Tuesday, April 22, 2008

For the third year in a row, the El Bulli restaurant in Cataluña has been voted the best restaurant in the world. And Spain has taken 3 of the top ten spots, against 2 for France and the USA and only 1 for the UK. Though the British restaurant did get the no. 2 slot. Of the top 20, France has 5, the UK and the USA 4 each, and Spain 3. I wonder how many of these take the Galician view that sauces are the spawn of the devil. Fit only for disguising poor quality meat or seafood. Not many is my guess.

You have to smile. The chap in the centre of the massive Marbella municipal fraud scandal says he only lent the money he passed to members of the town council. And then you have to frown – How did he manage to get the €1 million to pay his bail? But at least the judge has initiated an investigation into this. Or will when he’s stopped laughing.

My thanks to readers who responded on the issue of the Spanish political scene. It’s true I’d forgotten that in much of Continental Europe ‘liberal’ is a term of abuse. Implying red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism at worst or Mrs Thatcher at best.

El Mundo – in support of Esperanza Aguirre – calls for more democracy in the way the PP party elects its leader. Which must cause problems for Graeme at South of Watford. For he’s criticised the absence of this but surely wouldn’t want it initiated just to bring ‘Espe’ to the fore. Except that he would if it meant another defeat for the PP. Life can get complicated for the politically active. We apathetic cynics have it much easier. It’ll be a real challenge for me when I finally get Spanish nationality and am allowed to vote for the people who want to tax me more.

Words: Is the Spanish un raid, an Anglicism or Spanglish? Or neither? Doesn’t sound very Latinate. In Mexico, it means a lift/ride, apparently.

Phrases: There’s a dental system much advertised in Spain called All On Fours. I haven’t the foggiest what this is intended to convey but presumably not On All fours. Strange postures do have to be adopted in a dental chair but surely not this one.

Galicia Facts

The Galician fishing fleet has reduced by a third in seven years. Whether this has been compensated for by larger boats, we are not told.

In 2007, only Andalucia received more state aid than Galicia, the numbers being €343m and €147m, respectively. This is a big gap. But, then, so is the next one down to Castile y La Mancha, in third place with ‘only’ €78m. I guess population is the key.

Alongside the Water Wars taking place between Madrid, Cataluña, Valencia and Murcia, we’re having one of our own up here in Galicia. This is between us and God. And God is winning. It’s rained on more than 50% of the days since the turn of the year, reminding me of my first winter here – 2000/1 – which was even worse. I lost five umbrellas back then, not one of which was stolen. It’s salutary to be reminded that we effectively live in the Atlantic. Which has again today shrouded us in its blanket. But, hey! It was 30 degrees here during my last week in the freezing UK. And what goes up must come down. It’s not all bad; it’s a great day for doing my tax return. And putting the heating back on.

There’s not a lot of vandalism in Pontevedra but graffiti is a big problem. Scarcely is the paint dry on a façade than the idiots are out with their spray cans. If it’s possible, things are even worse in my daughter’s barrio of Malasaña in central Madrid. But being young and artistic, I fancy she quite likes hers. By which I don’t mean that she actually does it. Too busy teaching, novel-writing and partying. But not necessarily in that order.

The city’s collection of old mansions which form its excellent museum is soon to be replaced by a single modern building near the river and visible from my eyrie. It’s built largely of what one might call sheet granite and, to me, is repulsive. Possibly its only redeeming [external] feature is four horizontal glass bands, which are presumably the windows. These give off a fierce blue light at night. All night. Which seems a tad odd in these ecological times. Perhaps the energy comes from candles. Or from the equally ugly wind turbines above the city. Which would give everything a certain aesthetic cogency. For which future generations will doubtless be grateful. Or at least more grateful than me.


Graeme said...

I haven't read El Mundo's piece Colin, but I suspect that their call for more democracy means more delegates for pro-Aguirre Madrid in relation to other areas and fewer delegates needed to challenge the leader - that's been the principal complaint of Aguirre supporters. If they want a democratic party then should have chosen another one.

Duardón de Albaredo said...

Colin, you are obviously right about the Galician gastronomy avoiding the sauces.

Someone else said (commenting one of your articles) the classic argument: "sauces may hide the bad quality of ingredients; no sauce = you appreciate the product itself. No tricks that is".

I still think this is a very valid argument. But NOT always true. It is well known that third world countries use sauces in astronomical quantities. And we know many times they do so because er... the quality of the product is very low. In other words, they are somehow forced to add sauces or spices. On the other hand, let's take France. Gastronomy there is "art". And the quality of the products is just very reputed. AND they still use sauces. The reason here: the “sophistication” of the French “civilization”. Cooking is a creative, artistic thing: they play with ingredients. And yes, the results are amazing.

As you may deduce, the answer is easy now (possibly): Galicians avoid sauces because of a lack of “sophistication”. Notice this may be both positive or negative... It all depends on the perspective. Do you remember the “Galician dog outside” thing? I told you that this was the classic peasant mentality (present in urban areas though). I suspect I was right. Then the same can be said about gastronomy. Galician gastronomy is still a “peasant”, “grandmother” thing (needless to say, no offense intended at all). No sophistication then.

My personal view: sometimes I want to taste the product itself. Especially when it is a first quality product. And luckily we have many first class products in Galicia (meat, fish and seafood. Not to mention the potatoes…). But sometimes I want to eat "sophisticated" meals too ;)

A last note: it should be noted that now a lot of people (in developed countries) are saying “we are tired of eating shit (industrial agriculture that is)” [and Galicians don’t have this problem yet] Now they want the old, simple “ecological” products. And this ecological thing is growing (France, UK, Germany, etc.). “Shit? No thanks. We want beef, NOT plastic” etc., etc. I suspect all these people just want to know what is the real taste of pork, tomatoes… And I too suspect they will not add sauces. They are merely interested in rediscovering the natural taste of aliments (which they never ate before, who knows: urban people have been fed a lot of shit. Er… they are used to it, after all). In other words, the Ecological Gastronomy is Wanted Dead or Alive. Simplicity is back. And Galician gastronomy excels at that. We already are in this “new” El Dorado.

So, what’s your point? You can’t find a restaurant (in Pontevedra?) where they serve “sophisticated” plates?

Colin said...

Thanks for this. I don't have a problem with any of it, except that - while I like unadorned Galician fish, pork and lamb [chicken even], I find ternera - and even buey [ nowhere near as good as beef in other parts of the world. And I would like to be able to dip my prawns in something other than garlic oil from time to time.

As for sauces in Pontevedra - We have Chinese [4 or 5], Mexican [2], 'Italian' [3 or 4] and now, Indian [1]. But the dishes are all heavily Galicianised. The Korean restaurant didn't survive. and the vegetarian restaurant now serves meat. Plus we have 3 kebab shops. If you like that sort of thing.