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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Too Hot To Think

We are in the real dog days of summer. You can feel exactly when the wind stops at any time of day—even when you are sleeping—by the rise in temperature. I leave my house to go to the beach at four in the afternoon and sometimes I will stop to have a beer or a coffee at one of the cafes overlooking the sea just to put off facing the blazing sun. There is a strong offshore headwind on the bike ride to the beach. At least it is cool. On the way home the breeze shifts, coming from the west like the air in a convection oven.

It may sound like it but I’m not complaining; I am just moving a little slower these days. The Mediterranean is warm to the point of barely being a refuge from the heat. Everyone in the world is at the beaches so they are a little crowded. I don’t have the energy to ride the extra half hour to my private beach—at least not every day. I usually just stop at the new Pinedo beach. On a bike I can find a spot that is far enough from the parking lots to be too crowded.

I stand my bike up in the sand as close to the surf as I can. I dig a hole for both wheels and stand it up straight so I can hang my shirt and pack on it. Even in these hours of the late afternoon I try to limit myself to less than two hours in the oblique sun. Showering at the beach after a long swim is one of life’s great pleasures. Yesterday there was a kid with a guitar playing gypsy music on the beach path within earshot of where I was showering—just in case I had forgot that I was in Spain.

The earlier part of these days is best spent as idly as possible: reading at a shady café, preparing food in a cool kitchen, shopping in the grocery store that actually has air conditioning, or anything else that keeps you out of the sun. The days seem to begin more slowly and don’t really get up to speed until the sun has set at around 9:30 or so. Lunches in restaurants start later and later every day, reflecting the intense heat and the idleness of the population boom of vacationers. No one sits down in a restaurant for dinner until it is completely dark outside and for a lot of diners the meal doesn’t begin until after midnight, as if postponing the evening meal to the next day will offer some relief from the heat.

There are a lot of advantages to these scorching days of mid summer. I love it that I can take a shower without turning on the water heater. When I was freezing my ass off last winter I couldn’t imagine taking a shower with anything but the hottest water possible. It still is a bit of a shock when you first hit yourself pointblank with the stream of cold water. Other than this initial jolt I couldn’t imagine raising the water temperature a single degree. Cold beer becomes euphoric. You can thumb your nose at convention by chilling red wine. White wines have more appeal during summer. There are probably cold, nonalcoholic out there but I’m not going to sing their praise.

It is also the season to discover some of the lovely Spanish rosé wines. Most of these are from Rioja and almost all of them are modestly priced. I ran across the street from my building to the Mercadona to take a peek at their rosés and because they have air conditioning. I asked them if I could live there for the next couple of weeks, preferably near the ice cream or in the wine aisle. A quick glance of their rosés:

Rioja Region:
San Asenio 2.55€
Romeral 2.65€
Comportillo 1.69€
Marqués de Cáceres 4.50

Baron de Turis 1.09€
Castillo de Lliria 1,30€

I would have sprung for the Cáceres but I didn’t want to come off as a bourgeois pig at the cash register so I opted for the Romeral. These rosés are all fairly dry shouldn’t be confused with a white zinfandel which no adult should be caught drinking. They go great with a salad, which is about all you’ll feel like eating. The good news is that the tomatoes are looking great.

Nothing Special Summer Salad

(Sort of like a Greek salad but I don’t think that I put enough energy into it to do justice to that fine dish)

Cucumber (peeled)
Red and Green Pepper (peeled and seeded)
Fresh Basil leaves (chopped)
Feta Cheese


Cumin seeds
Garlic clove
Red pepper
Small can of anchovies
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar

Crush first 5 ingredients together with a mortar and pestle with a bit of olive oil to make a paste. Cut the anchovy filets into small pieces with kitchen shears and ad to paste. To this I add more olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of oregano, and pepper.

Toss together the dressing and vegetables and refrigerate. Add feta and olives when serving. The rosé should be well chilled and when I say well chilled I mean about as cold as it can get and still qualify as a liquid.

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