Through her Bollywood film, Zindagi na milegi dobara, Zoya Akhtar indeed promoted Spain to be one destination in every Indian’s bucket list…including mine. When I got a chance to visit Madrid – the capital city of Spain over a business trip, the excitement was multitude.
Madrid is like any other European city – art deco architecture, historic monuments, museums, buzzing squares, lush green gardens with landscapes and so on. One feature that caught my eye was the rich culture of Spain. Indians can relate to it immediately – people are loud, they love music and dance (salsa…bang on!), delicious food and they love their families…
While in Madrid, you would do the obvious tourist sites, but I would highly recommend one to visit the St. Miguel’s market. Now you may wonder why a market? That’s the divulging point.
St. Miguel’s market
Once you cross the famous Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Mayor) in the city center of Madrid, you will notice a glass and iron enclosed monument, which is St. Miguel’s market. In Spanish, it is called ‘Mercado de San Miguel‘. It looks beautiful in the evening and there is this magnetism that just pulls you towards the market. When we stepped inside, there was this amazing liveliness, as if we gate crashed someone’s house party.
Foods of Spain
The San Miguel market has a stylish interior decoration and contains 33 stalls featuring a whole host of Spanish delicacies We started going around the market and noticed that there are a variety of stalls selling tapas and local Spanish cuisine. Tapas basically mean an appetizer or a snack and you can buy one for as cheap as 1 Euro!
So how do you choose what your preferred snack should be, when the market is so noisy and crowded? The stall displays come to your rescue – so you may choose an octopus, tuna, cheese, fruits, tomatoes, sea urchins, squids… as the base ingredient and all displayed as fresh catch in the stalls. Honestly, I was not aware that sea urchins are edible! If you are squid lover, then do not miss to eat butter fried squids that are served in newspaper cones – similar to the way Indian bhel is served.
It’s a skill to attend to so many customers with their customization. The stall vendors work like an octopus with their pair of hands doing multiple things at the same time. It’s a sight to see these vendors taking orders, preparing the snack, plating and delivering it, while managing the finances and inventory.
Well, food cannot be served without drinks, so stalls selling Beer and Wine are equally populated. Here’s the best part of the market – right in the center you will see tables and high stools lined up, so that one can sit and enjoy the food. However, it’s not easy to find an empty seat. One needs to be very attentive and also smart enough to convert a tiny space into his own eating area and that’s a different excitement altogether.
Built in 1916, St. Miguel’s Market (Plaza de San Miguel) is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. During my short visit, the market in every way gave me a flavor of rich Spanish culture.