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Because of my work with food it's important for me to get out and see what others are doing in the world of cooking. Given that Spain offers one of our best examples of Mediterranean cuisine, it seemed the perfect choice. While there I kept track of some of my observations about the cuisine here from the one end of the spectrum to the other. These comments were originally posted to my blog at LiveStrong.com.
One of the main things that is different about shopping for groceries here in Spain is that there are still central markets in many towns. There you will find butchers, seafood shops and produce markets. In San Sabastian, for instance, there's a wonderful market downtown that's very typical. We have these in a few cities in America like San Francisco and New York but even small towns here have such places.
The Mercado Tradicional (Traditional Market) in San Sebastian has 7 different stalls selling fish, 8 produce vendors and something you almost never see in America any more: butchers. It's really refreshing to see these folks interacting with their customers to get them just the right cut of meat instead of cuts that have been processed, pre-packaged, frozen, stamped with an expiration date and shipped halfway across the country to end up in a refrigerated meat case.
The vendors at these markets run the gamut from those who look like they've been doing it all their lives to young couples running a stall. In one produce stand I saw an older woman sitting stringing pole beans that looked so fresh I could hardly stand it. How's that for service? Fresh, fresh, fresh green beans hand stringed for you!
Mind you, this is not a place that only a few folks use and might be seen as something to help attract tourists. These markets are jammed with people and the vendors are doing a hopping business. You can get everything from apples to zucchini. There's dozens of varieties of fish and shellfish and beautiful cuts of meat. There's dried beans, baked goods, coffee, flowers and even a newsstand. Each stall sells their specialty and with so many stalls and so much variety this far outstrips what any grocery in America sells.
Once again, the focus is on the fresh food and not pre-prepared, packaged or frozen foods. Fresh and simple ingredients that you can put together for dinner all found under one roof.
Next Week: Fast Food vs. Taking Time to Eat