Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Thoughts from Jávea, Valencia, Spain: 10.3.20

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.   
Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain  *

 * A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.

Spanish Politics
The Spanish Economy  
  • My sister tells me the  coronavirus hates sunlight, heat and humidity. This might explain why our hotel room last Friday was like a sauna, with the thermostat set at 30 degrees . . . .
  • There's an article below on Galician food. I agree with some of what the writer says - especially about the appalling percebes - but reject her rejection of the contention that the Galicians are unadventurous about food. Except to the extent they'll eat stuff that others wouldn't touch. Such as pig's ears (Orejas). I can just about manage the pastry made to look like them.
  • Says Richard North here on that bloody virus: The total population at risk is so high, and the capacity of the NHS so low, that it is inevitable that treatment centres will be swamped, no matter what action is taken. 
The Netherlands
  • Following up on the issue of 'Dutch uncle'.  . . Another proposed explanation is that the term, often expressed as "talk to one like a Dutch uncle," originated in the early 19th century as an allusion to the sternness and sobriety attributed to the Dutch. Dutch behaviour is defined in the book Culture Shock! Netherlands: A Survival Guide To Customs and Etiquette as "practical, direct, outspoken, stubborn, well-organised, blunt and thinking they are always right."
  • In the last 10 years, I've gained several Dutch friends - but lost the best one, Peter Missler. I have no problem agreeing with that assessment. 
  • But one of said Dutch friend does: His response to me circulating it:- I totally agree. Except the ‘thinking they are always right’. No offence, but we’re seldom wrong.
  • And a second fine response: With the label ‘seldom’, a modest twist was given to this characteristic of the Dutch.
The Way of the World
  • The world possesses a 'crystal whisperer', beloved by a multitude of stars. Dear dog.
  • My uncle was a brilliant scientist. I know about these things, viruses. It's in my genes. I love this stuff. Maybe I should have become a scientist rather than president. All the doctors are amazed at how much I know and now quickly I understand. There's a beautiful test. Everyone in the country who wants one can have one immediately. Donald Trump's imaginary doppelgänger, the very stable genius. As opposed to the part-time president of the most powerful country in the world and full-time imbecile who is the real Donald Trump. There's not a scintilla of doubt that, if you made it up, you'd be considered to lack a full complement of marbles.
  • Words of the day: 
  1. Emocional
  2. Histriónico
  3. Histérico
Guess. Words that remind me of someone I used to know. Can't say any more as it would be 'sexist', one of the world's biggest crimes.

Finally . . . 

How I found my foodie tribe in Galicia: Heath Savage, The Local

In my articles for The Local I have covered a few topics centred on what it is like to move to a fascinating region like Galicia relatively late in life.

Language, home renovation, driving, health care, food…let’s get back to food.  I am not obsessed with food, but, OK, I am obsessed with food! I have come to live in the right place. I love the food here in Galicia.

I don’t just love the quality of our produce, and shopping for it in small markets where I can talk to the people who have grown or made what I have in my basket (which is also locally made by hand). I love the eating part of the story too. Galicians love to eat. I have found my tribe!

I love the simplicity of the classic Galician dishes. It would be easy to underestimate the level of skill and knowledge that is required to prepare food that looks so “ordinary”.

If you presented your average Aussie person (I nearly said “housewife”, sorry gals!) with a pig’s face and ask them to turn it into lunch, I cannot repeat what they would say to you, nor elucidate on where they would invite you to shove it. 

Suffice to say it wouldn’t be in a heavy pan with chicken stock and a bouquet garni. Cacheira is not something that I have partaken of yet, but I daresay I will get around to it. Orejas are another matter. I don’t like ‘em. Not because they are ears, it’s just the texture. Same with the chicken feet that my Chinese pals devour. I tried. I couldn’t like them. They do make a great stock though.

Galician Morcilla, blood sausage, is some of the finest I have ever tasted. I pan fry it and eat it with patatas fritas, fried eggs and bacon – what? Don’t judge me! Fried food is fine. Fat is good! That’s my mantra. Who wants to be skinny anyway?

In Jaen, about an hour away from Granada, they famously turn morcilla into a pate, which I am keen to sample next time I fly south. I have heard so may ex-pats say: "No way!"  to morcilla. Their loss. All the more for me.

But back to the glorious green north. Percebes – goose-neck barnacles – are a bit of a novelty that I could live without. You have to bite off a leathery “neck” (whence the name comes) to suck out the salty interior.

It’s an experience. I have experienced them now. I probably won’t again. As with many “delicacies”, I think that endowing something with this status is just a way to persuade people, in times of hardship, that gross things are good to eat, especially if you give them their own fiesta.

Navajas, razor clams, are another unusual menu item. One word: yum! Dressed with a little olive oil, and garlic, they are sublime. Weird, but sublime. And I like that I don’t have to visit a fancy-schmancy restaurant in order to eat them. They are everywhere in season. 

There are at least three people producing exquisite honey within twenty kilometres of our house. Yet, I know people who are happy to spend fifty or sixty euros ordering Manuka honey online! When everyone makes their own chorizo and criollas at home, in October, they throw a party. Get yourself invited!

One of our Spanish friends is a forager, who finds the most delicious mushrooms, greens and wild herbs everywhere. No expert I, a short walk along my lane, and I can pick enough nettles and wild garlic for a soup. There are bay leaves, elder flowers and berries, and dandelions for making tea. I am eager to go foraging with my expert pal soon, and to creatively prepare whatever we find.

It’s also important to forage in your local markets and shops for the best of local produce. I wince when I hear fellow migrants comparing supermarkets all the time. Get OUT of the supermarkets and into the markets! Meet your local farmers, butchers, fishermen and growers. Buy and eat the best of Galicia. You won’t be disappointed.

I always like to offer Galician friends and neighbours some of the dishes I prepare at home that they probably wouldn’t tackle otherwise: steak pies, sausage rolls, Lebanese flat breads, Greek keftedes and spanakopitas, Saltimboca (a wonderful way to celebrate Galician veal and jamon).

Desserts like Pavlova, and apple crumble are always well received. They love it. And I have a queue forming for my BBQ and chilli sauces!

There is a mistaken notion among the migrant communities that the Spanish, especially the Galicians, are not adventurous with food. That is such a misrepresentation.

As with everything else that is new: if you are not offered it, you may not have the confidence to try it. Go for it. Share your speciality dishes with your Spanish friends, and make sure that you explore theirs.

  • Galicia Living is a new property development outfit here in Southern Galicia (As Rías Baixas), owned by a friend of mine. So, if you're looking for a house here, get in touch with them. And, if you're particularly interested in the lovely Miño area down on the border with Portugal, let me know on doncolin@gmail.com and I'll send you my write-up on it.

1 comment:

Perry said...

I need to check your thinking. Six dreadful words.