1. Seafood was the first thing I saw
To have a delicious meal, it should start with fresh good quality produce. Once an American celebrity chef, Paul Prudhomme, said “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” So, on my 2nd day in the city I walked to the closest market nearby, Sagrada Familia market. Seafood was the first thing I saw. In front of my eyes. No glass cabinet, no packaging. Coming closer, I saw the fish’s sparkling eyes and touched its shiny scales. It smelled pleasantly fishy. The market was like a more organized and cleaner version of traditional markets. On both sides were booths of in-season fruits and vegetable. Prices varied by booths for the same type of produce and level of freshness. Time to put my food knowledge in practice. Also, here I can get immediate assistant from the booths’ owners.
2. Every corner I turn, I see a bakery
In the book, The Art of Eating, M.F.K. Fisher describes “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” This is why it’s so hard for me not to come into a good bakery. The bakeries here sell most of your favorite pastries from classic buttery croissants to traditional Catalan sweets. However, I haven’t seen many cakes. I did some research online and learned that here cakes are often for special occasions.
3. Different olive oil products have different taste
I even tasted fresh olive oil on the field trip to an olive oil production site in Penedès. As an international student born and raised in Vietnam, I thought we were going to have ¼ teaspoon of olive oil to taste like how I do to test my soy and fish sauce back home in Saigon, Vietnam. How silly I was. Of course we used small pieces of bread to taste 4 different olive oil types. It was a mind-opening experience for me. Olive oil itself can taste nicely smooth with just a hint of olive. Some olive oil can have a vigorous taste as if it is punching you with its finest olives. Types of olives and traditional versus modern production methods create the differences.
4. Coffee or tea after meal
After visiting the famous wine region, our group had a chance to connect over a hearty Catalan lunch. I finished my crema catalana, a Catalan relative of crème brûlée. “ Do you want coffee or tea?” – a lady asked me in Catalan. In my head, I was like “oh, so we drink coffee as the last course for lunch, huh?” I chose coffee with milk although I’m a tea person. Surprisingly, to me, the coffee’s role in this 3-course meal is similar to sniffing coffee beans to reset your sense of smell in a fragrance store. In this case, it’s a reset of taste.