We are in the middle of the Prawn Festival in Soller. Participating restaurants have special prawn menus and all eyes are on our deep pink prawns. Puerto Soller is a fishing port and the boats go out each day. Their return is greeted around 5pm by some of the families of the fishermen grateful for their safe return. The banter at the quayside as they prepare the catch to hit the refrigerated lorries is great. Some fish are destined for the small fish hall to be sold there and then to locals and the rest are soon on their way to Palma.

The fishing traditions are rooted in the Puerto Soller and we all unconsciously look for their return each day with the circling birds around each boat. The fishermen tended to come from the same families in the past. These days there are a few new faces as many young look at this life as being not for them. This continues a tradition set years ago when tourism first blossomed in Mallorca. The young who expected to find their life’s work amongst the olive groves of the Soller Valley saw a different world in hospitality on the coasts. The small local bars gave their children to the trendy cocktails and City life bars. The world became technical and the computer is king now with so many technical jobs out there for all. The life of the fisherman has become a ‘calling’ rather than a job.

Celebrity chefs visit and are filmed on the quayside as the prawns are brought in. They give us the benefit of their skills and all say the same thing. ‘These prawns are so good they need minimum work and cooking to be enjoyed in their perfection’.

There are some voices out there which say the equipment used these days allow the seabed to be hoovered up. The prawns can be caught in too greater numbers and the rules are not being adhered to. No good scooping up everything or there will be nothing ready for the next time the fishing nets are down. ‘Back to the traditional ways’, say some when technology didn’t help the fishermen so much. This is a highly emotive subject and I only mention it for balance.

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Fish and prawns are a staple diet of older Sollerics. Fish plays a very important part in their diet. They will tell you that when times were hard they could still go out on a small boat and catch a couple of fish for lunch that day. They are the group who can’t get over the price fish is sold for. In their minds it is the harvest of the sea, available to anyone with a fishing rod.

This is also the prevailing view of those who grow the tomatoes and oranges of the Valley. Locals invite each other in to ‘help themselves’ to their garden produce. My neighbours dry trays and trays of tomatoes on the balcony. Genuine, local sun dried tomatoes for the winter, bottled in oil and delicious.

As we contemplate food price hikes there is a lot of home bottling going in the Soller Valley. The gluts of apricots, plums, oranges, kiwis and more are all finding their ways into the store cupboards. When life was tough a staple meal of the day was Sopas Mallorquin. Still on menus today, but not made so often at home. Stale bread, cabbage, vegetables and broth added to with bits of meat you had left over. Mostly made without any meat content at all. Chefs have different versions with some making it sloppy and others dry, with all liquid evaporated and absorbed into the bread. Pa amb oli, the country bread with ramallet tomatoes, cheese and or ham is the staple lunch even now for many. The return to the old dishes and ways of using every bit in the cupboard for financial reasons is returning.

Food is becoming a very important part of the debate about working life and conditions. When families are struggling financially they do all they can to make sure their children are fed. This often means their own diet is limited. Some employers are now starting their workers benefits with a ‘menu of the day’ free for all staff. If they have staff canteens they offer this ‘in house-. if not they make arrangements with local restaurants to pay for the lunch of their workers. Fruit baskets are commonly seen in place of work for staff to help themselves. We are entering extraordinary times where these concessions will become the norm as everyone needs to be fed to have the energy to work and live.

The prawn, the fish, the orange are all symbols of our Soller Valley world and we are sustained by them.