Spaniards are the most sleep deprived nation in Europe. On average they miss 1 hour of sleep every day, partly because they’ve been in the wrong time zone for 70 years after the dictator Franco aligned the country’s clock with Hitler’s. (Spain should have the same time as Britain, neighbouring Portugal and Morocco.) Then there is the two-hour lunch break, from 2pm to 4pm resulting in most people working until 8 pm.
It seems that they are still eating well. Each neighbourhood has a market (or maybe a few). There are many delicatessens selling prepared food; shops and stalls that sell cooked pulses; butchers selling prepared breaded meat and poultry or ballotines. A quick stroll through a supermarket will quickly reveal that this is not a city that eats industrially prepared microwave meals. With a handful of local shops, one can eat well. The caveat being that it will be a meal suited to local tastes: chicken, canelons, beans and sausage, salt cod and so on.
For times when you want something decidedly not Catalan, I have an address for you. La Chitarra Ecológica up in Gracia. I used a chitarra this summer during a pasta making class with Manuela in Florence. It’s a wooden structure with taught metal strings, you push a sheet of pasta through the strings resulting in square spaghetti. Lots of fun although harder than it sounds.
The shop La Chitarra has occupied its corner spot for 10 years. It sells high quality imported Italian food and drink and a bounty of pastas, sauces and meals that they make. The window facing the street houses a vitrine of stacks of ravioli and gnocchi. Inside there is more: more red sauces than you can count on one hand, lasagnas, cheeses, deli meats.
It’s the lasagna that has me driving out of my way to the top of Gracia, scrambling for parking (never any parking around these parts) not finding any, leaving the hazard lights on and then hopping anxiously from one foot to the other as I wait for them to pack my (always large) order.
I love the age of the shop. Often, there is a proclivity (especially among bloggers like myself) to seek out the new but there are times when the places worth seeking out are older and stand resolutely outside the ebbs of trend or fads. La Chitarra Ecológica is exactly that. A place whose patrons are made up mostly of the neighbourhood.
La Chitarra Ecológica
Joan Blanques, 56