no. 91 (to be mailed late June)
Cover Fish Out of Water by Mikel Jaso
|The Boqueria, on the Rambla in Barcelona, is one of the worlds great food markets. Its origins go back to the 13th century. When youre there, it feels like the place to be, a center of life. The array of foods is enormous produce, bread, cheeses, fresh meats, ham and sausages, fish, including superb baccalà (which is important in the surrounding region of Catalonia). At several bars, besides coffee, wine, beer, brandy, you can order delicious dishes cooked right there. You know where you are from the food, the people, the building, the entire experience. The market is so big and vital you feel it has a soul.
When Paris lost its Halles, established in that location in 1137, the center of the city was never the same. Over three days in the winter of 1969, the wholesalers moved outside the city to the vast space at Rungis (now the largest market of its kind in the world) and the old market became a park and a dispiriting, partly underground mall (both currently being redeveloped). The city today has 13 covered markets and 69 open-air ones, which typically set up two mornings a week and disappear again while youre at lunch.
New York, with a population more than three and a half times that of Paris, is at a distance with its 54 admirable open-air Greenmarkets. It too has a long history of markets. Going back to the 17th century, some of the citys market buildings were constructed parallel to the shore on piles at the waters edge. Two of them survive, the ones that housed the Fulton Fish Market until 2005, when it moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx (a fish market second in size only to Tokyos Tsukiji). Ever since, the buildings have lain empty. The New Market Building dates from 1939, replacing one erected in 1904. The Old Market Building, also called the Tin Building, dates from 1907. Its the fourth market building on its site; the first was the original fish sellers building of the 1830s.
The main advocate for saving the two buildings and filling them with a great market is itself a market: the New Amsterdam Market, a recent phenomenon, for now held outdoors monthly near the old Fulton Fish Market. Its extraordinary and very current, packed with young producers, purveyors, and customers. It was immediately beloved by New Yorkers, and its exactly what should fill the old buildings.
But the real estate industry is powerful in New York, and theres a danger that the buildings will be swallowed up. The New York City Council has equivocated, seeming to favor a small market, run by a shopping mall developer, that might be no better than a food court. Not the New Amsterdam Market at all. As of this writing, the fate of the buildings is unclear.
A great market sets a neighborhood apart and gives value to the real estate around it, attracting people from all over the city and beyond. A great city needs a great market. And great markets belong in buildings with history and force.
To order, click here or call 1.800.495.3944 (US and Can) or 1.802.751.1158 (anywhere) or send mail to The Art of Eating, P.O. Box 333, St. Johnsbury, Vermont 05819 USA.
© 2013 The Art of Eating