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.