The Fish Market
I spent last weekend visiting college friends in Santander, which is on the northern coast of Spain. Despite the common claim that, ironically, the best seafood in Spain can be found in landlocked Madrid, I found the fish culture in Santander to be spectacular. Seafood holds a special place in all Spanish cuisine, but Santander is a city defined by its maritime location; it’s sprawled out along the Cantabrian coast in wide streets that are permeated by the wonderful smell of salty sea. If you go out for pinchos (similar to tapas), you’re sure to find seafood in many forms: fried fish balls, tuna salad topped with an anchovy, queso fresco with fresh tomato and an anchovy, oysters, etc. And if you walk along the beach at the right time of day, you’ll undoubtedly see a handful of fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch.
One of the recipients of that catch, which is a mere two blocks’ walk from my friends’ front door, looks something like this:
Despite the terrible lighting, here you can see some of their wares. If you order a whole fish, you can have it prepared for you the way you like (although I might stand back if I were you–some of the women wielding the fish-beheading knives looked a little scary, and they didn’t mess around):
Most of those shellfish were still alive, by the way. Since they were hardly moving in all that ice, it took me a while to figure that out, but I was impressed once I did. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
One of the most impressive things we saw was a man scaling fish. I repeat: these people don’t mess around. Scales were literally flying everywhere, and the employees who hose down the floor were washing mountains of them down the drains. I probably would have captured the moment if another fishmonger hadn’t walked in front of my camera at just the right moment, but you get the idea:
For the three of us, we ordered three fresh salmon steaks, at which point the vendor asked, “¿Os pongo verde?” As it turns out, the “green” he had offered us was parsley; if you want, several sprigs of parsley come for free with purchase of amazing fish. Not a bad deal.
Back at home, alongside some oven-roasted cauliflower, we enjoyed the salmon pan-fried in butter and herbs with just a squeeze of lemon juice.
It. Was. Delicious.
And I can’t wait to check out the fish markets in Madrid to see how things compare.