On Saturday, we got to take a really fun trip to the Cadiz Central Market– something I’d been dreaming of for a while! Usually when we head to Cadiz, it is in the late afternoon, after the Mercado Central has closed at four. You probably already know that I have a real soft spot for food markets, and it had been a while since I had gotten the chance to shop at one– I have visited the market in our town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, and it is quite small, quite crowded, and is mostly meat and fish. I will surely go back and get used to buying some things there, but it’s not very user-friendly for me at this point.
The market in Cadiz is much larger, and is laid out in such a way that you can go and enjoy it for a long time, even getting a meal there– so it’s the perfect excursion on a Saturday morning. The Cadiz Central Market is a historical landmark that has not lost its relevance over the years. Built in 1838, it has been remodeled over and over again and now looks both ancient and modern, and beautifully functional. It is surrounded by an old stone wall and has several arched entrances just like this one. At most of the gates, there are vendors set up selling fried, baby shrimps in paper cones (you eat them whole,) fresh oysters with lemon squeezed over them, cactus fruit, herbs, and other very local items. I was so tempted to enjoy some raw oysters, but coming from the warm waters at this time of year, it’s risky.Once you enter, the outer ring of the market has both little eateries and stalls selling meats, charcuterie, cheeses, cured and dried seafood products, and other specialty items. Let’s look at the little shops first.I have never seen so much sausage in a market before– and I’ve been to lots of European markets! I especially loved this longaniza curtain. Of course, there was also a lot of jamón!We enjoyed sampling olives, cornichons (called pepinillos here) and other pickled veggies. The stall was really popular, and the guy working there had a very artful way of dipping into the vats of olives, ladling them in to bags, and tossing them onto the scale. I love to see dance worked into daily life. Cadiz has a tradition dating from the Phoenician times over 3,000 years ago of catching and eating tuna. Definitely read up on the tradition of the Almadraba and the effort to balance it with conservation efforts of bluefin tuna– it’s really fascinating! I learned a lot about it reading this incredibly engaging book, and I can heartily recommend that you pick it up! Almadraba tuna is considered the best in the world, so a lot of it is cured and preserved– and you will see plenty of it for sale at the Cadiz Central Market.Something I always love about visiting markets is watching the locals interact. It’s such an old tradition to shop in this way, and these markets always feel to me like the heartbeat of it’s community. It’s something I miss about living in Germany and England– visiting certain favorite stalls weekly (or more) and chatting a bit, feeling that I am part of the town’s weekly rhythm. I loved seeing these tween girls in the photo below– one leaning on the counter talking to the man working the shop, and the other ordering some sausages.And I was very glad to visit this spice stall and stock up on the spices I’m running out of! I haven’t seen any place with a more complete selection that is easy to find. There was one organic stall selling all sorts of “ecological” products. We picked up some cheese there, more out of a desire to support organics than anything else. Once you’ve picked up all of your dry goods, it’s time to shop for fruits and veggies. These are sold both on the inside and outside of the inner ring. I love that the names on these stalls are most likely the names of the owner, most likely the person working there. This lady is probably named Mari, and I love the thought of going and buying my produce from Mari every week. (We did get some from her, and she was a total sweetheart.) The last part of our shopping was done inside, which has some produce stalls and meat, but it’s mainly a fish market.I really, truly love fresh fish markets. They smell like the sea, concentrated. I love seafood too, so it’s cool to just walk through the aisles full of beautiful fish and so many future delicious bites.Even toward the end of the day, when there were lots of empty spaces on the counters, it was pretty busy.
A couple of displays that made me smile… I love these tantalizing tentacles hanging over the counter. These calamari are such a mess– but don’t worry, the sign lets you know that they will clean them! The highlight for us was when one fishmonger was lopping the heads off of his hake (seriously, one of the scarier-looking fishes) and one of them rolled off the counter and landed, standing up, right at Amelia’s feet. We all started laughing hysterically, and when we came back around again, he kept teasing her with another fish head.And there was this hungry, hopeful little bird hanging around in the stalls that were getting cleaned up– I’ll bet he gets a nice meal when they’re done.As for us, we bought some of these fresh sardines for dinner that night! (Recipe coming soon!)Once our shopping was done, we had a little time to stop for a bite to eat. Most of the tables in the shade were (understandably) occupied. We did eventually find one, and then chose from a couple of popular restaurants to order dishes from.
We opted for some grilled pork from one place, pulpo a la gallega (octopus over boiled potato slices topped with pimentón) and fried peppers.Drink options were more limited and it was hot so local beers went down nicely.This was definitely a happy moment for me. Markets like this are totally my scene, and it’s even better when you get to really eat there!
Most people come for fried shrimp– some of the best in the world comes from this area. (Here’s a sad, sad story: I’m allergic to crustaceans. So I’ll just have to take everyone’s word for how fantastic it is.)This is what most tables looked like when people finished up:
As we left the market, we saw this sign right outside the gate– an invitation to bring your freshly-purchased seafood to their restaurant, where they would cook it up for you! How perfect! The Cadiz Central Market is just a couple of blocks from the sea! And can you believe this cool view? We can’t wait to go back again.Thanks for coming along with us! What would you have picked up there, if you were with us?