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''I was born here and I'm on my way to turning 52... I've been here all my life''

Interview with Pilar Gil Casanovas from Peix Fresc Pilar of Mercat de la Concepció


Gleaming pieces of monkfish, sea bass and mackerel, perch sirloin, coastal whiting, Galician clam, rock and Galician mussels, lobster, Blanes coast dock, cuttlefish and squid are spread out on the ice... the afternoon of the last Thursday of March. The corridors of the Mercado de la Concepción breathe peak hours. Stealthily, the merchants prepare the products. They wait patiently for the clients who will arrive after the children leave school, some, and work, others. Pilar Gil Casanovas takes off her blue gloves and white apron, which is her usual dress, when she attends. She is the oldest of three sisters. Together they take charge of the Peix Fresc Pilar stall, which was started by her mother. They are a matriarchy dedicated to serving fresh fish and seafood. She has two nieces who are studying nursing, but who also come to the stop when more hands are needed.

“We were practically born here. My mother took the three of us when we were little, me and my sisters Montse and Helena. I am the oldest and I started working in the fish market when I was 18 years old. She came on Saturdays. So the stall was dedicated to deep-sea frozen food, with large pieces. We had a machine that cut them up”, she explains with some nostalgia. When the frozen ones began to be sold everywhere and the price plummeted, they decided to bet more on fresh fish.

They get up early every day. The alarm clock rings at four in the morning. Montse and Helena go to Mercabarna to select gender; they choose based on the origin, but quality always commands. She, on the other hand, prepares the stall at the Mercado de la Concepción: "I put the ice, I place the boxes, I receive the fish and shellfish and I arrange it in a way that it looks good". She explains with conviction: "I like the atmosphere of the market, we have a very good relationship with the other paradistas and I like it even more that customers come not only to buy, but also to talk with us." This is how it is dispatched in a market with 130 years of history that has always wanted to be a market place. “Customers like to come because the Concepció market is spacious, there is a good product and they find the paradistas friendly. In fact, I have clients at the stall who come to buy here without being from the Eixample, but from where I live”, she acknowledges.



“Nowadays, with the Internet and YouTube, it doesn't happen as much, but before, customers asked us for more recipes. For example, how to make fish soup”, says Pilar Gil Casanovas. Paradistas guide and advise, whenever they can. At the Peix Fresc Pilar stop, the Cantabrian hake, monkfish, salmon, shellfish - mussels from the Ebro Delta and prawns, mainly - "because of the paella on the weekend" clarifies Gil, but also Other unique pieces: “We buy the salmon whole, we open it and remove the bone and also the strips, which can be bought to cook sautéed with vegetables or pasta. It can also be frozen and eaten sushi-style with soy,” she details.

It is evident that the markets are the thermometer of the heartbeat of the neighborhood and the city. Located in the right Eixample, the one in La Concepción has loyal customers who are the ones who mainly frequent it, but tourists who wander through nearby streets and passages also enter with curiosity, on their way to and from the center of Barcelona to the Sagrada Familia. . The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the commitment to sustainability and ecology... Any conflict, epidemic, fashion or trend has repercussions on the market and changes customers' purchasing habits. “Before Covid, young people did not come as much and now we have managed to retain them. They started visiting us during the lockdown, asking for something quick and easy to cook. We would suggest tuna or hake, which can be easily grilled with a little garlic, parsley and lemon, or also in the oven”, says Pilar Gil Casanovas. It is evident that he is undone in care towards the client. He perceives it and returns. He has convinced young people. “There are those who come every day because they are available, others who come two or three times a week and some only on Saturday mornings. There are those who, when he comes, make the purchase for the whole week and freeze pieces such as monkfish, salmon or tuna, which allow it, ”she details. It all depends on the client's profile, their needs and their pace of personal and work life. “Fresh fish is kept for three days in the fridge at home. The sardine or the small anchovy, only one. Cuttlefish and monkfish hold up well in the freezer," says the owner of Pescado Fresco Pilar. She shows that she knows the genre thoroughly and wants to transfer the knowledge to the interlocutor. And with all the goodness that defines her, she warns: 
“Customers know that we sincerely recommend at our position.”

We have fresh fish, but if any piece is not of the day, we sell it more cheaply and notify you beforehand. First of all, there is the truth.” And the trust. She confides in us that she buys fish, meat and fruit at the Mercado de la Concepció because she is a guarantee of quality, although she also likes to do the neighborhood, in her own. “I am still learning to cook, because my mother has always done it. When we were little, for dinner, always fish and vegetables. It is lighter and the stomach appreciates it”, she is sincere. She is clear that she will continue to feed and feed herself in La Concepción, in her vital circle of trust, weaving complicity with paradistas and clients. “I was born here and I am on my way to turning 52. It seems like yesterday… I've been here all my life”, she sighs.

She gets up from the stool where we talked and puts her apron back on. An elderly client arrives asking for your advice. He attends to you. They talk. She resumes the rhythm now already inside the stop. The afternoons are quiet, but the first cries of the schoolchildren coming out of the classroom begin to be heard. Before going home, families will stop by to buy fresh fish, with essential proteins, for dinner. Mackerel and mussels, perhaps, that smell of spring.
 
 
 
 
 

Christmas schedule 2021

On December 24 and 31, 2021 and January 5, 2022, the food market will close at 3:00 p.m.

Calendar of events

WINTER SCHEDULE

Food Market
From september 1th 2021 to july 16th 2022:
Monday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 

Supermarket Caprabo
Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Electrodomésticos Miró
Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Flower shop
Monday to Sunday from 0 to 24 h

Aragó, 313-317 08009 Barcelona
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