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September 17, 2000
The Count’s Iberian Lifestyle Plan

Posted by Washington Irving on Sunday September 17, @06:47PM

from the Live Like a Noble Diet dept.

By Alejandro Antonio Andres Dominguez y Rios
El Conde de Baltimore

and Washington Irving


Alejandro Antonio Andres Dominguez y Rios, better known to most as ``El Conde de Baltimore,’’ has been gracious enough to allow us to peer into his private life for this book on healthy living.

The Count hopes that his example will help others lead healthier lives.

At this point, I would also like to express my appreciation to the Count for allowing me to help him write this book, which I am sure will be a guide to many for years to come.


Washington Irving

Chapter 1

The Morning

Alarm clocks should never be used. The body must awaken naturally and of its own desire. Window shades, however, can be left open to allow the morning light to stream in and gently alert the body that the day has begun, thus instilling a natural schedule.

As the body is in a bit of shock from having risen from slumber, a large breakfast is usually not recommended, but rather a simple cup of coffee, preferably a double espresso, with or without steamed milk, and sugar to taste. A glass of hand-squeezed orange juice, or a mineral water, or both are also beneficial for replenishing fluids lost while sleeping, and to pass the time while perusing the morning papers.

Thus fortified, the Count often likes to head to market to inspect the produce, meat, fish, shellfish, and cheeses available that day. After choosing the items for the mid-day meal, and having them sent ahead, a small snack is usually in order for the activity has now given the body need for sustenance.

While some prefer sweet items such as churros and chocolate, deep-fried doughnut-like sticks which are dipped into an extremely thick hot chocolate, the Count prefers more toothsome fare such as empanada, large thin pie-like tarts stuffed with roast pork bits, onions and peppers, or bacalao (codfish), or even octopus or berberechos (small tasty clams). Other choices often include Spanish tortilla, a potato and egg torte similar to an Italian fritata, or pan tostada Catalan, toasted country bread slices topped with olive oil, crushed fresh tomato and small thin pieces of sliced ham, preferably pata negra, or black leg hogs, and preferably only those which primarily graze on bellotas, a type of acorn produced by encina trees.

Chapter 2.

Before the Mid-day Meal

While waiting for lunch to be prepared, it is often a good idea to relax, perhaps on a beach, or take care of banking, or other small chores. If so inclined, a small vermouth, white wine or beer is often taken.

Chapter 3.

The Mid-day Meal

In Galicia, the verb for eating the mid-day meal is jantar, which is often followed by the verb deitar, which means the act of resting or sleeping after the mid-day meal. Whether to sleep, lie down, merely rest or not rest at all following the mid-day meal is a subject of much debate. The Count prefers to make the mid-day meal his largest of the day, preferably several courses over an hour or two, followed by a nap, or merely a rest period, and then coffee and a cigar, sometimes with brandy.

The menu, as you would imagine varies considerably, but often starts with small foods such as gambas, or small shrimp, or chicharrones, minced roast pork, or ham, olives, etc. The main course is often served with a salad or other vegetable. During summer months, many foods are grilled over wood.

After the main course, cheese and fruit and are often served. The courses, however, do not follow lock-step one after another, but often are interrupted for a short walk around the yard to feed scraps to the hens and quail, which the Count is fond of raising, and of course eating. Sometimes, coffee and cigars are served immediately after the last course, often outside under a grapevine arbor.

Chapter 4.


After resting for an hour or so, the Count often likes to read, shop for leather goods, take a short swim, or take care of small chores before stopping at his favorite local tavern for merende. The tradition of merende is the least understood of all the Iberian dietary customs.

Merende traditionally refers to the period halfway between the mid-day meal and the evening meal, or cena, and often consists of small snacks eaten along with drinks while chatting with friends after work, but before going home for dinner.

The dishes eaten often include pimientos de Padron _ small, sometimes hot, green peppers fried in olive oil (which is never re-used) and sprinkled with sea salt; boiled octopus dressed with extra virgin olive oil, paprika and sea salt; sliced ham; sausages; cheese; mussels in a variety of ways; broiled live, whole scallops in their shell topped with ham or bacon and red pepper puree. The Spanish also are not squeamish about organ meats such as liver, gizzards, or even boiled pigs ears, which are cut into small pieces and dressed with oil and paprika, etc. Small fish such as anchovies are also pickled escabeche style in vinegar, sometimes with with parsley and onion, and served with sliced bread. Various types of squid _ calamares, chipirones, sepias, etc. _ are also served stewed with potatoes and peas, stewed in their own ink, breaded and fried, grilled, etc.

Chapter 5.


Dinner is often quite late in Spain, often starting around 11 p.m., and usually much lighter than lunch. The Count is quite fond of veal chops grilled over wood or merluza or other white fish a la plancha, which is to say seared on a griddle. Red wines are often served at dinner, especially with meats, however, whites are sometimes paired with items such as grilled pork ribs, which are cut into individual ribs so each piece absorbs the flavor of the smoke.

The Count is not especially fond of desserts, and usually never partakes of them. If, however, his dining companion desires ice cream, for example, he will politely try some. Dinners are followed by coffee, and sometimes by brandy or an after dinner liquor such as Fernet Branco, often paired with a cigar. Whether or not the Count chooses to go elsewhere after dinner often affects his menu choices for the following day.

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Posted by Alex at September 17, 2000 06:17 PM
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