Public Market, Vilanova i la Geltrú

Mercat Public, VilanovaRight now, the proverbial deer and I have a lot more in common besides our big brown eyes.  After spending three years complaining that there is nothing to eat but chicken and mince I am now at a loss for words (and recipes).  Catalunya is rich beyond anything I’ve ever seen.  The variety of food, be it from land or sea, is astonishing and bewildering.

Tomatoes and beansEveryone knows about the Boqueira Market in Barcelona but I find that easing myself gently into, say, the Public Market of Vilanova is a good start.  To begin with, it is entirely made up of the local population, most of whom will only converse in Catalan.  There is an elderly woman with long white hair pinned up in a loose chignon selling Cava, tomatoes and green beans.   I buy 5 of her bruised ugly tomatoes, confident that they will prove to be the best I’ve had all summer (they are) and all the while she rattles on in Catalan and calls me ‘nena‘ (girl child).  The effect of which is momentarily transformative.  For almost five years now, I’ve been a mother.  My mind is resolutely practical, entirely unflappable, with an astounding amount of ‘fear not little one for here is an adult with a plan’ stowed away to be doled out with great generosity as my girls peel at that many layers of life.  When this lovely Cava seller calls me child, I have a glimpse of my mind, uncluttered and wide open as it had been once upon a time when I was the little girl.

mackerelThere are a lot of older people in these parts, outnumbering the younger ones I would say.  They clog the bifurcations of the city as they go about their business (and they always have business) while truant teenagers skulk in alleys, smoking and making eyes at one another.  And they all know one another, I notice, as a juggling street clown with a red foam nose doesn’t get much juggling done as he politely acknowledges each lady.

Fish at the marketIt’s easy to spot the most popular fish stand, it’s swamped with people waving crisp bills in the air. To me, all the fish look incredible so I wonder what this stall has that the others don’t? As I hang back trying to understand what it is, I am immediately asked (this time in Spanish) if I can be helped? I shoot a panicked glance at the mountains of fish, many glassy eyes stare back. I falter. My fish cooking in London went something like this; remove cleaned (cod, pollock, salmon – you get the picture) fillets from plastic boxes, rub in some oil, scatter some Maldon salt on, bake until just done – dinner! My fish cooking in Berlin…Ha! There was no fish cooking in Berlin, just chicken and mince.

Dried fish, chiles and something else I can't identify

I spot 1/2 a kilo of sardines (€3.25), cleaned and butterflied lined up on an A4 piece of acetate.  I remember Elisabeth Luard‘s words, that she would just ask the stall holders how to best prepare the ingredients she was buying and ask what I should do with them.  So I follow suit and am told the following: “Get a frying pan really hot, in with your olive oil, dip the fish in flour – no egg and into the hot oil. ”

Fried sardinesThat’s what I do.  I serve them with a tomato salad paired with a scattering of sweet local white onion, lots of salt and generous glugs of grassy olive oil.  I leave 4 fillets for the twins and they gobble them up, tails and all.

Public Market
Pl. de Soler i Carbonell,
s/n, 08800 Vilanova i la Geltrú


  1. says

    So glad to be reading about your life in Barcelona. I am embarassed that I never thanked you for your contribution to our two wonderful months in Berlin in 2011. We swapped our apartment in Melbourne with two lovely men from Schöneberg. We loved reading your posts and had some great meals following your tips. Now we have an extra pull factor to come visit Barcelona…

    • says

      Hi Helen, I really enjoyed writing my Berlin food blog. I find food is a great way to find out about a city.
      Yes, putting my Barcelona food writing cap on and getting out there to try as much as possible.

    • says

      Well with the twins, I really am on a mission. I missed that bus with the older one and it is so disheartening to watch her turn her nose up at everything in favour of the worst kind of processed garbage.

    • says

      Tuna intestines – I mean? Crazy, I am positively excited about the large amount I don’t know and will have to (because I want to) learn! And yes! Let’s try it one weekend when we’ve moved into the new house!

    • says

      Well Berlin is landlocked so (salt water) fish not readily available. You don’t even really find fish in the big supermarkets (there are exceptions of course). It certainly wouldn’t compare to a costal city like Barcelona which relies heavily on fish and other seafood.

      • Tulio says

        Absolutely. I completely understand your excitement about the public market in Barcelona and coastal cities in general that do offer an amazing selection of fresh fish. In no way was I trying to imply Berlin might have the same availability. With that said, I have been able to find decent fresh fish in quite a few mid-size supermarkets. As a reader of your posts (and often enjoy them) I felt a little sad that your post sounded a little toxic towards fish availability in Berlin. I hope I was the only one that felt that way and that your Berlin trusting followers will continue to find your posts interesting, informative and fun. Cheerios!

        • says

          Hi Tulio-
          Thank you for taking the time to comment twice.
          You are not the first reader to comment that I am being somehow mean or negative about Berlin.
          But here’s the thing. My main motivation for starting the Foodie in Berlin blog way back when was because I could not find any opinionated reviews out there. It was all this is nice, that’s nice, this is nice with purple chairs. I felt there was a need for someone to actually stick their neck out and say what they think. So I did it. Sometimes it annoys my readers. But as I say on my “about” page this is about my likes and dislikes. It’s a one woman show and very personal.
          I think the protein scene in Berlin is not great but fast improving. I think the fish sold in places like Galeria or Rewe was often past (way past it’s best). So I would go to KaDeWe or Frisches Paradis where it would cost a lot but certainly be in better condition!
          I think it’s even hard to get good chicken, pork or beef. I used to buy my chicken from BioCompany or Galeries Lafayette.
          Having said that. Dairy in Berlin is nothing short of amazing. Non-homogenized milk for 1 euro? My kingdom for a carton of that. All the great coffee available in Berlin! The wonderful concepts that are being launched continuously (Muse, Bite Club, Markthalleneun) I don’t think there is a more exciting place for possibilities right now.
          So yes- I think the fish availability is not great.
          But I also think my husband is useless when it comes to clearing up the dishes but that’s hardly grounds for divorce.
          Do you see what I mean? Nowhere and no one can be 100% there are always good things and bad. I think that Berlin has a lot of good ones and getting better all the time!
          Thanks again for your comment.

  2. Tulio says

    Suzy, I hear you and I completely understand and agree with you. I was referring more so to the “tone” of the post than the actual fact. “My fish cooking in Berlin…Ha! There was no fish cooking in Berlin, just chicken and mince”. But then again, I guess we are all entitled to some sarcasm one in a while. : ) And Thank you for taking the time to address my comments.

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