The past few days in Barcelona have been centered around food. The experience has gone full circle: we started by learning how to make tapas from scratch, then we toured markets around the city, lastly we visited a diary farm and apiculture center to learn about the production of diary and honey.
This experience began with the end of the cycle with cooking tapas. Tapas are small, shared appetizers. The Mediterranean Diet, emphasizes eating smaller portions with time to relax and socialize which gives time for the food to digest. The recipes we made required fresh seafood for calamari, tomatoes and cucumber for gazpacho, and bell peppers to be stuffed with cheese and tuna.
A short trip down La Rambla from the tapas kitchen is La Boqueria, the oldest market in Barcelona. Here, I wandered down the aisles and observed the local vendors selling produce, cured meat, seafood, and olives at their stands. Many of the vendors are third or fourth generation sellers at the market. Supporting these local farms and businesses at the market is a great way to purchase fresh, in season food, which is another cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet.
The food week ended at the source, a trip to a diary farm. Prior to this excursion I never thought about where my food was coming from. Ana took us through the farm that she owns and runs that had once been her grandfather’s. This is the third family run business we have visited which shows the importance of family in the agriculture industry here in Spain. I was surprised to learn how the alfalfa and the mix of grains the cows eat affects the taste of their milk. The farm took a practical approach to sustainability and organic production by utilizing the cow’s droppings as fertilizer for the plants used to make the cow’s food. Although it seems intuitive, I was surprised to taste the high quality milk and yogurt that came from these cows that were raised in a more natural environment.
By supporting these local farms and vendors, you are nourishing yourself with products that are sustainably grown utilizing the natural life cycle. Also you are cultivating the local community of farmers and vendors that are passionate about growing and sharing their products. Consuming fresh, in season produce is more beneficial for your health since it is free of preservatives and pesticides and not affected by the light and temperature of grocery stores.
It was an interesting to view this food cycle by starting with the cooking and end with the farm. During the cooking workshop, it never crossed my mind to think about where the food came from and how it was produced. However, I view this as a positive because I was able to learn about each step: the preparation, the markets, and the farm in isolation and now I can see the big picture.
As I begin the return to Chicago, I’ve been thinking about how to apply the principles of the Mediterranean Diet and food sourcing to life in the city. There are some pop-up farmer’s markets on weekends during the summer months that I will definitely check out. However, these markets are only available in higher income neighborhoods and not accessible to everyone. I’ve realize it is not practical to always shop for fresh, local food back in Chicago. However, by having the knowledge of the food cycle from the farms to the preparation I can do my part to contribute to this sustainable food environment by shopping for foods that are in season even if it’s not local.