Eating Barcelona

Posted on March 17th, 2010 by Valerie

Whenever I’m asked what I most love about living here, the first answer that comes unbidden is usually: the food. It’s not just about the thousands of bars and cafes and restaurants, nor about eating out at all the ‘happening’ joints or fusion or Ferran Adrià. It’s the colourful cornucopia of the markets; the elaborate chocolate sculptures in the pastisseries at Easter, panellets around Tots Sants and coques de Sant Joan; men heading for the match and kids for school clutching their long, thin, foil-wrapped sandwiches.


I love the reverence with which food is treated here (and in Catalunya in general). I love how meals are an important family and social bond and are sacrosanct. One vivid memory from years ago sums it up. I dropped into my local car repair shop at around 10am. The place was strangely quiet. I tiptoed inside: Manolo and his three mechanics sat in their greasy overalls round a folding table, complete with red and white checked cloth, tucking into pa amb tomàquet, ham, cheese, red wine and steaming coffee in tall glasses. I felt as if I’d intruded on some intimate private ritual; I mumbled “Bon profit!” and sidled out.


In bakeries, I have seen Park Güell lizard loaves crouching amidst the croissants. Before the ’92 Games, five interlocking Olympic rings made of bread formed the centrepiece in the window of my local forn de pa. In a place where even making bread is a creative art, why on earth would anyone want to eat franchised fast food out of a box?

First published in the Barcelona Metropolitan March 2009 as part of a series looking back over  35 years in Barcelona.

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4 Responses to “Eating Barcelona”

  1. Theresa Says:

    Absolutely beats me too, Val. An uncle of mine (English) who has lived in the States for decades and has worked in the catering / hotel trade came to visit a couple of years ago – the first time he’d been to Spain since the 6os (!) – and he immeditaely picked up on this whole ritual thing, about how people really seem to care what they eat. What particularly impressed him was how the no-room-to-swing-even-a-small-rodent, cigarette-butt strewn bars will be packed with workers in overalls tucking into splendid tapas and media raciones of fresh tasty produce. A far cry, he said, from the food-as-fuel, quantity-over-quality ethos that seems to exist over there.

  2. TORIL Says:

    Mmm..the food.
    The first time my parents came to visit me, quedaron totalmente alucinados about food, I mean real food, not the kind of ‘tourist-meals’ served on charter-trips like wiener schnitzel, german kartoffelsalat and other continental stuff.
    In the early 90s, pre-olympic age, my parents didn’t know that el jamón – o sea, “el bueno, el de Jabugo
    even existed. The same way with all the different ways of preparing bacalao – we are from Norway, kind of cod homeland (Sorry Iceland) where cod is boiled with boring boiled potatoes and other vegs as garnish. In Spain things are boiled only if you feel sick, then you got yor traditional arroz hervido.
    Not forget about my mother-in-laws potajes, and my husbands caldos which certainly remebered my father of his mohers caldos during the 2nd World War – lots of bones and stuff in it, my husband never cared about mad cows.
    After la comida or cena, my father wanted una copa de coñá like the rest of males… in the beginnig (with his typical guiri mentality), he couldn’t get into his mind why they didn’t finish all the bottle…tried to explain that no need to, “They have lots of bottles on the shelves and backstage” Fortunately, in a couple of weeks, both of them seemed to be a little more In the Garlic.

  3. admin Says:

    Hi Toril
    Yes, indeed. Spanish food is wonderful and it seems quite tragic that fast food franchise places should be proliferating. Especially when there are so many delicious and nutritious dishes that one can make really quickly.

  4. TORIL Says:

    No need to go to Burger King, Ezhtarbu or similar, we should definitley boycott them. ¡ Viva la Paella !

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