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August 18, 2004
How to catch Navajas:

MERA, Oleiros, La Coruna (JNS) _ We decide at the last minute to eat at Rosario's. We're shopping at the Haley's in Santa Cruz _ a supermarket-department store _ and I call her on my new tiny cellphone.
She's there, so I buy baby back ribs _ 3.75 euros for two-plus racks, or about 4.50 euros/kg; a kilo of large razor clams similar to navajas but called something like longanheiros; 6 chorizos; salad vegetables ; cheese and bread, all for 28 euros.
While navajas are usually cooked a la plancha, grilled on a griddle, I plan to cook them over the same coals over which I'll prepare the ribs and serve them first as an appetizer.

We get to Rosario's and she's not there. I wonder, while lighting a pine cone to start the kindling, if I misunderstood her. She eventually comes back and is happy to see I started the fire _ in the small room off the back of her house that used to hold the brick bread oven, but now is used for barbecuing. She also mentions longanheiros can be sandy so they have to be rinsed well.
Clams and other shellfish like those used to be much more plentiful, she says.
"Ainda no hay como antes. Despois de una tormenta na praia estaba cheo da zapateros. Fung ali moitos veces a coller para fai un empanada," she says.
"Still, it's not like before. After a storm the beach used to be full of zapateros (so named because they were as big as a shoe). I went many times to get them to make an empanada."
Getting navajas is a little more difficult.
They live about a meter deep in the sand, but they aren't dug up. You find the hole they make and thread a barbed wire down the hole. When the clam feels the wire it retreats back into its shell, bringing the wire inside and the clam can then be pulled to the surface.
The wood has now burned down to coals, so I put oil, garlic and salt on the razor clams. I cook them until they open, decide it's not enough and put them back on some more. The smaller navajas are sweeter and more tender, but these are good. The ribs are excellent with nothing more than salt on them.
We drink the remaining liter of wine from the sardinada the night before. The beach event is part of the Virgin del Carmen festiival. Wood is given away to light fires on the beach and sardines, wine and bread are sold and bands stroll through the streets.
Three euros buys eight sardines and about a quarter loaf of pan de broa - a corn and flour bread. The wine is a cloudy unfiltered white (ribeiro) sold in refilled 2-liter soda bottles for 3 euros (juvenile and slightly fizzy). Some people bring their own wlne and tables and grills and chairs _ almost a tailgate party. We borrow a grill and large turning fork from Rosario and use the bread as our plate.

Posted by Alex at 10:41 PM
August 08, 2004
The end of an era?

Rosario is selling her house.
With her mother gone and gentrification well underway, why should she stay by herself?
She's going to move to Sada where her daughter is, maybe buy a condominium, she says.
''Pa que quero quedar aqui solina? Vo xuntar a mina fia en Sada.''
Why should she wait for the house to fall down around her, she adds.

A neighbor, Juan, a white-haired portly man in a grey beret (boino), noted the changes earlier as we walked along the new waterfront promenade.
"Ahora que somos bellos(viejos, old) se van mejorando todo," he says with a grin.
We sit around under the grapevines in Rosario's yard after a meal of salad, veal cutlets, french fries, buey (a crab similar to dungeness), Albarino wine, cheese, coffee, etc., afraid it will be one of our last there. We rouse ourselves to kick around a ball as the birds chirp, wash some clothes, hanging them on the line by the well, where we handwashed some, mostly whites.
Later, she pulls out a hoe and takes about 15 pounds of what looks to be a type of Idaho potatoes from a 5x15 foot stretch of the yard. The potatoes are of all sizes, some as big as your foot, others egg-sized. The rest, maybe four or five times as much, can wait a few weeks, she says.
It's hard to argue with her thinking about selling. Housing prices are rising, many more than 300,000 euros, and licenses are now required even to raise chickens and sell their eggs.
"Tinyo oito galinas, este invierno cando me vo a Sada, xa botan. No quero mais."
"I have eight chickens, and this winter when I got to Sada, they're going. I don't want anymore.''

Posted by Alex at 09:46 PM
August 05, 2004
Leaving Asturias

AVIN (JNS) _ Before we go, Juan's wife makes us a piece of wild boar Juan had shot the year before. We talk about Don Turribio and Rogelio.
Juan says he isn't muy amigo with Rogelio because of what happened in the war.
Juan's father spent more than five years in jail for nothing he says, and Rogelio's family was among those responsible.
Asturias was the region where the miners went on strike and the fascists retaliated hard. Juan still shakes his head in disbelief. My father remembers hearing about one man the fascists came looking for and couldn't find, so they killed his two sons.

Anyone who had a weapon of any kind, even a shotgun for hunting, risked arrest, Juan says, remembering how his father, before he was arrested, hid an antique shotgun in a mountain cabana and didn't tell his sons out of fear they would get in trouble.
Family members, meanwhile, walked two hours across the mountains to work for two pesetas a day in the mines, he remembers. Those who supported labor, or the elected republic were targeted by the fascists.
That's history, however, he says.
''Costo mucho trabajo ponerlo como esta,'' he says.
''It cost much work to put things as they are now,'' he says referring to the return of democracy and the current economic good times.
The shotgun, meanwhile, stayed for years in the cabana, no longer used for shelter while tending to sheep spending the summer grazing in the highlands. One day it was mentioned and someone who knew Juan's father remembered where it was hidden. They climbed up the mountain to the cabana found it wrapped in cloth.
Back at El Campu, Jesus, Ana's husband wasn't affected personally by the war, and is more concerned about the present. He can't understand why Spain became involved in Iraq and why the U.S. isn't more evenhanded in the Middle East.
On our way to La Coruna, we stop to say goodbye to Juan and I ask him to show me the gun . He pulls it out of a cabinet in his garage. It's now a little pitted with rust, but is a fine side-by-side 12-gauge with elaborately worked hammers that swing down to fire the shells.
It will still fire, he says.

Posted by Alex at 12:35 AM