit and vegetables in Spain are GM-free meaning that they may appear haggard or lumpy, this however simply equates to a stonger and more natural flavour and texture. Products that are generally quite small in the UK, such as garlic cloves and spring onions are considerably larger here too. Herbs and spices can be ordered in by the grocer if you ask, that is of course if it is not already sat in a pot plant behind the counter ready to be freshly snipped.
Bulls' testicles, pig snout, rabbit anyone? Thought not, but don't be too hasty to refuse a taste. Much of the meat in Spain may not be, let's say, conventional but its popularilty must mean something. The meat counters in Spanish food markets are not for the light-hearted, fillets and organs are cut out of the carcass for you while you wait and no part of the animal is wasted. Brain, trotters and snout are all laid out on trays waiting to be bought! Why not be adventurous and choose something you wouldn't normally go for, ask the vendor for a recipe (if you speak Spanish) who will be only too willing to introduce you to Spanish cuisine.
The freshest food of all in Spain is the seafood! As the woman in wellingtons and an overcoat behind the counter asks you want you want she is probably being sprayed with squid juice by the fish-monger next to her, who is neatly chopping up squid tenticles. Meanwhile the baby lobsters are scurrying over the cod fillets and the crabs have settled in a bed of boiled prawns. Seafood is one of the country's most famous specialities, you can be fairly sure that whatever you order from the menu in a restaurant has been bought that day and probably caught the day before that!
Visiting markets is an excellent way of getting to know a new place, seeing what the locals eat, and how they eat it, working out how much things cost and also discovering how people deal with eachother. The added bonus of Spanish markets is that the food is second to none, it is tasty, fresh, organic, and healthy!