I’m always drawn to markets: to London’s sprawling Borough Market with its delicious scent of melted cheese and Chelsea’s Duke of York with its oysters and champagne; to the incense-filled, sweltering, dusty souks of Dubai; to the local farmer’s market in North Tonawanda where I grew up; to the small market square in the village where I lived in Colombia where local boys would wait with wheelbarrows to help shopper bring home their food; to the upmarket, organic stalls in Copenhagen’s Torvehallerne market. Wherever I go, I seek out the markets.
In a big city or a small village, life is there. While some are aimed at tourists, the best ones are a gathering place for locals where chitchat in the local language crowds the air, where piles of local produce fill up the stalls, where small businesses are testing out new products and carving out a living from their sales.
The local market in La Laguna, the UNESCO-heritage city in the north of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, where Jorge is from, is no different. We’ve spent hours walking through the stunning streets with their sweeping palm branches, aged walls, unexpected street art, busy cafes and colourful walls, but it wasn’t until our latest visit that we did finally walk down to visit the market.
It was a cloudy day with blue skies. We went for a plant, a gift for his parents, and for me to have a look around. It’s mostly indoors. On one small strip, there are cheap clothes and jewellery, jean jackets and watches, and a row of benches for tired shoppers to rest their feet or stop to enjoy a coffee.
There are also animals. There are chickens in cages, puppies, hamsters, kittens, singing canaries and turtles waiting to be taken home as pets. This part reminded me of the Marché aux Fleurs on theÎle de la Cité in Paris, an island not far from Notre Dame Cathedral. Not only is it a beautiful flower market, but on Sundays it becomes Marché aux Oiseaux – the pet market. It’s much grander in scale than this small section of the La Laguna market, but it came to mind nonetheless with the stacked cages and the cacophony of birdsong.
The main part of this market is indoors. There are quite a few rows of stalls set up to sell food. At the front, there are the traditional sweet pastries. Around the corner, you’ll find more types of potatoes than you knew existed – a staple food used to make the local favourite papas arrugadas (wrinkly, salt-crusted potatoes). These are served up with the Canarian mojo rojo or mojo verde – a red or green sauce that’s made either from coriander or paprika.
These, you will find in the extensive spice section! This part of the market brought to mind those souks in Dubai, or what you picture when you think of North African markets (maybe not surprising considering the proximity of the Canary Islands to Morocco). There were bags heaped with spices, mounds of colour that somehow didn’t overflow, baskets of star anise and ginger to stock up the kitchen. Being an island, fish and other seafood is popular in Tenerife. You’ll find it fresh in the markets, but you’ll also find salted fish like cod, which I haven’t tried, but I’m sure I will eventually on one of these trips in the future. Of course, there are also tables laden with fruits and veggies, rainbows of peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots, oranges, herbs.
On the way out, I spotted a display case full of skinned rabbits. This is something I tried for the first time on my first visit to Tenerife just after I met Jorge. It’s actually delicious, though I still can’t really bring myself to think of it as eating fluffy bunnies. It’s actually very popular there and is used to make, among other dishes, Conejo al Salmorejo, where it’s marinated in wine, vinegar, garlic and spices like rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and paprika, then fried in olive oil.
And so ends my market adventure. It’s not huge, but it’s worth a wander if you ever find yourself in La Laguna (which I would definitely recommend!). Have a look at the north of the island and around…
- Bought this top on the weekend and have worn it twice already…
- Cookbook wish list: this, this and this!
- To organise all of those market buys…
- I think Oakley needs this.
- Sold a big print of this colourful door in Colombia last week! Tempted to print one for our own wall but there’s too many prints up already. It’s like a gallery in here…
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