Spanish Culture: One of my guests - a young man who's lived in Barcelona - commented yesterday that you never see anyone on the streets here when it's raining. To which I replied: Yes, and if it's a public holiday, you'll be lucky to see anyone other than the owners of bars, cafes and pastry shops in town. Plus, of course, an occasional customer.
Spanish Default: The country, it's reported, has a long way to go to live up to its commitment to reduced emissions.
Happy Expats: Here's one person's main ways to enjoy life here. Not much to argue with.
Russia: I read in the FT that living standards are plumetting there. As if! If this were really true, I'd have surely heard about it on RT News.
Fortune: Hard as it is to believe, I missed out 2 pairs of broken reading glasses from yesterday's list of woe. BUT . . . The wheel turns. Having warned me that my laptop was probably 'dead, dead, dead', the IT guy managed to get it to work again. And, yes, my Power Pack seems to be charging my phone as I write. Capricious Lady Luck.
Finally . . . Galician Octopus: Here's the FT[sic] on the joy of eating octopus. Which - to be honest - I can take or leave:-
A Postcard from Galicia: A pilgrimage across north-west Spain to try one of its most-feted delicacies: the octopus.
A pilgrimage across Galicia in north-west Spain doesn’t necessarily mean a walk along the famous Camino de Santiago. Rivalling the Basque country for its produce, this wild land above Portugal is popular with food-lovers who come for the flavour-bursting fat of Galician beef and the Padron peppers.
I’m here for another of Galicia’s most-feted delicacies: octopus. So prized were they in the sixth century, they were used as currency. Monastic orders such as San Fructuoso de Braga leased land around the sea to settlers and allowed them to pay with the eight-legged mollusc.
As we’re staying in Pontevedra, a remote place where fecund hills appear seamlessly joined, with only villages interrupting, it’s Vigo we visit first. Just 33km south of our casa rural and perched by the Atlantic, the city is Galicia’s most populous and has a vast fishing port. In the middle of the old quarter you’ll find El Capitán, an inconspicuous restaurant on Rúa Triunfo, recommended for its octopus, otherwise known as pulpo.
In Galicia, pulpo can be served grilled, resulting in sticky, caramelised morsels. There’s pulpo empanada, the go-to pastry for a delectable snack. But it’s pulpo á feirathat is hard-wired in the Galician culture. Our host, José Alberto, says: “Galicians are very proud of their food, especially this. People travel from far to try it.”
Certainly, the Spanish couple on the bench behind us are here for it. They are waiting excitedly and the arrival of the juicy purple-and-cream-coloured suckers on their table rouses noisy chatter. Then it’s our turn.
It is served on a wooden circular board. The tentacles are cut and dusted with paprika and olive oil. It’s sweet, fleshy, and the tenderest I’ve eaten. You don’t use a knife and fork or fingers — toothpicks are obligatory.
“We put the pulpo in boiling water in a copper pot, without any salt,” says Alberto. “It goes down three times.” On the third time, it’s simmered 20 minutes or more, depending on the size.”
The end result is exquisite, but only our initiation. We’ve not gorged enough and various locals suggest we try O Xantar de Otelo restaurant, run by a family of fishermen in Redondela, 14km north of Vigo.
The next day, we pull up at this unremarkable-looking restaurant by a train station. It’s midweek and quiet, but its speciality is pulpo á feira. It’s incredible — soft, scallop-like in the centre with a creamy exterior. The coarse salt, with extra virgin olive oil and picante paprika, is all you need. It’s a revelation.
Pulpeiras — yes, there’s a word for an octopus cook — dunk the beasts in large copper cauldrons, serving it as street-food to a hungry crowd. It’s a must-see
Another destination worth paying tribute to on this pilgrimage is the Galician furancho, which are people’s private homes where homemade wine surplus is sold. We’re encouraged to try the Reboraina back in Redondela, which is seasonally open and worth the visit for both its food and wine. A glass of peachy white made from the Albariño grape is the octopus’s best friend.
By now, I’d climb mountains and sail seas for Galician pulpo. Yet we don’t have to — we saunter everywhere in our car, eating it daily. Hoggish, I know, but we’re tourists (there are few others — the roads are nearly empty bar a smattering of bone fide humpbacked pilgrims marching the highways).
To finish, we’re told to head to Ourense, the capital of the eponymous region, 93km east inland. There you can buy an entire pulpo from stalls and take it home. Additionally, Galicians gather on Sundays in the centre of town, where pulpeiras — yes, there’s a word for an octopus cook — mostly grannies, dunk the beasts in large copper cauldrons, serving it as street-food to a hungry crowd. It’s a must-see spectacle.
It seems ironic the pulpo á feira Mecca is inland. But this is historically where the monasteries were based and pulpo travelled well compared to other seafood. Even nowadays, it’s the Fiesta del Pulpo in Carballiño, Ourense, that Spaniards come from far and wide to participate in. Alberto believes it’s the best way to try this gastronomic experience.
“My most special memory of it is in a summer festival: the atmosphere, the boiling cauldrons, people, it sums it up,” he says.
I can’t think of better.
The lovely Alma has left a comment to yesterday's post, referring to a Santiago cross. This is the sort of thing she means:-
1. The view from the steps of the basilica de Santa Maria in Pontevedra's old quarter:
2. The view using my camera's telescopic lens:
3. The view using the digital telescopic lens, showing my bougainvillea and my palm tree. And my neighbour's huge BBQ. Not to mention the large satellite dish on the side of my house.