Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mercat St. Josep (La Boqueria)

I think that pretty much every city that I've lived in or visited has a central market and/or system of farmers markets where you can get fresh veggies, fruit, meat, and fish. I've been to these types of places all over Mexico, in Guatemala, and in the US (including one of the best in my opinion, the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia). Spain, and Barcelona in particular, is no exception in this area. The most famous fresh-food market in the city is called the Mercat St. Josep but is better known as La Boqueria (bo-kerr-ri-ya). It's located just off La Rambla near the Cafe de L'Opera, and is in a cool steel building:

One of the things I like most about visiting these markets is seeing all the great colors and variety of stuff for sale. I think it's a great opportunity to "get to know" an area and its residents because it gives you the opportunity to see what people are eating and buying. For me, "getting" the food is up there with knowing the language when it comes to really beginning to understand a culture. Imagine Italy without the food. Well, at least it's a start... This is a shot of one of the main aisles where you can see some of the colors:

Mixed in with the fresh food, there are a few stands that serve prepared and made-to-order food. The quality seems to be fairly high but I'd imagine the prices are too (I didn't check though). Towards the back of the market, you can find more stands selling fresh meats and fish. I love coming across a complete pig or giant cow's head when you're checking out these types of stands:

One of the funny things about a place like La Boqueria is when you see what I call, for lack of a better name, clustering. It's when one business is moderately successful selling some particular item and every other business around it copies it regardless of whether it really fits into their business model. I saw it in Mexico a lot. You'd have one taco stand that would have something that sold fairly well and within a couple of months there would be two or three other taco stands right next to it doing the same thing. At La Boqueria, it's fresh fruit and/or vegetable juice. Every stand up towards the front of the market is selling juices. They're all displayed the same; juice in a clear plastic cup with a lid and a straw in a tray full of ice.

I do have to admit that I did have a juice from one of the stands and it was good. If you're walking down La Rambla one day and you're approaching the Liceau, look to your right and you'll see the market. Take ten or 15 minutes to walk through and check out the sights. Oh yeah, it's okay to have a juice. The locals do it too.

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