food markets and siestas

June 5, 2011

Oh dear. It’s beginning. I thought it wouldn’t happen so early, but I was gravely mistaken. Headaches, heartaches, and anxiety can only mean one thing.

Kitchen withdrawal.

Okay, so admittedly, that was a bit overdramatic. But I’ve always had a propensity for literary melodrama.

Keeps life interesting, non?

Really, though, after finally stepping foot in el Mercado Central, Valencia’s largest public market and one of the oldest running markets in all of Europe, I was in a state of kitchen withdrawal. It’s a huge local and tourist attraction, and for good reason. The building is enormous, filled with nothing but rows upon rows of food vendors, and even a few gift shops and mini-restaurants. It was honestly one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen.

Oh, I was in heaven. I’m not sure you can imagine my elation. I easily could have spent the entire day just browsing between rows and vendors [and I’m positive I’d still be unable to see everything in that short of a timespan], but Liz was with me, so we kept our visit to about an hour or so.

At least I walked away with some strong, Spanish olive oil and paprika.

I still daydream about the sights and smells. I realize I just visited the place yesterday, but even still, I think the memories are here to stay for quite a while. Fresh fish, jamón ibérico [supposedly one of the best types of cured ham on the planet], rainbows of fruits and veggies, chicken and rabbit, spices, nuts, cheese, bread, eggs, milk; literally, everything.

I dare you to look at all of this and tell me that you don’t have an overwhelming urge to whip out a large pot to prepare some fish and mushroom chowder and peach cobbler for dessert. Not that I have this planned out or anything.

Nevertheless, today, we [Liz and I] got to enjoy some good old Valencian food first-hand, which was nice. After visiting the beach, we walked a bit into the city and went to lunch at a small little restaurant off of the main road.

[Please note how I cannot actually recall the names of any of these places, but the food was still delicious.]

We enjoyed a 5-course meal for about 15 euros each. Pretty good deal, I thought. And amazingly tasty.

  1. Mixed salad with the usual dressing of olive oil and salt.
  2. Stuffed red peppers in an incredible sauce.
  3. Probably the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten, due to the addition of raisins, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Gazpacho, of course.
  5. Arroz meloso: a type of rice stew with rabbit and snails, typical of Valencia.

Okay, no, I did not eat the snails. And not because I was afraid of them.

[Fine, maybe I was a little bit.]

But mainly, I just don’t like the texture of shellfish, and Liz told me that snails are similar in that department. So…I decided to ignore them, and ate around them. Snails aside, though, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while.

Followed by a long time spent at the Oceonográfico afterward was also icing on the cake.

And now, a short word about siestas. Oh, siesta, siesta, siesta.

…I seem to have developed a love-hate relationship with siestas.

I love them because I am the epitome of lazy, and having time during the day set aside for napping seems like the best idea anyone has ever had. I spend all morning in class daydreaming about siesta time, and then cursing my luck for having my second class right when I should be sleeping. And then usually end up taking one around 6pm when I get home, anyway, so it pans out quite well in the end.

But I hate them because in the off-chance that I’m not in the mood to nap, absolutely nothing is open. The streets are literally deserted. It’s unnervingly quiet. I realize that Spain is not the most populated of countries, but regardless: Valencia is a major city. It’s as if someone has hit the off-switch on every inhabitant here between the hours of 2pm and 5pm. I can’t imagine this sort of thing happening in the U.S.: I feel like even the consideration would cause widespread panic and chaos for a country that seems hell-bent on doing work 24/7.  And believe me, when I’m out and about and there is literally nothing to do, I get antsy.

…And then end up going home to take a siesta because it’s really the only option.

This is basically what all of Valencia is like during siesta time. Vast and void of life. Part of me revels in it. The other part of me wants to cannonball through the surface and break the silence.

On a somewhat related note…

Well. I guess I should preface this by saying that I don’t eat fast food. Normally, anyway. But, I like the option of being able to hop in my car at 3 in the morning and drive to a McDonalds and grab an order of large fries and a strawberry McFlurry.

Not that I ever do that, but, you know. The option is out there. In case I feel so inclined.

In Valencia, it is not.

Seriously, what is the point of McDonald’s going global and spreading worldwide obesity if they don’t have the decency to stay open 24 hours a day?!


…a portion of last night’s post-discotheque fun was wandering for [quite literally] miles in search of any sign of food-life.

After about an hour, we gave up.

I had never felt so disappointed in my life. Less really for Valencia’s lack of open cafes, and more for my overenthusiastic willingness to barge into a McDonald’s and order a strawberry McFlurry with large fries at 3:30am. So perhaps, all things considered, it was good news that they were all closed.

And I can go back to eating fresh cherries after dinner without knowing that I’ve swallowed my pride for American food whilst abroad.

…hope my willpower [and Valencia’s lack of options] keeps this up.


In other news, this week is midterm week. I definitely thought I was done with this nonsense in May. It’s times like these that I hate remembering that I’m here for college credit, and not to spend my days wandering around the city, ordering orxatas.

Looks like tomorrow evening’s going to be full of linguistics and stress-induced pastry eating.

[It could be worse.]

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