Thursday, December 21, 2006

Viva España!

Sorry it has taken like three full days of bachannalian eating and drinking to report back to you, my dears, but I have been too busy stuffing myself and worrying about the consequences, to look for an internet cafe. So here I am, having a splendid time in Madrid, a city that is charmingly oblivious to change in many respects and not so charmingly in others.
Charming: The food rocks. You can have wonderful food in Paris, but it is never going to be as much fun as it is here. 1. It is non-stop. 24/7 there is food to be had in this town. Standing up, sitting down, while nursing a drink, you will not go hungry. Later on I will show you pictures. I´ve been taking pictures of the food so you can believe me. Who cares about anything else?
First meal out of the gate: Outdoors at the Plaza Santa Ana attended by rude and bickering waiters, enjoying the crisp, sunny winter day with a glass of El Coto that tastes much better here than when I buy it in NY. Our waiter was too busy flirting with an Argentinian mutant amazon who seemed to be some sort of surgically enhanced celebrity to pay much mind to us, but he did bring us an order of tender, outstanding shrimp al ajillo, fresh and perfectly cooked, not frozen and overcooked to death like in NY. Then I ordered something called Revuelto de la Casa, the House Scramble and it was one of those things that make you think that Spanish food is genius. A way undercooked scrambled egg with some sort of serrano ham made in heaven by the angels, potato slivers and wild mushrooms. Magnificent right out of the gate and every meal since then has been equally fantastic.
We've had thick, incredible hot chocolate with churros at famous Chocolateria San Gines, the best ever. Every single place in Madrid is like the subway at rush hour and there is no waiting for your hostess to sit you; you have to claim your place among the hungry. We had incredible cod fritters and ham croquettes with a crisp fresh beer at Casa Labra before having a fantastic lunch of tapas at Maxi, which is owned by the friend of a friend of mine. As you can imagine I can barely walk, I have eaten so much. Today was the apotheosis: cocido madrileño at the famed Taberna de la Bola. Cocido is a stew you eat in installments and then you die. First they give you the broth with vermicelli where the meat has been stewing for ages. This soup is the epitome of comfort food (the discomfort comes later). Then out of these lovely terracota jugs come out the tenderest, most flavorful garbanzo beans, meats, chorizo, bacon, potatoes, etc. It is so good I can't even describe it, but it is impossible to finish it (unless you are a pig). Light it ain't. Suffice it to say right now I feel like Moby Dick after a particularly heavy meal (and it´s been six hours since). After it you order another genius of simplicity dessert which helps you digest: fresh oranges in orujo (a sort of grappa) and burnt sugar. HEAVEN. Then you have to walk fifteen times around Madrid to settle down.
Charming: old fashioned stores, old fashioned bakeries, old fashioned bars, old fashioned everything. We have no such thing in NY, where there are really no traditions and nobody gives a damn.
However, as my friend Joaquin points out, and this is the not-charming aspect of the deal, it is also traditional of Spain to be racist, homophobic, antisemitic and resistant to change. They are making headway at least in the gay department (there is legal gay marriage here), the Jews they expelled and burned at the stake long ago and the racism is truly appalling, even though I have never seen more new, colored faces on the streets. There begins to be here a multicultural society and hopefully it will integrate better than some of its other European neighbors.
And now, I leave you to ponder this predicament, cause I have to go TO DINNER!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment