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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Harvest

People here can’t shut up about their pueblos, or native villages. Just about everyone here in Valencia except me has one and they talk about theirs in reverential tones.  They sneak away from here every chance they get to visit for holidays, long weekends—or puentes (bridges ) as they are called in Spain—and even entire summer months.  If they are friends of mine and their pueblo is nearby, I am generally rewarded with huge bags of produce from the countryside. I came home last night with a bike basket full of oranges and mandarins.  The winter harvest is in and I’m covered in an avalanche of oranges and the only way out is eating. Perhaps I’m just being polite here but I have noticed that oranges always taste better when they are gifts from friends.

I need to do my part in orange consumption as do all local citizens as the trees are practically breaking with fruit this time of year.  With the temperatures hovering around zero this becomes even more of a civic duty as the cold snap has caused some growers to rush oranges to market.  I’m pretty much a full-time glutton so when I have half an excuse I can at least feel better about this deadly sin (one of my favorites).    

You would think that there is a similar emergency regarding pork if you examine my current consumption trends. I went to a Christmas party on Sunday and ate my weight in Spanish cheeses and Serrano ham.  At the party I joked with a couple of friends about taking the pig leg off the carving station and walking around with it as if I were gnawing on it like a piece of chicken. My friends were slightly amused with my attempt at humor but more than anything I think they had actually been considering doing exactly that with this heavenly ham. The problem with a good Spanish ham is that you can’t just eat it off the bone; you need to carefully cut it into paper-thin slices and this requires quite a bit of skill. I often buy ham at the market where it is cut by a machine and it’s just never the same as when you get it from a restaurant or bar where something resembling a renaissance craftsman is at work. My own ham carving skills are on a par with a clumsy cub scout chopping down a tree.

I’ve actually been making a concerted effort to lose some weight during this holiday season. The motivation being that I don’t want to replace my entire wardrobe with black cassocks. If I do succeed in slimming down you can look for my Pork, Oranges, and Cheese Diet Book on the newsstands. If my diet book isn’t published then you can just read about me in the paper when the fire department has to knock out a wall of my house so that I can get outside.  And the rescue workers better not try to take the ham bone away from me.  

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