By far the best bit about where I lived when I was in Valencia was being quite so close to the Mercado Central. I probably paid a visit, on average, once a day, maybe more. The funniest thing was that the people I generally had for company were either snappy happy tourists who maybe picked up some fresh juice at most or the die-hard, elderly, Valencian locals.
Anyone Spanish and under the age of about 50 is thin on the ground. They just don’t come here. You might glimpse a few perched on bar stools for lunch at Central bar (http://www.centralbar.es/) but other than that I think the vendors were quite amused that I made my pilgrimage daily to pick up some fresh strawberries and other bits and bobs. I was something of a novelty.
Ask any Valencian and they will lord the ‘superiority’ of their home cooking over you but the reality is there’s a generation gap between the wise old abuelas, masters in these delicacies, and my generation who, not to generalise, from my experience really struggled in the kitchen.
Anyway, I’ve waffled a little and lost focus of the key message. Valencia food market is magnificent; a dreamy destination for anyone with half an interest in fresh produce and people with a passion for what they do.
There are over 1,000 stalls so you wont get bored even if you do go back time and time again like I did, although, guaranteed you’d find your favourite vendors. The lovely lady who sells nothing but garlic and can tell you everything under the sun about what you had previously assumed was simply a smelly but essential staple or the cheeky chappy pictured below who sold a glorious array of dried fruit and nuts and, without fail, would try to trip me up and convince me I’d asked for 5 kilos rather than 500g. The point is, product knowledge, emphasis on seasonality and enthusiasm for the products, which constitute, for most, their entire livelihood, is palpable. For a keen home cook, it was heaven.
Go if nothing else to soak up the atmosphere, the buzz and to marvel at the colours. A little heads up for those with sensitive constitutions though, what makes the market outstanding is variety and freshness, so don’t be surprised to come across all sorts of cuts of meat in the butchers and to witness live some pretty snazzy knife skills on behalf of the fishmongers.
Not bothered about cooking, still pop along to see the building which is remarkable in it’s own right and, like anything in Valencia, it’s surrounded by cafés. So, if the prospect of cooking is too much, plonk yourself in the sunshine and let someone else do the hard work for you.