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Monday, January 14, 2013

Daydreaming of Food

A plate of Pepe's famous morro (pork rinds)


For a while now I’ve been trying to make my way through the standard Italian pasta dishes. I try to be as traditional as possible so I watched a lot of Italian grandmothers on YouTube. I figure that the older the woman the more traditional the recipe.  I like this gal who doesn’t look particularly grandmotherly but she’ll have to do and she has a cool theme song. Why don’t I have a cool theme song? Her old-school knife techniques are enough to make you have one hand covering your mouth in horror and the other on your phone ready to call an ambulance but it seems to work for her. She makes every day food like most people probably eat in Italy.  I think that in general Italians probably eat better than about any other people, at least this is the impression I get from first hand observations.  While nothing fancy it’s the sort of food I prefer over dishes that appear on upscale restaurant menus but hardly work for feeding more than one or two people.  I just think that restaurants put too much emphasis on presentation whereas in the home this isn’t as vital. A bowl of chicken soup tastes wonderful but you can only dress it up so much.

There is a café across the street from my place and the owner cooks great food.  I’ve learned a lot from him in our conversations.  He just cooks different stuff every day, whatever looks good at the market or whatever suits his fancy.  In my bar (Bar Casa Morrut) you just have a small dish or two or perhaps a sandwich.  To say that this place is informal is a huge understatement. I just like the place because the first time I ever happened in there the owner, Pepe, talked to me. I have a simple rule here in Spain for bars and restaurants: if the people are nice to me I go back. Sometimes I go back if they aren’t nice but only if something else is worth the trouble.

I don’t know if a joint like Pepe’s would go over in America. You’d need a very adventurous clientele.  Here in Spain people don’t mind sharing dishes and they also don’t have a problem with a very limited choice of menu items. The prix fixe (menu del día in Spanish) is the norm, especially at lunch where you choose between perhaps six items for the first and second courses instead of making everything to order.  One thing that never ceases to charm me is how men will sit around at the bar discussing recipes and cooking techniques. As I have said before, I want to write a cookbook called Recipes I Have Overheard at the Bar in Spain.

¡Buen provecho!

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