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Carme Ruscalleda

Bar Pinotxo is at the center of my gastronomic universe.
John Gorham
There are men who struggle every day to be happy and make others happy, that's Juanito.

Albert Adriá

With a forwards by Toro Bravo's John Gorham, and Five Star Michelin Chef, Carme Ruscalleda, and written by award winning, internationally renowned filmmaker, Robin Willis, “Bar Pinotxo: God is in the Garbanzos”, is a joyful and often poignant celebration of the history, stories, and recipes from the 17 stool chiringuito in the most famous mercado in the world. 

Hardcover - 168 Pages - 31 Recipes 

 

Introduction

Collons! Fesols de Santa Pau!

A chance encounter. A platoon of infant loligo vulgaris mercilessly mowed down in their prime. Magic white beans snatched from the center of a ring of ancient volcanoes. A magic word. Secret recipes honed by generations of finger licking. Gossip. War. A dog and of course a grandmother. This is the story of Barcelona's Bar Pinotxo.  This is "Bar Pinotxo. God is in the garbanzos", a  culinary exploration of the most famous 14 stool joint in the most famous mercado in the world.

Calamarsets amb fesols de Santa Pau

Calamarsets amb fesols de Santa Pau

Caterina Perez, La Madre, La Abuela

In many ways the story of Bar Pinotxo is the story of Barcelona in the 20th century. The Spanish civil war. Unemployment. Hunger. Fear. Desperation. A woman trying to provide for her family starts cooking for the workers and merchants at the biggest mercado in town. They like what she cooks and ask her to cook for them full time and suggests she use one of the vacant stalls (paradas). She has no money to pay the rent. They pay the rent. Later a scruffy dog waits for her children everyday in front of the market. They name the dog Pinotxo. The customers start referring to the bar as the bar from where Pinotxo the little dog is from. Soon it becomes Pinotxo's Bar, and after that Bar Pinotxo. And "poc a poc," gamba by gamba, garbanzo by garbanzo, the bar in time becomes one of the most famous culinary stops in all the world.
 

The Food

Españoles and Catalans are not really fond of radical change. They thrive on the rhythms of the predictable. Markets should reflect what is in the trees, from the fields or from the sea. They like the food that their grandmothers made for them. Croquetas, estofadas, abondigas, arroz caldoso, cocido. It’s like a sofregit (with small but important differences, sofrito in Castellano), the heart of this cooking; it’s only olive oil, tomatoes, onions and a sometimes a little bit of garlic cooked with intense attention for a very long time. Oil, first the onions, then the garlic, then the tomatoes, a touch of salt. Stir lightly, slowly, over only a whisper of heat for as long as you can while meditating on whether or the fish lady slipped you “previously” frozen cigales, Messi’s heroic header in last night’s partido against the despised Real Madrid and whether the family apartment in the Pueblo will available for next weekend. Time is elastic in Spain.

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All though change is not welcome improvisation is. It’s why you can have a great meal from a near empty refrigerator, why the door knob always comes off in your hand over and over again and why you’ll rarely get an RSVP until the last minute if at all. It’s a great way of living and cooking but I don’t think I would be comfortable in a Spanish space shuttle.

All of this ancient gri gri voodoo translates into many things. A patriarchal culture that is actually created and sustained by matriarchs. Dry cleaners that close for 3 hours in the middle of the day when everybody else is out and about during the siesta, eating, napping and looking for an open dry cleaner. Drinking lots of tiny beers rather than one big one because God might not notice. There is this intangible connection between sin, redemption, abongidas and fascists. Spain is perpetual motion teeter totter that is always swinging between 2 extreme points. Sol and sombre. Anarchy and fascism. Fiesta and famine. Jealously and generosity. Pride and a deep seated sense of inferiority. Stuffy and old fashion and informality to a fault. Isn’t this contradictory? Of course it is. It’s Iberia. It’s the Mediterranean.  

Take how those who inhabit the Iberian peninsula eat. They might put out the fancy china and glassware, they might shell out for 200 euro a kilo of Jamon, or 80 for a few percebres (barnacles! the harvesting of which every year takes the life of many percerberos) or spend all day stuffing canalones but they are still going to eat with their hands, steal food off of fellow dinners plates, stab things directly off the serving dish, use their tongues to get deep into inaccessible crustacean crevices and to the sound of laughter and the roar of conversations wash everything down with an astounding amount of vino tinto, vino blanco, cava, cervesa, vermut, chupitos de aguariente, orujo, pacharan, yerba, ratafia, or "Baileys" served in anything from a Lalique flute to repurposed Nocilla jar.

The Book

We are launching a new literary project dedicated to what just might be the most legendary thirty foot paen to simple Catalan cooking in the world, Bar Pinotxo. The bar is located in Barcelona’s internationally renowned Mercat de Sant Josep, or as it’s also affectionately known, "The Boqueria."

I’ve had the enormous privilege of being accepted into this tightly knit, family-based culinary crew because one afternoon I was asked if I wanted to help open and prep with chef Jordi Asin. This offer came as I was eating a bowl of calamarsets (baby squid) i fesols (little white beans). I seemed to have exclaimed, "Collons! Fesols de Santa Pau!" which more or less translates into "Testicles! Little beans from Santa Pau!" Three heads turned as one from the stove, espresso machine and if memory serves dishwasher. A smattering of conversation transpired, whispers and nods and then the offer was made.

I showed up the next morning at six on the dot. Jordi had me do some prep work but basically he wanted to show me how to cook a few of their more famous dishes... capipota, garbanzos with morcilla, tallerinas (small clams) scrambled with eggs, Fricandó amb moixernons... and yes... the perfect tortilla (or truita... trout! in catalan).

I spent the week opening with Jordi. I got to see how Pinotxo was much more than a fourteen seat bar for the locals and a foodie pilgrimage destination. I saw that it’s the early morning touch point for the rest of the Boqueria. Jordi would have the cafe con leches ready for the regulars... fishmongers, delivery men, the fruit sellers... just as they hit the bar. I would work until seven-thirty or so until the regular crew showed up. Walking back home I found myself nearly in tears because it was such a profoundly moving experience. Such warmth, such history, such simple, pure food that tasted so good. It was a reminder of why I have called Barcelona home for the last twelve years.


The idea is to use Bar Pinotxo both in the specific and the general. On the one hand as an exploration of the inner workings of one very tiny space and how it reflects the Boqueria. And then to expand to the bigger picture; the food eco-system of Catalunya and of Spain itself. In this way we will reveal, through story and on a human scale, the heart and soul of this wondrous part of our world.

Robin Willis