One week of shopping organically in and the main thing I’m able to report is, aside from feeling every so slightly righteous, I’m feeling considerably poorer. Go to England, America or Denmark and all but the most basic of supermarkets carry a strong line of organic produce at if not cheap, then fair prices. Come to Barcelona and your finances dwindle with your choices.
Mostly the market seems to be cornered by Veritas, the notoriously expensive organic supermarket, where I head first to compare with my usual supermarket Bon Preu. My shopping bill for watercress (from Portugal note), green tea, organic milk, wholemeal spaghetti, ham, cheese, six eggs, bottled bonito, dried yeast, spelt flour, spelt bread and yogurt came to €35! Later that day I snuck around Bon Preu with a calculator and discovered that the same shop there would have cost me €21.08. No wonder everyone’s falling off the organic bandwagon during the crisis. Still, I am determined to follow through.
What I’ve found is that you’ve really got to shop around to make the organic thing work. A 300g loaf of Veritas spelt bread for example was tasty and dense, but cost €3.90. This is considerably less than something similar at Barcelona Reykjavik, but not as good nor as cheap as the organic spelt at Mistral (Ronda Sant Antoni 96, 93 301 8037) for €2.10. I also bought a kilo bag of organic spelt flour and two sachets of organic dried yeast, which meant I could make my own 500g loaf for about €1.50. Veritas organic wholemeal pasta was much cheaper at €1.39 than Bon Preu’s integral version at €2.45. A dozen free range eggs were a euro less at the grocers on my corner.
I made a sandwich with the organic ham, which disappointingly came in the same excessive packaging as a bog-standard supermarket ham: lots of plastic enshrined in a cardboard shell. However with the cheese, watercress and smidgen of admittedly non-organic mustard it really did have a great texture and flavour, and kept me full until 3pm. I ate it around 10am.
Because none of this got a full meal together, my next stop was Buburb (C/ Joaquim Costa 29, Raval), an integrada shop, which means some of it is local farm produce, some of it is organic and, well, some of it isn’t. “Are those tomatoes organic?” I asked. “Nah, they’re from Almeria,” was the reply. So frustratingly, despite the atmospheric photos of farm fresh, happy veg still in their sodden clods of soil, I’m still no closer to an organic salad for tea.
I stroll down to the Boqueria and ask at the L’Aula stand. “Somebody did open an organic stall once” the guy mused having questioned me intently about my reasons for asking. “But it wasn’t a success so they shut again.” This doesn’t make sense to me. There’s a queue five deep for the Organic takeaway at the back of the market, and there are three other branches within spitting distance, so there’s obviously a demand.
And lo, I later find out through a friend that an organic fruit and veg shop had just opened around the corner from the Mercat de Santa Caterina called Be Organic (C/flor de Lliri 4, 93 180 4477), who have fruit and veg deliveries three times a week, along with a bit of meat, chicken and eggs. Timing is all here but if you get it right, you should have a decent choice of a bumper crop. Gràcia market has a good organic stall too, but it’s a bit of schlep from my house.
I’ve also become a regular at organic butchers Cal Colom, who have two branches in Poble Sec (C/Blasco de Garay 42, 93 441 5142, and C/Vallhonrat 27, 93 441 5142, www.calcolom.com). Best of all they offer a wide range of cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and goat at recession-friendly prices. And yes, it’s well worth eating less meat in order to eat the good stuff.
As a good friend of mine says, "the trick is, spend more, eat less and better."
I’m travelling next week, so apologies in advance for the non-organic entry. I’ll be back on track the week after looking at box deals and consortiums. Any tips, keep em rolling in.