Barcelona’s Boqueria

Yesterday morning, I was on a beach in Barcelona, where the sun was shining and clothing was mostly optional in that European way. Yesterday evening, I was riding my bike to the grocery store in Delft in light rain, jeans, and a jacket. (When we landed in Amsterdam, the flight attendant said, “The weather in your destination is not very nice.”)

Alas.

The reason for the blog silence of late is that I was in Barcelona. More specifically, I was eating.

The first thing I ate in Barcelona was bacalao (salt cod) fried on a stick. Arriving on Friday afternoon, I began with a walk up la Rambla from the sea end in the direction of Plaça de Catalunya. My objective was la Boquería: the vast market at #91. I seek out the markets wherever we travel, using them as a way to gauge the local culture and cuisine (and also as a source of inexpensive meals and snacks).

The first point about la Boquería is that it is a covered market, as opposed to the open-air markets I’m used to in the Netherlands and enjoyed in France and Austria. I wandered through the gates and into a maze; stalls branched out and paths turned in every direction. It struck me as funny that the market has an address on la Rambla and then just explodes behind the street. In medieval days, la Rambla marked the boundary of the city walls, and the market was held just outside.

Barcelona is a grazing city: you eat small plates; you drink little coffees throughout the day; you take a bite here and a sip there. The market was packed with portioned items ready-to-eat: dishes of fruit, juice smoothies, and the aforementioned cod on a stick. I also bought a little plate of strawberries for €1. In all honesty they weren’t that fresh, but the convenience and charm helped.

Several spontaneous turns later, I found myself in the seafood realm. The fresh fish looked amazing. I wandered toward a spot where many cameras were flashing, and saw an annoyed-looking vendor standing behind a fish head (shark?) the size of the man’s entire upper body. One whole section was clams galore, an item I haven’t had much luck with (buying/freshness/cost) here in Delft.

Other regions of the market featured spices (particularly saffron), olives, and legs of ham (delicious, expensive). There were even little restaurants tucked inside, set up like diner counters: you could pull up a high stool and have a coffee and whatever was being cooked up behind.

Many of the people wandering around were tourists, and it was hard to tell how much grocery shopping was going on amidst all the cameras and sampling and buying of items shrink-wrapped for the airplane. A woman pointed to my bacalao and said to her husband (in very American English), “What does she have? I want something like that.” And I said, “It’s cod.” And she looked at me rather indignantly and said: “Oh, so you’re American?”

I guess my non-foreignness diminished her Boquería experience. Maybe I should have told her I was from Holland to cheer her up.

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