The Great Plotnik

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Spain and Portugal: The Food Post

Nine o'clock am, been up since four. That's the way it goes after long flights. Time changes take awhile to readjust to. Digestion makes you lumpy and bug bites make you jumpy. But it's worth it all, as long as you don't get Montezuma's Revenge, which the worldwide availability of bottled water has made less likely, in the first or second world anyway.

Plottie had been afraid of the food in Spain. At first, Maria la Vírgin de Jamon (the Virgin of Ham) was a little overwhelming, but once he got used to her showing up in everything (eggs with ham, white beans with ham, shrimp with ham, artichokes with ham, cathedral with ham, tour bus with ham), he got very comfortable with the hours and the concept of eating less but more often. He misses that now.

He doesn't want to sit down to dinner at six or seven, he wants to take a nap at four, wake up at six, go out at eight or nine for a beer, some soccer game on TV (Chicos, the World Series is on! The World Series? You know, beisbol?), eat a few tapas and engage other humans in conversation, everyone wondering if Obama will win or that other guy who will declare war on the rest of the world.

"Booosh, so stupeeed, what wrong wit America? Obama save you country and us too. What happens to you happens to us later! Now you want another Booosh Stupeeed?"

Didn't happen. Many thanks to the Virgin of Common Sense.

 And the food got better and better. Everything cooked in olive oil, fresh fish, fabulous beef and pork, olives, padron peppers and setas (mushrooms), small glasses of tap beer or cheap copas of red wine. What is not to like here?

One Through Five.

The Spanish make really bad pastry. The pastries in Spain are mainly very plain.

But the Portuguese make unbelievably tasty pastry. The best things we ate in either country were the queiijadas at Pasteles de Belém in Belém, Lisbon.

There was a line out the door. What you did was get in the line, ask no questions, when you got to the front you told the girl behind the cash register how many. Not what, just how many: 2? 4? 6? They would sell you as many as 110 dozen.

You paid, 1 euro five centimos per. She gave you a ticket. You stood around, wondering what to do next. Eventually, the line surged you to the left. After awhile your surge would stop in front of a guy behind the counter who would take your ticket, look at it, stamp it, stick it on a nail, then go to the tables behind him, grab as many queijadas as you'd asked for, put them in a box and shove you out the door.

There were a lot of pastries and cookies in that bakery case but you didn't get a choice. All you could buy were the queijadas. And why?

Because you NEVER tasted anything that good.

In Seville, especially in the old town, which was the old Jewish Quarter, where there hadn't been any Jews for 700 years, except for the conversos, who were probably now brokering all that ham, you ate pulpo (octopus). Mmmmmm, dang!  Number two on the list is the pulpo tapa at Las Teresas in Barrio Santa Cruz, Seville. No picture of the that lovely tapa, but we do have one we took of Jesus' autographed photo which hung on the wall next to old bottles of wine and soccer stars.

Close behind, the cocido and ropa vieja tapas at La Daniela, Madrid. Ropa vieja was basically garbanzo beans in a meaty sauce. Cocido had cooked all day to make the famous Cocido Madrileño, the specialty of the house, a beef and vegetable stew. They'd dish you out a tapa sized portion and put it 
 on toast.

In Barcelona it was all about fish (The calamari and roast vegetables at La Boqueria, Fishy fresh for Dougy Fresh)...

...but the Solomillo (loin of...not sure, beef or pork) in black pepper sauce at (name to be supplied later) Restaurant in the Gracia section of Barcelona, was exceptionally good, perhaps even more so because we expected so little. The waiter was a nice young Pakistani, with shall we say profound odeur des armpits, who insisted on speaking English to us that we couldn't understand. We wanted paella. He said they were out of paella. So we ordered the solomillo. When he brought it, he wondered why we hadn't ordered paella. We said because he had told us they were out of paella. He asked us if we liked music. When I sang "O Solo Mio" to him, which is the obvious accompaniment, wouldn't you think, for a dish called solomillo?, he didn't get it. It was the best meat, whatever it was, that we had in Spain.

This sign is from Lisbon but you can see how easy it is to make the meat mistake. And we had great paella in Girona.

There is another world out there, amigos. You realize it when you come home and settle back into your same old routine, which you recognize right away you are doing by rote, on automatic pilot.

But you can't travel forever either. 

Tomorrow we'll show you the list of the places we loved best on that peninsula. Hay muchos. Á muitos.


At 6:23 PM, Blogger mary ann said...

yum oh yum

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Karen said...

That top photo looks like the stuff they put out at Halloween haunted houses to make you squeal over human guts.


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