A Note from Spain
Nancy Norton, from Sonoma County, has kindly allowed me to share this wonderfully descriptive excerpt from a letter dated 1/15/01. She now lives and works in Madrid, Spain.
I went back to the local Mercado Hermosilla (traditional market on Calle Hermosilla which is about 8 blocks from mi apartimento) last Saturday. Shopping there is one of the sustaining weekly activities in Madrid that gives me a sense of home when I am out here on the road working. It is like our Healdsburg farmer's market times five or so and is held inside an old brick building with stone floors. They have not only produce, but also jamón & coldcuts, cheese, meats, poultry & eggs, dairy & dry goods, olives & pickles, bread & baked goods, frozen food and the most amazing fresh fish & seafood considering we are in the center of Spain.
Just like in the Burg, what makes shopping at the market such a communal activity is the people who sell there. The olive man is surely decended from a noble family; he passes the ladies a taste of Malagueña, Obregon and Campo Real olives from his ladle rather than kissing their hands, but the effect is the same. The pescadero at the largest fish stand has a wedge of a knife that must be 5 inches wide but he can filet a dover sole with two flicks of the wrist. My regular fruit and veg folks are two brothers and their kids with stands across the aisle from each other; the two teenage kids sell the vegetables and correct my "muy malo español" as they gift me with a bunch of parsley, the unpronounceable parejil. A deluxe chicken and egg stand is right next door where Dad chops the chicken, son takes care of the egg and wrapping duties and Mom sells the home cooked food she makes right there with broiler and oven
whole roasted birds, tortilla español (Spanish egg, potatoe and onion omelet grilled on both sides), grilled red peppers, pisto (Spanish ratatouille), etc.
It is such a wonderfully personal way to get the week's supplies that I have to stop by even when I only need a fresh stock of olives.