Zizinia de les Flores
I can’t travel. Neither can you. I miss travelling. I recently went through my Royal Academy of Arts calendar for 2021 and could enter nothing but birthdays. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s not to bother making plans so I haven’t. The music stopped and we are to stand on the spot until it starts again. No indication of when that might be.
On the other hand, Barcelona is changing fast. El Born, once the most bustling barrio in the city is becoming dangerous, daylight dangerous. My butcher’s at Santa Caterina Market have been robbed of cash and Jamon, while serving customers, thieves just making a go of it.
The lived-in Barrios have fared better. Gracia for example, an area that’s managed to retain a bit of village life about it. Favoured by families with young children with a definitive leaning towards wellness. This is where Zizina de les Flores opened up in 2017.
Even then, they had that distinctive “Obert” sign with a close up on a heavily mascaraed eye and aggressively plucked eyebrow. I look at that picture and immediately remember the black and white Egyptian films my father used to watch when I was a child. My father is Jordanian, just like one of the owners.
Zizinia de les Flores could be in Egypt or it could be in the seventies. Something about the wood panelling on some of the walls or the pink hue lit up by a fluorescent tube. In the back, there is a table painted a shade of Egyptian turquoise. On it are crammed large jars of various sizes filled with fermenting things, from olives to beetroot. There is a slip of cellophane between glass and lid secured with a piece of twine like my grandmother used to do. Perpendicular to that a vitrine with more ferments. From homemade Colas to Labneh balls. A large bouquet of fresh herbs casts a shadow over the contents.
When I was little and I would visit Cairo, my mouth always felt sandy, even though I was in the city. Sand from the pyramids. To remedy it, I would alternate between sweet mangoes and local Cola. It was sweeter than the one in Europe, and always a little bit flat.
Zizinia de les Flores is Arabic food with an emphasis on fermented things and low environment impact options. They make their own flatbread, for example, to serve as a brittle pocket for their fillings. A favourite which seems to be a house-made tempeh.
It’s a couple that owns and runs the place. He’s British, she is as I said Jordanian. Their menu changes daily and bounces around the Levant. Their fascination with fermented things is evident in the many jars that fill shelves and fridges. The lunch I have is light, I carry on unencumbered after eating it.
What would make me happy would be to pry open every single one of those lids and sample the contents. In non-pandemic times, there were workshops. Hopefully one day soon they will start again.
Zizinia de les Flores
Carrer del Torrent de les Flors, 87