Heart of the Sea

The pristine seafood of Barcelona's historic Boqueria market

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Emile Luider/Cosmos/Redux

In the center of Barcelona's Boqueria market, past the beehive arrangements of produce but before the dangling haunches of pork, is the market's heart. Arrayed in three concentric ovals are its seafood vendors, each stall dedicated to fish, shellfish, or salted offerings such as large dried planks of bacalao, salted cod. Like their brethren at fish markets the world over, sellers and buyers engage in a cacophonous verbal dance as you wait your turn, inhaling memories of the ocean and feasting on the colors before you: the corsage reds and pinks of the pristine gambas, prawns from just up the coast in Palamós; the shimmering blue-gray skin of the sardines; the dense ruby blocks of mojama, salt- and air-cured tuna with a concentrated aroma and an intense flavor of the sea, ready to be sliced like an oceanic jamón ibérico. The expansive Mediterranean is only half a mile away, but as you stand in the middle of the mercat, it seems even closer than that.