My first experience of Spanish covered markets was when I was drinking in Barcelona in the ‘80s. I lived just across the Ramblas from the incomparably wicked La Boqueria. Very few markets in the world compare. The covered markets here ain’t chic Ibiza but are excellent nonetheless. There are only three – Ibiza Town, San Antonio and Santa Eulalia. Sadly, none are surviving at full potential, all displaying empty stalls – a visible reminder that times they are a changing.
The fish stalls are my favourites and now is the best time of year. There is a wider variety, the fish seem fresher and the price is better. For example John Dory is down from €28 per kilo to €20. I have no idea where the name comes from but I do know it is called St Peter’s fish in Spanish (Gallo San Pedro) ‘cos when Jesus told Saint Peter he’d be a fisher of men they were out boating (on a Sunseeker no doubt) on the sea of Galilee. He told Peter to put his hand in the water, Peter did so and pulled out a John Dory leaving his thumbprint on its back, which we still see today. It is also called Zeus Faber in Latin – how cool is that? If I ever write me a book, my pen name will be Zeus Faber.
Santa Eulalia is the easiest market to use and has the best vegetable stand on the island. Maria feels each piece of fruit before selling it and her husband grows most of the stuff they sell. Not unusual here. Just up the hall is (another) Maria. I used to buy directly from her farm where a box of peppers would cost what two peppers cost on her stall. She sold everything from under what she claims to be the oldest Carob tree on the island. It wouldn’t surprise me – it is enormous, ancient and makeshift crutches hold up many of its branches. I’m certain this is where Dali got his idea for all those crutches in his paintings!
I hardly have anything to do with the market in San An. Only been once in fact. Buying shellfish with a conspiracy theorising tattoo artist who showed me how to cook paella for 120.
The best ‘experience’ however, is Saturday morning in the new market in Ibiza town. The place buzzes with señoras buying for the weekend, younger marketeers nursing hangovers, cafes alive with punters ordering beer, wine and cognac for breakfast alongside tapas of tripe, kidney and tongue. Best of all are the gypsies (not pikeys, gypsies). There is a constant coming and going at the terrace bars, gold jewellery bright against their dark skin – once in a while you see one with blue eyes and you just know that boy is trouble. You’ll see the fantastically dapper Juan in his waistcoat, Stetson and cane. He has a moustache Zapata would have been jealous of. And I most definitely am.
There used to be a covered market in the old town that, whilst undeniably the nicest architecturally, is now derelict and used as a lock up for stalls selling vegetables opposite the Croissant Show (Show what? I ask myself). Incidentally one of these stalls this is the wonderful organic Sa Fruteria. There is not a single one in the main market and I have a feeling the one in Santa Doolalia has gone out of business. Organic is here but it is struggling. Perhaps when and if it does take hold it will mark a strengthening in the covered markets. I hope so…