far too much writing, far too many photos

[Continued from entry of 11 March.]

Soon as we sat down, a sizeable loaf of hard-crusted bread materialized, along with a large knife. Marco took to carving the bugger up and strewing slices around, us gnawing on them as we tried out the cider. Before long the first course appeared, a large platter of tortilla de bacalao. On the chance you don’t already know this, a Spanish tortilla has no relation to a Mexican one except that they’re round and get eaten. Spanish tortilla: essentially a kind of omelet, usually in a form that suggests a quiche/omelet hybrid. Thick and round, made with eggs, with potatoes and/or green or red pepper, often with other ingredients –- ham, shrimp, greens, sausage. They’re delicious, and have been a near staple of my diet here. Bacalao is salt cod, which is what this tortilla contained. Though I’m not generally a fan of fish (pescado), bacalao is usually mild enough that I can deal, which proved to be the case here. (Bacalao: also the Spanish word for techno, as in music of the 210 beats per minutes variety. Why? Got me.)

We were given no plates apart from the platter with the tortilla, leaving us no option but to use forks to cut pieces off rapidly-shrinking mother tortilla and ferry them directly to mouths. Between the four of us, the tortilla dematerialized in no time flat.

Next course: a chuletón. A chuleta is a chop, often a pork chop (chuleta de cerdo). A chuletón is a massive version of a chop or, speaking technically, a huge freakin’ slab of meat. In this case a gigantic slab of beef, done dark on the outside, which gave the appearance of having been well-cooked. (Brief pause for snorts of laughter.) On cutting into it, we found ourselves staring at meat of such a deep, shocking red that Curtis wondered aloud if they’d actually cooked the bugger or if they’d just slapped some black paint on it. It was, apart from the seared exterior, some of the rawest flesh I’ve ever eaten. And, I’ll admit it, pretty good. The four of us quickly demolished the first one. Jim called for a second, it appeared. I’d about reached my limit for consumption of raw flesh, but as this one turned out to be bit more well-done, I had a little. When that one disappeared, Jim called for a third. Even the proprietor seemed impressed with that. That final slab essentially went to Jim and Curtis.

During all this, more diners arrived, the calls to cider continued. A couple of times, those calls led the growing crowd down into a sub-basement where two more casks lurked. At one point, the proprietor led everyone outside and around the corner of the building to a storage room, redolent of hay and crisp country air, housing two large metal tanks off at one end, each containing a batch of cider. After the afternoon’s initial cider round, Curtis, Jim and Marco collectively decided they preferred wine, they spent the rest of the event working their way through a couple of pitchers worth. I stuck to cider, being immune to the alcohol and enjoying the semi-chaotic ritual of it all.

The crowd sharing the basement with us: an interesting, motley group. Entirely Spaniards, I think, apart from our table, including families with children — the children sitting together at a table coloring with crayons — and at least two infants, who received a lot of attention. There were a fair number of 20-somethings, including one anarchist at the table behind me who got some marijuana circulating. We didn’t realize this until we saw the proprietor standing by one of the casks near our table finishing off a joint (un porro). We got talking with the 20-something, he immediately laid half of a porro on us, which Curtis and I stared at as if someone had just handed us a live grenade. I prefer to stay more or less lucid, so took a fast, cosmetic, token hit and tossed it to Curtis, who appeared completely perplexed. We tried to give it back to the 20-something, he insisted it remain in circulation, Curtis finally handed it off in another direction.

[Continued in entry of 13 March.]

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