I used to live in an area in South London called East Dulwich. On entering you were asked, ‘are you a foodie? Do you know your Shoyu from your tamari, your shitake from your chanterelles ? Are you insistent on shopping only in local, organic shops, even if you have to take out a second mortgage to do so?’ If the answer was yes then you might just be allowed to take up residence. Obviously I’ve made all of that up, but taking away my wild exaggerations, you at least get the picture.
But Seville is refreshingly different. The love of food is wonderfully democratic. You just need to venture into one of the covered food markets ‘de toda la vida’ and you’ll see wrinkled grannies enthusiastically eyeing up tomatoes, before moving on with excitement to the jamón. Where I’m from we’ve lost our connection with quality ingredients, or at least if you want them, you pay through the nose in a trendy deli. Yes we’ve got supermarkets coming out of our ears, but once it’s been individually wrapped in plastic, pre-washed, sliced and god knows what else, it’s barely recognisable as the raw material it once was.
But as they say ‘Spain is different’, or let’s make that Seville. To give you an example let’s take the humble chickpea. To a Brit, a chick pea is something that comes in a can, right? We have no idea of the different kinds of chick pea (castellano and blanco lechoso just for instance), how for quality and taste you’d never buy tinned or bottled chickpeas – you must buy the dry ones, soak and then boil. And this is the same from the humblest kitchen to the wealthy elite.
And in most neighbourhoods you still find individual shopkeepers who hold their own against the supermarkets. Like newly opened ‘A Granel’ on Calle Leon XIII in the Macarena. Having just opened before Christmas its tempting façade invites you in to an Aladdin’s cave of culinary delights. Owned by Javier, who used to be a ham cutter at El Rinconcillo, it’s stuffed full with products from Extremadura, many of which pig-related, but also barrels of sweet wines to be bought be the litre, cheeses, Spanish wine, legumbres and olive oil. Incidentally ‘a granel’ means to buy in bulk without the usual commercial packaging.
Although he’s just been there a short while, he’s already a big hit with the local retired population who are usually a good barometer for quality and price. And despite the celebration of all things jamón, it still gave me a warm feeling just hanging out, trying some cheese, buying the obligatory chickpeas and having a quick swig of mistela from the barrel before sauntering off into the Macarena night.
A Granel, Calle Leon XIII 5
Tel 663 622 709