By: J. Gilvey (Washington State University)
I am very fortunate to be in Madrid this semester. I have had many opportunities to explore the city and discover many aspects of culture and history. One of my first local visits was exploring the market called “Anton Martin,” a traditional shopping venue that is filled with small stalls and family vendors. When I entered the market, the first thing I noticed were the eyes of the various fish being sold here. There seemed to be fish eyes everywhere - there was no place to hide.
I was surprised that in Spain it is typical to see the entire produce as it was caught on display to the customer. Similarly, an unexpected part of dining here is that in restaurants when you order fish, the whole fish is prepared in its entirety for you to eat. I'm used to eating fish cut into pieces but not with its eyes and scales still on it. The meat butchers in this market also fascinated me because I could not believe there was meat in such large pieces.
In the United States, most of the meat is packaged in a very small portion, for individual consumption. It is rare to see large chunks of the whole animal there. For example, all parts of the animal were in the meat stall, including the heart and brains. Some of the other students who joined me on this exploration also enjoyed spending time at the herbalist, my favorite section of the market.
First of all, I enjoy drinking tea. I like to see the different options of tea. I was impressed that they sold it separately only- i.e. tea leaves were not packaged in sackets.
I think the lack of product packaging is a cultural difference that I did not expect to encounter in Spain. There seemed to be a variety of shoppers buying in this market. I saw some workers coming Anton Martin in their work clothes, some elderly and some women with children. However, everyone had one thing in common: they seemed to be very much as ease with this market and they seemed to know what they wanted to purchase. It is possible that some customers have a regular shop, and sellers know them personally.