We dined today at the cafe in Barcelona's Mercat de la Revolucio, where you can tuck away a couple of thousand calories' worth of bread, beer, flan, fried meat and gravy for just 8.50. It was fine for what it offered though perhaps not as wonderful as its analog at the Mercato Centrale in Firenze (love the white bean soup). I confess to being a sucker for these old European markets, although there is more and more reason to suspect that have lost their function and persist, if at all, more and more on the force of inertia. The signals are, I concede, mixed. There are still fruit and veggie hawkers who look like they have been showing up every morning since Franco was alive. But there are so many fruit and veggie sellers outside the markets--not to mention the proliferating supermarkets (super and otherwise) that you can't help but suspect a government subsidy generated by the nostalgia lobby.
And the cafe itself--the menu is clearly designed for carters and packers and haulers who need every shot of cheap energy they can get (we were feeding teenagers, which is the nearest modern analog). Yet there aren't many haulers in evidence any more: most of the people who staff the market spend most of their day standing behind counters.
I tend to get along easily with these folks. You could say: of course, it is their business to please me. But it isn't really: they know perfectly well that I am a passing figure on the scene; they might as well just rip me off and let me go. But no: they are (almost) unfailingly courteous, helpful and honest about things like small change. Indeed the only real disappointment is that all those lovely veggies aren't all that good. They're a bit bland, like in California, as if a bit overwatered. Could it be that the stall vendors (like all the rest of us?) are falling victim to the enticement of modern marketing?