a paella, back to writing
Earlier this week, for no apparent reason other than the infinite vagaries of memory, I was reminded of my very first meal in Spain (or at least the very first i cared to remember). i had just arrived in Barcelona from working in France, hauling a huge backup and hungry. My uncle had recommended i call a professor friend of his who lived in the city, who was also somewhat of a serious gourmet (later that week he would introduce me to Lopez de Heredia and jamón ibérico de bellota (try getting your first memories of those two out of your head), for lunch. i met him outside the Corte Inglés with his wife (people throw around the term “Spanish beauty” for a reason. After that, before even seeing the city, we left in his car and went along the coast.
So we drove, i was exhausted but i listened to him talk about the peculiar politics of Catalonia and the Basque country, both of which he had taught at some point in his life. We drove some vineyards that were meant for Cava (he gave most a dismissive wave), and finally we arrived at the restaurant. The owner greeted him warmly, it was the type of restaurant that held memories for him that i wasn’t privy too, memories from the look on his face transcended the food.
Ah, the food. This was my particular introduction to Spanish culture, food and wine and politics, which is not a bad way to get acquainted with any culture in my estimation. He ordered for the three of us and not a moment after bottles came out and were placed on the table. The owner sat with us for a spell, someone who may or may not have been her husband came and shared a glass. Folks would poke their heads in and wave, thinking perhaps they knew us, perhaps they knew Jorgé, but we waved back just in case.
Then the paella came out. It was the horn of plenty of paellas, the opposite of these oh-so-precious dishes of what-the-fuck-ever that pass as food. We talked for what seemed like hours (and was probably, in fact, hours), slowly working our way through the dish in front of us. Jorgé told a story about making a paella in Texas with a friend, and how neighbors, keen on the trail of barbecue, had poked begun to poke their heads over the fences surrounding them to see what was cooking. Inevitably they would show up minutes later with in Jorgé’s words, with his arms outstretched for emphasis “suitcases of beer.” He made 5 paellas that day, and knows a lot more about Texans.
i have no idea what we drank, but that wasn’t really the point.
The paella was, and still is, the best paella i’ve ever had.