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Gran Canaria

Gastronomy

A melting pot of cultures at the market

The city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the largest on the Canary Islands with nearly 400,000 inhabitants, and is known both in the islands and around the world for its cosmopolitan character. It’s port is one of the busiest in Spain, and large numbers of vessels leave from its docks bound for many European destinations carrying the island’s agricultural exports, while all types of other foods are imported from outside to complete the local diet.

A child looks at some fish in a stall at the Central Market

For centuries now, this diet has been enriched thanks to the influence of the constant comings and goings of people from other countries, indeed, few Spanish cities can boast the sheer amount of specialist restaurants from all around the globe. This mosaic of traditional gastronomy mixed with a hotpot of international cuisine affords an endless list of mouth-watering dishes for us to enjoy, by the hand of all kinds of qualified chefs offering first class attractive choices made with locally sourced products.

Frangollo mash with baked milk pudding

José González, one of Gran Canaria’s leading chefs, treasures an interesting gastronomical experience right here on the island, a member of a select generation that grew up around houses with roof terraces on which families would tend a goat for milking and a baifo, or baby goat, for Christmas, some hens for their eggs and even some palomar or pidgeons, to give children its warming broth. This experience provided a solid base for his cooking recipes, although it was rather limited and he got bored with it. “Pepe (diminutive of José), nobody can teach you how to cook, but you could learn some new techniques”, he was once told by a Catalán food critic. He learnt new ways to enhance the presentation of his dishes in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, to the point at which he was able to open his own establishment with typical island food: “Canary dishes are the most delicate ones to prepare in the world”, he insists.

Aerial view of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Other generations of chefs from this city apply certain knowledge and creativity they have gained from influences of original and exotic Asian cuisine. One such chef, Octavio Ramírez, is a staunch supporter of adding modern Japanese and Hindu final touches to day to day dishes from Japanese and Hindu, and especially in gastronomic open days he organizes. He might combine a unique and original product from the islands such as guarapo, (a delicacy made with pine sap), with subtle adaptations from these other countries, for example.

To fill the larders of these many restaurants, as well as people’s homes, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has four main municipal markets which are the mainstay for the fine array of foods from the land and sea, and are a reference point around the city for their long history as well as their modern choice of foods.

Vegetables

The market in Vegueta, right in the historic town centre, is one of the oldest in Spain, as it was built back in 1863, while right next to the popular portside neighbourhood of La Isleta rises the modernist style market called El Puerto, with its forged iron structure (again one of the oldest in the country, from 1891), which also houses a section of small restaurants offering a wide choice of foods. More recently, from the 1950s and 60s respectively, we have the other two municipal markets, the Central and the Altavista.

Of these latest two, the Central market (which, between 1958 and 1981, became the wholesale supplier of fresh foods to the rest of the markets and businesses in the city) nowadays competes with other establishments dedicated to feeding a commercial area with a great economical thrust. It remains to this day, however, a reference for customers thanks to the quality, organization and presentation of its producer associations, as well as its involvement in other equally important parallel promotional roles, including school visits and solidarity campaigns for free food collection and distribution.

The example set by the markets in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, for their history and current vitality, has had leading figures such as Juan Ignacio Robles (professor of the Department of Social Anthropology Social at the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid) say that “the market culture is deeply impregnated in Canary Island contemporary history”, and in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, he adds, “the market, as a social and commercial institution, is still going as strong as ever”.


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