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.