Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ibiza Covered

My first experience of Spanish covered markets was when I was drinking in Barcelona in the 80’s. I lived just across the Ramblas from the incomparably wicked La Boqueria. Very few markets in the world can compare. The covered markets here aint chic Ibiza but they are excellent nonetheless. I think there are only three – Ibiza Town, San An and Sta. Eulalia. Sadly, none of these markets are surviving at full potential. All the markets on the island have empty stalls. Visible reminders that the times they are a changing.

The fish stalls are my favourites. This seems to be the best time of year for fish. There is a wider variety, the fish seem fresher and the price is better. For example John Dory is down from €28 per kilo to twenty. I have no idea where the name John Dory comes from but I do know it is also known as St Peter’s fish, Gallo San Pedro in Spanish, cos when Jesus told Saint Peter he would be a fisher of men they were out boating on the sea of Galilee. On a Sunseeker no doubt, He told Peter to put his hand in the water. Peter did so and pulled out a John Dory leaving his thumbprint on its back which we can still see today. Another really cool thing about this fish’s name is that it is Zeus Faber in Latin. How cool is that? If I ever write me a book, my pen name will be Zeus Faber

I have hardly anything to do with the market in San An. Only been there once in fact. Buying shellfish with a conspiracy theorising tattoo artist who showed me how to cook paella for 120.

Santa Eulalia is the easiest to use and has the best vegetable stand on the island to my mind. Maria she is called and she feels each piece of fruit before selling it. Her husband grows most of the stuff that they sell. Not unusual here. Just up the hall is (another) Maria. I used to buy stuff from her farm directly where a box of peppers would cost what 2 peppers would cost on her stall in the market. She sold everything to me from under what she claims to be the oldest Carob tree on the island. It wouldn’t surprise me. It is enormous and ancient. Many of its branches are held up by makeshift crutches. I am certain that this is where Dali got his idea for all those crutches in his paintings.

These markets are well worth a visit. The best one for the ‘experience’ is Saturday morning in Ibiza New market in town. The place is buzzing with señoras buying stuff for the weekend, the younger marketeers nursing hangovers, the cafes alive with punters ordering beer, wine and cognac for breakfast accompanying them with tapas of tripe, kidneys and tongue. Best of all are the gypsies (not pikeys, gypsies). There is a constant coming and going as they sit at the terrace bars, their gold jewellery bright against their dark skin. Once in a while you see one with blue eyes and you just know that that boy is trouble. You will see the fantastically dapper Juan in his waistcoat, Stetson and cane. He has a moustache that Zapata would have been jealous of. And I definitely am jealous of.

There used to be a covered market in the old town but that, whilst undeniably the nicest architecturally, is now derelict and used only as a lock up for a few stalls selling vegetables opposite the Croissant Show (show what? I ask myself). Incidentally one of these stalls this is where the wonderful organic Sa Fruteria (699348590 they deliver) is located. There is not a single one in the main market and I have a feeling the one in Santa Doolalia has gone out of business. Organic is here but it is struggling. Perhaps when and if it does take hold it will mark a strengthening in the covered markets. I hope so.

All this talk of markets has got me thinking. About supermarkets………

Supermarkets here are SO different than those in uk. There seem to be two sorts – the small family run ones that are just some sort of flexible franchise and the ever appalling SYP (Eroski) style ones.

Most the small ones are fairly regular but the good ones are really good, stocking high quality products alongside unusual products (for example see http://lagrandebouffecatering.blogspot.com/2008/03/have-you-seen-this-can.html

The larger ones on the other hand are something else. These are the pits. The few things they do stock are impossible to find cos they change the layout weekly. When you do find what you are looking for you cant get it cos they are restocking shelves and blocking the ailes. If you finally manage to get the thing you need it takes forever to pay for it cos all the staff are restocking the shelves and blocking the aisles. Try asking them if they wouldn’t mind opening another checkout cos theres a queue of 50 people for the only one open. All of a sudden the shelf stacker turns into sulky teenager, rolls their eyes and slouches of in a huff as if they have been sent to their room. Its hilarious. They really take offense at being asked anything by a customer.

All this said, I love it that supermakets don’t really work here. However infuriating it may be.The autonomon feel of the uk supers is a scary reminder of just how much we are Valued Customers instead of people doing their shopping. Sandwich and supermarket culture in the uk is not to be emulated however convenient and well priced it may be.


El Ste said...

Ibiza's covered markets are just fine for the 80% of islanders that live within 50 metres (horizontally or vertically) from them. for those of us who have to resort to the car, ie living more than 50 metres away, the country market in san antonio 200 metres behind mambo) is a good option with acres of parking.

btw - i've never heard anyone criticise SYP before