Friday, April 13, 2007

So far this year, road deaths in Spain are well down on 2005. However, Easter Week saw a sharp reversal in this trend, leading to claims the new points-based licence system has run out of steam. I suspect, though, it had more to do with the unseasonably heavy rains over most of Spain during this period. In evidence, here in sunny Galicia the figure dropped to the lowest in 6 years.


There were some interesting figures in the local press this week on the percentages of people in our cities who speak mainly or only Gallego:-
Santiago - 60
Ourense – 59
Lugo – 58
Pontevedra - 47
La Coruña – 36
Vigo – 35
Ferrol – 33.

The figure for those speaking only Gallego ranged from a mere 4% in Vigo to 29% in Santiago, which is of course the capital city and the seat of the Xunta.

The thrust of the article was that the numbers were much higher in the countryside and that Gallego was in danger of dying in the cities. Especially in those along the ‘more developed’ coast, it seems.

Less importantly, downing my daily fibre in front of my TV this morning I noticed the dubbing into Gallego of old Columbo episodes doesn’t include the phone. This rings in a very characteristically American way and so bears no relation to our phones. This looks like cheeseparing to me.

Finally, here’s my latest 3-year compilation, on the subject of FOOD. The entries are few, probably reflecting the fact that the subject has already been largely covered in the long GALICIA compilations . . .


A recent survey of 85 Spanish media notables produced this list of the 10 favourite dishes from Spanish cuisine:-
1. Paella
2. Gazpacho
3.Tortilla con patatas - potato omelette
4. Madrid stew
5. Fabada – a stew of beans, pork and ‘etc.’
6. Marmitako – Fish stew, I think
7. Octopus Galician style [i. e. with paprika]
8. Roast lamb
9. Pisto manchego – Fried vegetable hash. Or ratatouille
10. Migas – Fried breadcrumbs

There is something reassuringly simple about this list. More British than French in its approach, I guess.

In the Spectator this week, a contributor to the section on Modern Luxuries complains that it’s hard to get the likes of pig’s spleen and chicken necks these days. He should come to Galicia. Here they are laid out – prepackaged – on the supermarket shelves. The locals favour them because they are not long off being poor. Here the equivalent of Sunday roast is a stew which contains [along with a token vegetable] parts of animals I have never even heard of, never mind eaten. Popular as these dishes are, I guess it would amuse the Galicians to know that they are comprised of luxuries. They reserve this label for the goose barnacles [percebes] that often prove fatal to collect and which I saw on sale in a Santiago restaurant last week for 120 euros a kilo. Personally, I find them as repulsive as gizzards and tripe. But, then, I have always been a fussy eater. Needless to say, they are reputed to have aphrodisiacal qualities.

In a local village this weekend, they had one of the many ‘gastronomic festivals’ which dot the summer in Spain. This one involved the cooking – in a massive pot - of 1,400 portions of tripe, said to be a new Guinness world record.

The Spanish have special cakes for most big feast days. All Saints day is coming up and this is the day when everyone visits family graves. The cakes sold this week resemble little bones and, indeed, this is what they are called.

In accordance with tradition, seafood prices soared in the days before the big meal on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. By far the most impressive surge was registered by camarones, a type of shrimp. These achieved a ceiling of €260 a kilo. Or £83 [$160] a pound. It would have been a real tragedy to have choked to death on one of these. Or, worse, on two.


I mentioned a few days ago that shellfish used to be the food of the poor in Galicia. According to Roy Adkins’ fine book on Trafalgar, this was also true of oysters in the UK in the early 19th century, so plentiful were they then.

I read yesterday that oil reserves will start running down within 10 years, ultimately forcing us to return to local [and seasonal] self-reliance. If true, this will leave Spain in a far better position than, say, the UK where foodstuffs are transported thousands of miles so that supermarkets can offer everything to everyone, every day of the year. Here most produce is still locally grown and the seasons still mean something.


I mentioned the other day an expensive shellfish called the percebe, or ‘goose barnacle’ in English. To me at least, this looks repulsive and tastes no better than salinated rubber. Despite this, it sells at a prodigious price to those who feel it has echoes of the brave men who risk their lives scraping it off the wave-tossed, oxygenated rocks it colonises. Last Christmas it sold for 230 euros a kilo - or 70 quid a pound - but this year you can snap it up for a mere 350. Or a staggering 106 quid a pound. It takes all sorts.

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