A Market Visit


I think we’ve hit the jackpot. Our corner grocery store in Peniscola is reminiscent of the specialty market in Portland that we used to treat ourselves to. Only here everything is a quarter of the price and appears in mass quantity in ways I have only seen in dreams. I have no complaints about the marketplace here- I am hopelessly devoted to it and can’t seem to go a day without wishing to wander the aisles once again.

There are familiar things reminiscent of Brazil, such as arrangements of salt cod sitting unobstructed by coverings or packaging. Then there is the presentation of cheese and fresh baked goods that remind us of visiting Paris. There are also jars of beans ready for nothing more than a dousing of olive oil and a few fresh herbs. But what sets the Spanish table apart is the emphasis on cured fish, cured meats and the importance of something as simple as the vegetable. These features are a melody that contrasts rather bluntly in other countries, yet are absolute necessity for the well centered Spanish table. Fresh bread with tomato, beans with oil, cauliflower baked in spices, anchovies cured in vinegar, and plates of thin sliced prosciutto color our dinner table with dramatic effects. Meals feel like artistry here, and I find myself looking forward to each plate in an almost addictive way.

We’ve been awestruck by the grocery store devotion to legs of prosciutto and Serrano ham. They hang in the aisles and behind the deli section like pieces of art- salt cured and perfectly dried. People purchase in whole limbs or in sliced pieces wrapped tightly in butcher paper. For pairings the cured vegetable section offers olives, red peppers, spinach, carrots, and cauliflower steeped in various vinaigrettes. With cheese and bread a meal is complete, and more satisfying than a hot plate of cooked food in the mild Mediterranean weather.

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