The Mercat Sant Josep de La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain.
I am occasionally faced with a temptation that I, fortunately, have yet to act upon. My husband delicately describes it as “socially unfeasible.” I simply think it’s madness. Delicious, delicious madness.
The temptation is this: I want to eat food that doesn’t belong to me.
Now, before you start telling me that everyone feels this way, let me make myself clear. I don’t mean picking off the plate of some dear friend who is having lunch with me. Not at all. That’s completely fair game, and if we ever go out for a meal, you should expect that this will probably happen, and that your entree is mine for the taking (and vice versa … unless we’re talking about dessert, at which point you might lose a finger. Consider yourself warned).
No, I mean that every time I’m at a restaurant, and I pass a stranger’s table at which a plate of fresh, hot french fries has just been delivered, it requires all my willpower to not steal one. Or when someone I do not know is seated next to me at the movie theater, eating popcorn, I very much want to jam my hand into the tub and start shoveling the contents into my mouth. And when they stare at me, aghast, I will simply look at them, my mouth full, and mumble, “What?”
I’m not really sure what the penalty for this sort of behavior is. I don’t think I’d get arrested. I might be asked to chip in for the price of whatever I had stolen. But really, it’s only one fry. One handful of popcorn. One bite. What’s the worse that could happen? I haven’t tried. But it is so damn tempting, I suspect it’s only a matter of time.
If you are like me, and touched with a similar sort of gastronomical kleptomania, it might be best that you do not visit Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria – a large public market in Barcelona.
The market, known often as simply “La Boqueria”, is located along La Rambla – the large walking street that cuts through the heart of the city. It’s been in operation in some form or another for nearly eight hundred years.
Eight hundred years.
In that time, I can’t have been the only one who walked through its aisles, nearly overcome by the temptation to plunge my hands into the bins. I wonder what happened to the others. Were they flogged? Exorcised? Sent to Portugal? (Note: I know nothing about Spain’s penal system.)
Because, surely, there must have been others. This place is so damn tempting. I mean, look at the candy stands:
I mean, are you FLIPPING KIDDING ME? It’s an ENTIRE TABLE FULL OF CANDY AND IT’S NOT EVEN IN PACKAGES. How, exactly, am I suppose to resist that? I struggled to not fall face forward onto it.
Everything was meticulously organized. Chocolates. Truffles. Candied nuts.
We were sufficiently mesmerized.
We left the candy aisle, only to encounter an entire row of shops dedicated to jamon. I could totally go for one of these in my house. In the interest of authenticity, I am completely okay with it being staffed by a handsome Spaniard. Something along the lines of Javier Bardem or Miguel Angel Silvestre will suffice (I’m not picky).
There is a strict dress code in my home, by the way. If you look at all like Javier Bardem or Miguel Angel Silvestre, you have to go shirtless at all times.
I just completely lost my train of thought. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Temptation. Riiiight.
The rest of the food stands were, mercifully, less seductive. I felt no overwhelming impulse to start gnawing on whatever these fruits are.
I only kind of wanted to dig my hands into this pile of snails.
And desired to pet this ginormous dead fish only a little bit.
(WARNING: GRAPHIC, BLOODY PHOTOS OF DEAD MAMMALS COMING UP NEXT. Vegetarians, may I suggest that instead of finishing this post, you take some time to enjoy this picture of noted-Vegetarian Peter Dinklage, looking spiffy at the Golden Globes?
You’ve been warned.)
And to be absolutely honest, I didn’t really want to touch these sheep’s heads at all. Except maybe I wanted to poke one of them in the eye a little bit. I say this not to be disrespectful. I just kind of wanted to, in the name of science.
Maybe jiggle these brains around in their convenient plastic carrying cases (again, in the name of science).
I managed to resist the urge, though. I touched absolutely nothing. I think I deserve some kind of reward for this. Something along the lines of a serrano ham stand run by Javier Bardem. I’ve proven that I have willpower. I’m pretty sure I could handle it.
I can look, but not touch. Really.
The Essentials on La Boqueria Market, Barcelona:
- Recommended: Yes. The market has been in operation for centuries, and it gives you some great insight into Spanish culture. The foods, the haggling, the people talking animatedly with their hands … it’s a site to see.
- How to Get There: Take a walk on La Rambla, and make a visit to the market part of your day. If public transportation is your thing, the closest stops are La Rambla-Palau de la Virreina or La Rambla-Liceu.
- Ideal for: Browsers, foodies, and anyone who loves a good farmer’s market.
- Insider tips: This place can get crowded, so be wary of pickpockets. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00am to 8:30pm (closed Sundays). We went near closing time and found it wasn’t too crowded. And be sure to check the “What’s On” section of the market’s website for any upcoming events or festivals.
- Nearby food: there are plenty of places to eat in the market, but be prepared to stand at a counter while you enjoy your meal, as is traditional in many Spanish cafes.
- Good for Kids: The market is all on street level, so it’s pretty stroller-friendly. If your little one is prone to running off, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them. There’s a lot going on here (workers unloading crates of food, butchers chopping up meat, lots of noise and bright lights) that could startle sensitive kiddos. If they can handle a bit of chaos, they should be fine.