Month 18 | Winter
Teià Food Market
So there I was standing behind a counter. If it were an action movie like Point Break, it would be the counter of a banker, but that was not the plot this time. I was behind the counter of Carmen’s meat stand and I couldn’t speak Catalan and she looked at me like I was an Emu when I spoke English. You see I wanted to learn Catalan/Spanish but I didn’t realise the only things we’d be able to communicate and learn from was the meat she had in her display fridge. So I’d go away each day from our language lessons, meet people on the street and try to spark up a conversation, in Catalan, but all I could do was talk about pig kidneys, chicken feet and cow stomachs. The perfect way to make friends.
The Pixel Trade was photographing the small and beautiful Teià Food Market which is run by women with such character and energy, you’ll find yourself wanting to come back for more and more. The amount of times I’ve been trying to write these two paragraphs to give an appropriate indication of how amazing these women are is ridiculous. I give up. Just take the time to read the interviews to get a spicy taste.
Interview with four women
Note: Aleksandra, my trade prior to this one, translated all of these from Spanish to English and if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be able to share these interviews.
Describe your most memorable adventure as a child.
(Note: In Spanish the word adventure means both affair and adventure. So when I asked Carmen, she immediately says: Affair? When I got pregnant! I explain that I mean an adventure and repeat… it’s a childhood one)
Carmen: Phew! That would be the beating up I got from my Mother. The branch she hit me with left me with a blue eye for days! She really gave me a couple of hits that left me knocked out.
Lina: Hmm… as a child, you get me here… Maybe the adventure of coming here, the big change it supposed. I’m from Águilas, near Murcia, originally. And coming here was a big change… I was 12 years old, left my friends there, a first boyfriend, ha ha, one we competed for with the girlfriends. (giggles) It was all both interesting and dramatic at the same time.
Irene: Oh… wait, wait… You got me by surprise. I can’t think of anything.
Maria: It would be my Sundays in the forest, with the family, sat on the ground at a picnic, with my cousins, friends. I think about this with a lot of nostalgia. No TV, a lot of sharing.
What changes have you seen over the years in Teià?
Carmen: It has all gone down the drain!
Really, all negative?
Yes. This is not my town. No, no… They’ve changed everything. It’s no longer a decent town, it’s not worth anything. There’s no city hall that works, we haven’t had anything from them, nothing… just tightening up of belts. Not much has been done to support peoples aspirations.
Lina: Well…, Teia has gone through very few changes. It remains a bit untouched by time. But well, I noticed that before it was very peaceful, almost too much. And this has changed now, it’s less of a village, many more 4x4’s, ha ha.
Irene: Over the last years it has grown a lot. But apart from that I don’t really see any big changes. It’s just all these new houses. People haven’t changed.
Maria: Well, I am actually not from Teia, I’m from Alella. But they are very close to each other. It’s been almost 30 years that I live in Alella but I come here a lot of course. It’s all grown too much. Before there was more vineyards, less houses and it’s not always been respectful of the nature of El Maresme (the region). This is not a positive development.
How did you come to work in the market?
Carmen: So… this was meant to be for my daughter because she started suffering from anorexia. I wanted her to come and live with me, to see if she would get better. So I set this up for her. But then she got an opportunity to go to Andorra to work in her own profession, to be a nurse. She got better and I stayed here.
How long has it been?
Here? 15 years, but I have been behind a counter for 60 years now. That’s many…
Lina: I was working in a pharma laboratory before, it’s what I liked. I worked there many years, in Badalona. It was a small family company run by an elder gentleman, he retired, the market was changing, big competition and all that. The company closed and I thought that I’ve always liked this too, selling fruit… I knew it since I was a child and had been helping out on Saturdays even while I worked at the lab. Because this stand belonged to my parents. They had been working at the market since a long time. My mother and my brother worked here on the market in Teia and my father ran a stand on the market in Masnou. And I like this. I was helping my mother here on Saturdays and liked the village, the people and the fruit. Meat wouldn’t have been that nice!
Irene: My mother worked at the market. My grandmother had also worked at the market, at the same stand. It was also my great grandfather who actually designed and this market. And when I came back from Switzerland, my mother offered me to take over the stand and I loved the idea. It was a family thing, I like this job and it’s my why to live now.
Wow I didn’t know that your grand grandfather designed the market. How old is it now?
It’s 100 years old, we’ve had the anniversary recently.
Maria: I love the market, the contact with people. It’s very important to me. People ask you about things, share. I have always worked with people. I was a butcher before but I quit eating meat. I only eat a bit of fish now. I sell a little bit too, but it has to be biologically sourced.
What is the best thing about food in Catalonia?
Carmen: Snails! Snails a la catalana… like I know making them. That’s clear.
Lina: That’s hard to pick, Catalan cuisine has many nice things. Best…, for me it could be something very simple like pan amb tomaquet (tomato bread) with a bit of ham… that makes me happy already. And then maybe beans from Ganxet… but tomato bread with ham… is the best!
Irene: I really like the rice dishes. That’s really Spanish food, but also Catalan. I like rice a lot. Also the bean stew with sausage. That’s really Catalan. I like the Spanish omelets with potatoes and onions. Vegetable soups, pumpkin or leek. I like easy dishes.
Maria: It’s a healthy cuisine, a Mediterranean diet, a very healthy one with a lot of fruit, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. It’s pure health.
What was the most dangerous time of your life?
Carmen: The day I got married! That was the most dangerous day of my life.
Lina: It would first of all be moments when I had any health problems. I’ve had very few luckily, but those I’ve had left me a bit respectful… For example while working here, I’ve had an hernia, in a complicated place, big, etc… I was taken to hospital and perhaps because it’s quite recent I remember being a bit afraid. There are other things of course… but a bit too personal to mention.
Irene: I haven’t had many dangerous moments in my life. I fell of a motorcycle once, hurt myself quite a lot. But dangerous… no, I can’t think of anything.
Maria: Phew… they gave me two years to live when I was diagnosed with problems with my kidneys. And now… I’m all good! I completely turned to natural medicine, fruit, a change of paradigm. It was a very bad moment. I was 29 years old, had two little girls… and now I’m double the age and alive and kicking.
If you could do anything tomorrow, what would you do?
Carmen: Jump on a plane and go to Punta Cana. Yes, to the Caribbean.
With your husband?
What?? What for? I’d go free as a cab. What the fuck would I… No no no… Me? I would go alone. I would go as I stand, wouldn’t even pack my undies. I’d go straight away! It would be like the best Christmas Eve of my life!
(here we laugh about how to translate something ridiculously idiomatic that would sound like “I’d go shitting milk” which means to go asap… and the customer lady laughs too and tells Carmen not to press the wrong button on the card reader… it’s hilarious but won’t translate well at all).
Lina: I know! Tomorrow, if I had a little bit of money I would go and travel. I would love to go to New York for example. If I won the lottery, I’d leave the fruit stand, tell everyone to help themselves to it and go with my husband, son and daughter and to NY. I’d come back when the money ran out.
Irene: I’d go for a mountain walk. Just up here, in Can Munt, Sagrada Cor… it’s what I like to do. I often think that to myself… that I’d like to get up in the morning and just walk amongst the trees.
If you could teach humanity one thing, what would it be?
Carmen: To know how to be… (here Carmen cries… ) You got me with this one… We should love each other so much more, all of us…, be more human. The governments shouldn’t go so crazy and people should live and let others live.
(the phone rings and I say I am sorry it upset her. She picks up and then happily says “right, they’ll have to wait, I’m going to Hollywood!”)
Lina: I think I’d say that we go some 60 years back, when people were more human, things were just things, the atmosphere was different… Everybody worked more or less equally hard. I had pears and you had chickens so I gave you pears and got chickens from you. There was more exchange, we lived similarly and if anything happened to anyone… everyone helped. I would love to go back to that, to being a better human being. We have so many things now that we forget to value what’s most important. I would make people sit round the same fire again…
Irene: To be more humble. I would like people to be humble and kinder to those who are having a rough time. Those that have a lot should learn how to help others more. So I’d love to teach people to be a better human.
Maria: I think I would teach people to participate or to connect with themselves. We are very lost with this, with connecting with our own source, the nature, with what it is that we like, wish to share. It’s like nurturing yourself. You discover these things when you get news like those I had. You discover the source is inside you. It’s hard, but this new path exists. I’d also share the recipe of how to make these soaps! It’s unique.
Describe your most memorable adventure as an adult.
Carmen: The day I discovered I was pregnant, with my son, the youngest one! I went to Mallorca empty and came back pregnant. And I was 48!
Lina: Wow, for me that would be… meeting my future husband, who was a priest back then. Imagine, in a village like Teia! That was an adventure for me… and such a nice one! We met each other at a course of Catalan. We had a teacher… well, actually she is still my friend today, we were all friends, spent quite some time all together, had dinners… It was great. And there he was. I liked him a lot and thought… what a shame he’s a priest, locked up, ha ha…
Did it take a lot to convince him?
Oh no, with these things I am very respectful. We are what we are and have the right to that. So I was very attracted to him but would never say anything. I was a good girl. We knew each other for over 3,5 years and he… Oh, look there he is! In front of the market. You see him? Does he look like a priest to you? (giggles) Well, he’s not a priest anymore! He fell in love as well and he told me. And then I could admit I was in love with him too. And since then… we’ve been in love. 22 years. This was my adult adventure. After those 3 years and a bit walking around thinking what a waste, what a waste that he’s a priest (giggles).
Irene: When we lived in Switzerland, we decided to do a bike trip from there all the way to Barcelona. Marcus, my partner, said he didn’t want to go by car or train and we decided to go by bike. This was our biggest adventure. It took us 9 days and went really well, I thought it would be much harder than it was. It was nice and we decided very spontaneously. Otherwise, I am not very adventurous.
Maria: Sure. This was not too many years ago. I went to India. With a sleeping bag, a backpack, without a hotel booking… I spent 18 days in a small village of 200 inhabitants. It was a beautiful experience and I had a hard time leaving India. I loved the people. You experience something exceptional there.
If you had to recommend a favorite music album, what would it be?
Carmen: Ay! Frank Sinatra – Strangers in the night. And then Pavarotti. These are the best. They are the only ones I cried for when they died. They should have never died. They’re still alive in me. Strangers in the night and Nessun dorma of Pavarotti… When I feel like crying, I put the CD’s in the car for myself and go crazy… and cry like a baby.
Lina: Music? I really like the 80’s! I am not much of a dancer but I like music that makes me feel like I would. I like classic music too, but it’s more intimate.
Irene: I really like an album of Tanya Maria, it’s jazz music. I don’t know if it’s my favorite but I like it a lot. I also really like Juan Manuel Serrat, his songs in Catalan really go straight to my heart.
Maria: This is difficult. My favorite album are mantras and kirtanas from India. I am studying this music, learning how to play harmonium, singing mantras. It’s something I got into recently, only 2 weeks ago. My teacher is telling me I do good progress so I’m excited.