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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Cafés of Spain


It seems that I have spent most of my time here going from cafe to cafe, from bar to bar, and from restaurant to restaurant. They are pretty much all the same thing whether they are called cafe, taverno, or restaurante. Most of the time I stand at the bar like the Spanish people do. In Madrid I was puzzled at first because there are very few sit down-type cafes like in France and most of the rest of Europe that I have seen. Whe I got here in Seville I immediately noticed that there are lots of French-style cafes. I also soon realized that these are for the benefit of the foreign tourists.

Not wanting to be too much of a foreign tourist I spend most of my valuable bar time at the bar. It is easier to see what they have to eat because all of the food is laid out behind the bar. If you don't know the name for something you can just point and ask. After more than a week here I am starting to really get the hang of this whole tapas thing.

As the title suggests every bar in the country has at least four cured hams hanging up in the window or behind the bar. The hams are entire pig legs--feet and all--Jamon Iberico as they call it here. Every cafe also has a rack behind the bar to hold the ham so it can be sliced thinly to be served as a tapa. I almost can?t believe I'm saying this but I'm not that big a fan of the ham. I prefer the spiced, cured sausage, or chorizo as they call it in Spanish.

I would like to bring back an entire ham just because they are so cool looking. Customs surely wouldn't allow me to bring one into the country. I told a guy in a cafe last night that I want to be a jamontraficante, a play on words of narcotraficante (drug dealer).

I have gradually been getting my legs as far as speaking Spanish goes and now I am at the point where I have been able to joke in the language. I paraphrased Homer Simpson last night when I told a guy that wine is the answer and the cause of any problem. He asked if we cared for another glass of wine and I said no, we were out to search for more answers. Corny? Perhaps, but it made him laugh.

There is a big soccer match tonight between the local team here in Seville and our home boys of Real Madrid. One thing about being a sports knucklehead is that I always have something to talk about with the dudes behind the bar. Last night at the charmiong Los Coloniales cafe I put on a clinic in the art of bullshitting. Because we went to the match in Madrid on Saturday, we are like some sort of honorary soccer hooligans here in Spain.

There are a couple of soccer daily newspapers and the match tonight has been hyped fairly excessively. On the cover of today's AS paper they is a picture of David Beckham in full gladiator regalia under the title "The Battle of Hispalis." While I´m on vacation I would rather obsess about soccer news than read about our fucked-up situation in Iraq or how the primaries are going. That will all be there when I get back I suppose.

The orange harvest is in full swing here in downtown Seville. Guys are going around shaking the hell out of the trees and picking up the fallen fruit. I noticed that they call orange juice Zumo here (the Latin America word is jugo). I think this is because of the crazy juice machines that you see in all of the restaurants. You load the oranges on the top of these sort of Rube Goldberg contraptions, the fruits goes down a chute where it is cut in half, squeezed, and the rest is kicked out the side. The machines have a German name (I would assume) ZUMMit.

My feet are absolutely killing me today so I don't plan on doing much. I want to work on my Spanish by reading the novel I bought. The good news is that Spain is a great place to goof off and do nothing. I have become quite good at it, if I do say so myself. Perhaps I won't make quite so many stops for tapas tonight, I won't search out quite so many answers.

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