After allowing our creative sides to feast on the work of Picasso our group went to La Mercat Boqueria for some bodily sustenance. The market´s website (www.bloqueria.info) says that La Mercat Boqueria originated as a traveling market around the walls of the old Barcelona. It was given a fixed location as an open-air market in 1827 and then in 1914 the vast metal roof was built and the Mercat became a permanent part of La Rambla and Barcelona. Sandwiched between two of those lovely Spanish apartment buildings with tiendas on the first floor is
an enormous wrought-iron gate proclaiming the presence of the market to passers-by. The entrance (as everywhere in La Rambla) is choked with people speaking a cornucopia of languages. Just inside a man was selling brightly colored strands of beads draped along his entire arm — one euro each. Moving past him, we could quickly tell the market was vast and intricate. Booths are organized similar to city blocks; the first I investigated was one dedicated to everything sweet. There was chocolate, any kind of bon-bon you could think of, hard candies, truffles and more.
The marzipan was amazing. Some had individual faces on them, some were incredibly realistic — the bananas bunches had brown spotting on them. One wall was filled with every kind of gummy candy imaginable, from licorice pinwheels to sugared gummy wedges in all flavors. Around the corner was a large gallon-sized jar, filled with maraschino cherries. Across from this was a lollipop garden. The Willy Wonka factory came to mind.
The next section of booths featured fruits and vegetables. What struck me about them was not only the extensive variety — table
grapes to lychee fruit to things I had never seen before — but also the artistic manner in which the food was arranged. Green peppers, red tomatoes, black avocados, blonde nectarines, orange kumquats and many others formed striking blocks of color in such perfect patterns. Here they also sold smoothies, most of which were two kinds of fruit blended together, in every combination possible. Most of us purchased either one of these or a pre-made fruit salad packed full with apple and banana slices and other interesting things like coconut chunks or a slice of the seedy, pink-rinded cactus fruit.
Venturing further into the depths of the market my nose signaled to me that I had reached the fish section. A bed of white ice held a multitude of frozen fish. Still life salmon, squid
and sardines glared at me as I jumped at the hard chop of a cleaver through a chunk of red tuna. Laura E. called them ¨staring eyes¨ and said she took lots of haunting pictures. The lobsters were the only ones stretching their limbs and looking at me as I left for the next section of La Mercat Boqueria.
I walked through a passage towards vendors selling meats and cheeses. These meat stands are butcher shops where a Spaniard can get any kind of meat. Various sausage loops fringed the space above the counter. One that is common is chorizo, a bright red sausage with a distinctive flavor, usually slightly spicy. One could purchase whole chickens, tiny lamb chops, giant slabs of bacon, the entire hind leg of a hog or a whole skinned rabbit. Some items were very traditional and probably the most foreign for an American student, such as tripe and goat heads. None of this was procured today as none of us is Andrew Zimmern. One booth sold only pate, but at least twenty kinds. Nearing the end of the market, I passed by lunch counters crowded with tired shoppers regaining their energy with a bite to eat. Around the end of one row bags of snails were being sold. Laura F. pointed out that they must be used to make escargo, a favorite dish of hers.
Wandering back to the front of the market I revisited some of the booths I had seen on the way in and even saw some new ones. As I searched through the new places, I knew there was much, much more to take in. I look forward to seeing as much as I can in the next two weeks, but something tells me it won´t be enough time to see it all.