For the Danish blog I have just finished writing a shopping guide to Venice, which of course mentions the famous fish market near the Rialto bridge. That reminded me of Elizabeth David’s classic cook book on Italian Food from 1954 with its vivid and sensual description of tastes, colours and light. Rereading the piece seems to place you right in the middle of the morning hustle, and you can almost smell the fish, that have just been brought in from the Adriatic Sea. Apparently the atmosphere at the Campo della Pescheria has not changed over the last 50 years. A fantastic adventure for real and in writing, even if you don’t bother to go shopping at 4 am in the morning.
“Of all the spectacular food markets in Italy, the one near the Rialto Bridge in Venice must be the most remarkable. This light os a Venetian dawn in early summer – you must be about at four o’clock in the morning to see the market come to life – is so limpid and so still that it makes every separate vegetable and fruit and fish luminous with a life of its own, with unnaturally heightened colours and clear stenciled outlines. Here the cabbages are cobalt blue, the beetroots deep rose, the lettuces clear pure green, sharp as glass. Bunches of gaudy gold marrow-flowers show off the elegance of pink and white marbled bean pods, primrose potatoes, green plums, green peas. The colours of the peaches, cherries and apricots, packed in boxes lined with sugar-bag blue paper matching the blue canvas trousers worn by the men unloading the gondolas, are reflected in the rose-red mullet and the orange vongole and canestrelle which have been prised out of their shells and heaped into baskets. In other markets, on other shores, the unfamiliar fishes may be vivid, mysterious, repellent, fascinating, and bright with splendid colour; only in Venice do they look good enough to eat. In Venice even ordinary sole and ugly great skate are striped with delicate lilac lights, the sardines shine like newly-minted silver coins, pink Venetian scampi are fat and fresh, infinitely enticing in the early dawn.
The gentle swaying of the laden gondolas, the movements of the market men as they unloead, swinging the boxes and baskets ashore, the robust life and rattling noise contrasted with the fragile taffeta colours and the opal sky of Venice – the whole scene is set out of some marvelous unheard-of ballet.”
After the poetry, Elizabeth David serves recipies for different fish prepared in 70 different Italian ways. A remarkable feat and a highly recommendable book, if you have not got it already.
Other notes like this one on Venice fishmarket