While visiting Madrid and Barcelona, I decided to spend some time in the public markets in these cities. I believe that visiting public markets is a good way to discover the local food culture of the city if not the country. When visiting local public markets sometimes merchants would offer samples to visitors. When they do, I strongly encourage you to accept so to have a taste of what they offer without having to purchase any. But, this should not stop you from purchasing any of their products if you like the sample.
For my visit to Spain, I went to Mercado se San Miguel in Madrid (which reminded me of Oxbow Market in Napa) and Mercat San Josep La Boqueria in Barcelona. I also decided to visit a couple of supermarkets mainly because there was a big crowd of locals purchasing food there as well. During my visit, I discovered the following foods for sale in both markets.
Jamon, Chorizo and Embotido – Sure, I admit you will find these cured, diced and smoked delicious meat products everywhere in Spain. The Spaniards have a variety of these meat products depending on which part of the country you go. Unfortunately, US customs does not allow you to bring some of these products home to the US. So I strongly encourage you to try these products when in Spain.
Paella – my favorite Spanish dish ever. Originally from Valencia, you can also find this all over Spain. They say they mainly make this for the tourists, but I don’t care. I love it. During my visit to Mercado de San Miguel. I found a vendor offering four different types of Paella – seafood paella, meat paella (with chorizo), a vegetarian paella and black paella made with squid ink. When in Madrid, feel free to try one or all.
Seafood – I found several vendors selling all types of seafood especially La Boqueria in Barcelona. After all, the city of Barcelona is located at the eastern sea coast of Spain. But I also found one or two seafood vendors at the Mercado de San Miguel with an incredible selection of seafood for Madrileños. I suppose you need seafood to make paella regardless of where you are.
Fruits and Nuts – On the ride to Sierra Francia by bus, I noticed we passed through several orchards of fruit trees and nut trees. Some of the people I met who lives in the south of Spain have fruit trees in their backyards. They are able to grow these trees because of the good weather in that part of the country. Have you heard of Seville or Valencia oranges? Where do you think they come from? Anyway, they are available everywhere in Spain and you can actually purchase freshly-squeezed orange juice in many cafes.
Empanada – Another favorite Spanish food of mine, I found some at a Carrefour branch close to my hotel in Barcelona. One night, I decided to have these for dinner – the bacon and cheese empanada and the chicken empanada. Both were really good. Other varieties were mushroom and onion and vegetarian, among them.
Vino and Cerveza – Of course, one of Spain’s best and most popular food export. How else are you going to wash down all the food you have tried from the market? Vineyards upon vineyards can be found all over the Spanish countryside and beer is produced specific to the region just like wine. Although some of the Spaniards told me they do not really drink wine and beer on a regular basis unless meeting friends for tapas. Both are available and quite inexpensive in Spain.
Chocolates – many people believed that the Spaniards were the people who bought chocolates from Latin America to Europe. I honestly do not know if that is true but it seems Spaniards has a great fondness of chocolate. I found several shops in both Madrid and Barcelona selling nothing but chocolate and chocolate products.
Filipinos – these are cookies I found at one of the supermarkets in Madrid. When I asked one of my new Spanish friends if they have a specific, name for these kind of cookies, he said “We don’t really have a name for this type of cookie. We just called them Filipinos.” I suppose it is the same way Americans just call the Oreo cookie, just “Oreos.”
It was once said that food is the greatest equalizer there is. I believe they meant, food brings people together one way or another in the cultural sense. Depending on our taste and palette we are all willing to try them for the first time to taste and to experience. What better place to try Spanish food than, where else? Spain.