The Great Plotnik

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10-18: Barcelona

OK, forget everything you might have heard about Spanish food, here or anywhere else, just in case any spiritual leader you may follow from time to time might have said something about, you know, blandness or, like, tiresomeness, or, kind of, blew smoke out of his culo.

Because we are not In Spain any more, exactly. We are in the homeland of the Catalans now, where everyone speaks Spanish but the signs are in Catalan, which you can almost read, but not quite, and almost pronounce, but not really. Barcelona is one gigantic puddle of delightful incredulity after another and the food is only the start of it.

But what a start. Today, for lunch, after seeing Antoni Gaudi's Battlo House, which is pronounced Bat-YO, and is the singular most unbelievable, other worldly and unique piece of architecturally twisted genius that Plot and Duck have ever seen, anywhere, they started out for this special park, but they got lost a lot, and then there's the bus driver's strike, which the government will only allow them to do for a few hours each day, so the bus drivers only strike for a few hours each day, but they WON'T TELL YOU WHICH HOURS, is that genius or what?

The Plotniks finally ended up in La Boqueria, which is a huge open-air market where they sell spices and vegetables and fish and €150 per kilo designer ham in the front, but in the back have fresh fish stands with bar stools and counters where an unshaven cook - who isn't smoking a cigarette - prepares the day's catch and you eat it. He doesn't have to shave, he's that good.

There are no empty stools. Anyway you don't sit down, you first have to call out your name for a man with a white shirt who keeps it in a tiny notebook you can't see. When your name gets called, you go stand behind two other people, who are still finishing their meal at the counter. After they look over their shoulder enough, they get up and you grab their seats.

A guy thwaps fish and shellfish and vegetables (Yes! A vegetable besides hops!) onto a blistering grill. The calamari sizzle and puff up. The tuna and huge prawns start to smoke and he uses a spatula to keep the mussels turning. Flash scalded red peppers and green peppers and asparagus and eggplant and artichokes get scooped onto your plate with fish so fresh it gets slapped by the other fish.

What can I say. I knew I'd spoken too soon. But that was when we were back in Spain. Barcelona is Europe plus midtown Manhattan, but with beautiful streets and wide pedestrian and bike lanes and places for kids to play and probably costs a fortune to live in, and people strike, sort of, and want to separate and form their own country, which is partly because of history. And culture.

Madrid is the dad but Barcelona is where all the kids want to live. Madrid is Conservative and Barcelona is Whatever. The Catholic church supported dictator Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and Barcelona did not, and so Franco tried to strangle Catalonia for the next forty years until the old fascist fart finally died.

Madrid has tapas. Barcelona has soul. And tapas. And museums that wear you out.


At 7:03 AM, Blogger mary ann said...

oh yes, this is the Spain we remember!

At 9:03 AM, Blogger The Fevered Brain said...

Thank you so much for this delicious post. Like the previous poster, this was our favorite city in Spain, and the Boqueria our favorite entertainment spot. Are you going out to Sitges? Don't miss Cau Ferat, the Rosigñol museum. Great stuff.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger DAK said...

Susan, thanks. But the Rosignol in cap Ferat is closed for renovation, as is the maririme museum and half the restaurants on our list. Tough times in Catalunya.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger DAK said...

Susan, thanks. But the Rosignol in cap Ferat is closed for renovation, as is the maririme museum and half the restaurants on our list. Tough times in Catalunya.


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