Welcome, dear reader,
This week, meat.
When The Plek (my partner) and I first moved to the San Antoni barrio, Mercado San Antoni was housed in two enormous tents on Ronda de San Antoni. The food tent was above the Metro station, shoppers and stalls packed in like sardines. Outside the smallest store there was always a large queue of locals ordering a vast array of unusual cuts of meat from three souls slicing while confined to a 3 x 2m space.
We queued. We ordered. We paid. We went home. We cooked. We fell in love with each other (again). Aaah. And with Manel i Elisabet, the finest butchers in town.
From thereon in, we were delighted to join the throng – old folk, young folk, restaurant owners and anyone with a good eye for meat shops.
Shopping is changing to a ticket system now, but many places in Spain still adhere to the rule of bowling up, asking ‘Who’s last?’ (El ultimo?) and finding your place in the queue. Albeit there are always a few ready to jump the line if you don’t make yourself known sharp.
The stall is housed in the magnificent, reformed Mercado de San Antoni; this iron structure built in 1882 is once again the centre of our neighbourhood.
Manel i Elisabet is a third-generation butcher who first started serving the good citizens of San Antoni in the 1930s. Manel is of true butcher stock, learning at the knee of his grandfather and father after completing military service aged 19. Elisabet is from a line of poultry sellers whose shop was next to Manel’s – they met, and the rest is history.
Once married, they joined the two shops together and now sell a delicious range of beef, lamb, chicken, poultry and pork products. The majority comes from nearby Girona or Vila Franca de Penedes, and the rest from Catalonia.
Elisabet said: “We know where everything comes from, which farmers, and we get fresh produce every day.
“We eat the produce we sell and the smell of proper, well-kept meat opens up the appetite and the stomach.”
Back in the day
Locals are fondest of the homemade burgers – prepared right in front of your eyes – along with chicken breasts. “I prefer to cut pork ribs,” said Elisabet. Manel prefers what the Argentinians call ‘la arañita’ cut, or pedaset in Catalan. It’s a small cut of meat, usually beef, near the thigh socket.
He explained: “Not many people ask for it, and it’s really tender when you fry it. Many years ago, it was only men that were butchers and they would do all the cutting early in the morning and then leave the women to work and serve for the rest of the day.
“The men would then go and fry up some pedaset and drink red wine. It’s changed now.”
Arguments (rightly) rage about the quantity of meat in the modern diet, the industrialisation of production and its effect on animal welfare, but Manel i Elisabet know their farmers. What hasn’t changed is people’s desire for good food.
Elisabet said: “We have a lot of loyal, local customers. We see a few new faces. We see a lot of parents stocking up the freezers for their kids, those that have come to Barcelona to study and want to make sure they are eating well.
“People know we know where our stock comes from, that we have good quality at good prices, and hopefully that’s why we’re busy.”
Now you know – Fridays and Saturdays are always buzzing, as are mornings. You can always order ahead and then just pick up and pay.
The Plek and I will no doubt be wandering around there next weekend, then off to the bodega to find a nice red to go with the pedaset.
Opening hours and contact
Manel i Elisabet, parades 1-2, Mercado San Antoni
Tel: +34 934 263 378
Mon, Tue, Sat: 8am-3pm
Weds-Fri: 8am-3pm / 5pm-8pm