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.
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.''
By Alex Dominguez
from the hold the cream sauce, please dept.
NISERIAS (Peñamellera Alta, Asturias), España (JNS) _ No, dear reader, El Conde hasn’t forgotten your epicurean needs _ here’s a rundown of the best of this year.
While inspecting trout streams in the Picos de Europa, we stopped for a mid-morning snack, hoping to avoid the disaster of the day before, when we stopped at a roadside bar on the way to Cabrales.
We had slices of morcon (a large paprika sausage), queso de cabrales (a strong blue) and a bottle of sidra _ all fine by themselves, but poorly matched.
Casa Julian, el ``solera del Salmon’’ looked more promising _ a two-story stone building in a ravine overlooking the upper reaches of the Cares River.
The small dining room and bar is decorated with memorabilia from the area, old photos, fishing poles, nets, reels, maps, all made more appealing by classical music playing quietly in the background.
After deciding against caviar ericio because the sea urchin eggs were bottled and not fresh (obviously for those who want to say they had something exotic), I ordered pimientos piquin and codornice escabeche (7.50 euros). The quail are cooked in oil, vinegar, onion, pepper, carrots and bayleaf, and then left to soak in the sauce. The cooking left the birds tender and the meat easy to remove from the bone.
The escabeche was mildly acidic, excellent for dipping bread into. The two birds were served on a bed of lettuce along with a few of the carrots with which they were cooked. Even the local bib lettuce was delicious in that sauce.
``An ancient method of food conservation, more frequently served in areas where hunting is common, such as Castilla,’’ the owner said. The night before we had the regional favorite _ fabada (6 euros) in the mountain-top town of Sotres. Big white beans are boiled until tender along with chorizo, morcilla (a blood sausage), and chunks of tocino (a type of bacon).
The French visitors at the next table also had fabada as well as guiso de cerdo a la Gallega, stewed pork with saffron, red pimientos and potatoes, a Galician staple. Finding a Gallega cooking in such a remote location was not surprising because the cuisine is popular throughout Spain.
Back in Galicia, we had tender clams in the tiny port village of Lorbe near Sada, great gambas a la plancha and a mountain of navajas (razor clams). The count, however, was disappointed to see the creeping influence of cream sauces in some restaurants, although not at the stately parador in Tui where two vieiras (whole scallops in the shell) were broiled under a saffron-laced sauteed onions, very traditional. The scallops were preceded by rape soup, fish chunks in a slightly thickened saffron broth, under a pastry cap.
The biggest surprise of all came when I relented and agreed to stay the last night of our trip a stone’s throw from the airport in Porto.
Taking a walk away from the airport, we discovered a mixed neighborhood of poorly maintained streets, and old ramshackle homes mixed in among beautiful small houses and manicured gardens behind high walls.
Among them was O Carlos, a massive long hall with stone walls and a timbered roof where they serve perfectly done suckling pig, which they call leitao, a derivation of the Portuguese word for milk, leite.
Trying to keep us from spending any money on food, meanwhile, are people such as Rosario and my late uncle Leonardo’s brother Juan and his wife.
Whatever we bought in Mera, Rosario would fry, boil or barbecue over wood coals. Two bottles of cider, crab claws and salad for lunch, followed by ribs, chorizo and gambas over a wood fire for dinner.
At Juan’s house near Cangas de Onis, it was fried chorizo, pork tenderloin and potatoes, all served with sidra (bubbly, alcoholic apple cider) _ all made from pigs, potatoes and apples grown on their property.
By Alex Dominguez
from the you knew it couldn't last dept.
SADA, (Oleiros, La Coruña) _ It seems like it was only yesterday. Who could ever forget Eulalio _ or Eugenio, or whatever was his name _ rolling a barrel of wine down the street and into Casa Nosa, the place that couldn’t decide whether it was a bar, a restaurant or a garage.
And now it’s gone, to make way for more pisos, the name for condominiums in Spain.
We got in the car on a rainy night, hoping to get some pimientos de Padron, jamon Serrano, maybe some pig’s ear or blood sausage, and a jarra de ribeiro from the barrel. And if we were lucky, all while 70- and 80-year-old men in sweaters and caps sang folk songs whose age made them seem like infants in comparison.
Instead, we were greeted by scaffolding and trudged off to eat in a ``real’’ restaurant while remembering Casa Nosa. It seemed born of the post Civil War desperation I had sensed in my father and others who left Spain in the years he did _ a kind of ``we better get something going here, or elsewhere, because noone is going to help us’’ mentality.
The bar was painted battleship grey, the wood barrels rested behind the bar on cross beams fashioned roughly from tree limbs. An aluminum ladder often rested across the top. Hams and sausages hung drying from the rafters, occasionally dripping grease on the smooth concrete floor, refreshingly cool in the summer.
The barrels were tapped with a large wood mallet, which was used to push in the bung and drive in the tap, wrapped in newspaper to keep it from leaking.
The owner’s son often could be seen drinking red wine and Coca Cola while eating, which seemed particulary suited to the basement decor. So now, there’s one less place where you can find old men who know how to grow, raise or make almost everything they needed to survive.
By Alex Dominguez
from the if you want a job done right dept.
BUDAPEST, Hungary (JNS) _ Back in the seat of the Hungarian empire following a four-hour hydrofoil glide down the Danube (about $60), we find Craig Wolfson (Fiufarkas?) is also staying at the opulent and eccentric Kalmar.
Wolfson, of Ukranian descent, is the Baron of Juneau, he says. The Russians, however, spelled the name Jew-No, and sold the Alaskan territory to the U.S. shortly after convincing his family to move there by giving them the barony.
I am unsure if he is a shadow government plant, but he is pleasant and has a list of sightseeing tips from a Hungarian woman he knows. So, we join him for a few outings _ again to the Gellert baths, the ancient Roman ruins, and a touristy park where statues of Soviet heroes are now displayed.
Shadow government or not, it’s too late _ the drop has already been prearranged in Poszony. On our way back from the statue park, the count bids farewell to Fiufarkas, stops in a non-descript kitchen wares store and picks up the Czech-made ``Porkert’’ meatgrinder _ www.porkert.cz
``With this, households across the United States will be weaned from the hegemony of the ground beef industry! Slowly, they will realize the truth of our way,’’ the Count declares.
``Ghandi had his spinning wheel,’’ G-Monez notes.
By Alex Dominguez on Monday May 27, @07:27AM
from the Here is your mission, in 5 seconds this bacon will be eaten dept.
ON THE TRAIN TO POSZONY, Slovakia (JNS) _ Buying train tickets is not nearly as tough today. I even ask what track the train leaves from _ ``Mi vagony?’’
We take the first compartment and a police officer in a dirty blue jump suit joins us.
He has a reddish, tanned, pockmarked face, a light-brown goatee and is armed with a small pistol in a leather holster hanging from a thick leather belt _ both well worn and well oiled.
We know he is a police officer because across the back of his blue jacket are the words ``Fegyvres Byztonsagi orseg.’’
``Kabina rorseg?’’ I ask the officer, worried that we were in his compartment.
``Nem,’’ he says with a ``Don’t worry about it’’ expression.
``Just a storm trooper on his way to work,’’ I tell G-Monez, prompting a dirty look. The police obviously are still looking for the bank robbers, or their accomplices, and are unaware of our plans to ally and strengthen the two empires.
We sit quietly for a while, the officer makes a cell phone call, says goodbye to us and gets off at the border. Four other officials then check our passports, and we can pick out words like ``hologram’’ and ``U-S-A’’ as they look at the passports. One asks in English if we have any contraband, we say no, and after about 15 minutes (perc) we’re on our way again.
We almost get off at the wrong stop approaching Bratislava, but stay on and then do get off at the wrong stop _ Mesto Novo, the ``new city.’’ Willing to be robbed to get into town, we approach a cab driver and say ``centrum’’ and then ``forint.’’ The driver says he won’t take forints or dollars. I say ``bankmat’’ and he agrees, driving us to an ATM where I exchange forints for krona and pay him about $3. After I ask how to get to the Danube River, he takes us to the Hotel Danube for another 75 cents. We then have the most phenomenal lunch after checking in, and I know the alliance will work.
We eat at the Korzo, across from the Hotel Danube, where I have a jar of caviar with butter and toast (250 krona or $5), and some of the best roasted pork ribs and potatoes I have ever had or made. Gibran, meanwhile, has venison kebab over a subtle hibiscus sauce _ delicious.
The ribs, roasted until the outside was caramelized, were served on a wood board with two fresh banana pepper rings _ one filled with mild horseradish and the other filled with mild mustard. Pickles, pickled peppers and tomatoes complete the garnish. The potatoes are in chunks about half the size of an egg, roasted in the fat that came off the ribs and are flecked with caraway.
The whole meal, including coffee and two large beers, is less than $20.
Dinner at the Camel Pub on the Venturska Ulica is interesting as well. The small place caters mainly to locals and its menu is not translated. We point at items, and wait to see what comes out.
I have a breaded piece of liver (leber) with fries, kraut, beets and hot peppers (70 krona, $1.25). Gibran does better, ordering Diabolska zmes, placka and TO (also 70 krona). I grunted ``Schwein?’’ at the waiter. Thinking it might be hot sausage. It’s actually turns out to be a rustic crepe filled with pork chunks stewed in a spicy, goulashy sauce. Both are washed down with big, cold pilsener beers that cost 25 krona.
Sated yet again, it’s off to the Internet café again to chat with the lovely women there who speak a little English, and meet my handler.
By Jimmy Dean on Thursday October 18, @07:51PM
from the Vast anti-porcine conspiracy dept.
DES MOINES, Iowa _ Pigs worldwide have remained anthrax free throughout the recent terrorist attacks, pork producers reminded the public Saturday.
``Anthrax is a bacterial disease that originated in cattle and other herd animals, and has never occurred in pigs,'' said Bert Cerdo, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council.
``While pork has long been stigmatized by irrational fears over trichinosis, it's high time people realize anthrax can be transmitted by eating meat from infected cattle. The years of cowering in fear are over, we will not be held back any longer by this long-running smear campaign. First, mad cow disease, and now anthrax. Cattle producers and the media have blatantly ignored or hid the truth about beef from the public.....'' an irate Cerdo said before being led away.
By Harry Browne on Wednesday September 26, @04:09PM
from the don't fence me in dept.
DES MOINES, Iowa (JNS) _ The National Pork Producer’s Council has decided to replace its longstanding ``Other White Meat’’ slogan in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The new slogan ``Pork, because you can’’ is designed to take advantage of the wave of patriotism that has followed the attacks, believed to have been carried out by radical Muslim extremists, whose religion forbids them from eating pork.
``Isn’t it great to be here in America where we can sit down to a meal of porkchops, or bacon, or salami? Show you’re a proud American and eat as you please,’’ said Bert Cerdo, a spokesman for the marketing group.
Other phrases that had been considered to promote pork were ``Still legal in America,’’ and ``Extremism in the defense of pork is no vice.’’
from the Those Lousy Bastards! dept.
BALTIMORE (JNS) __Jabali third quarter net income rose three percent, the global pork, coffee and tobacco purveyor announced Thursday, noting rebel insurgency in the Timor Islands and roast pork shipping delays in Afghanistan kept the empire from setting another earnings record.
Taliban forces stopped three shipments of crispy-skinned, wood-fired oven roasted pork shoulders from reaching stores in Afghanistan, where Jabali forces have been converting the public to the joys of Cuban sandwiches for three years.
Same store sales, or revenues for stores open at least a year _ a closely watched measure of growth _ increased 2 percent, but the shipping delays caused losses or delays in the opening of 10 new Afghani stores.
In East Timor, several shipments of organic Sumatra were delayed by fighting by rebels, hurting empire-wide coffee sales.
``Jabali, being a global empire, is constantly planning for contingencies involving supply chain disruption, and is of course prepared to make adjustments, where necessary, as our shareholders would expect,’’ Jabali spokesman Bert Cerdo said.
Earnings for the quarter were $1.2 billion, or $1.44 a share, up from $1.16 billion, or $1.40 a share, for the same quarter a year earlier.
Sales were $2.45 billion, up from $2.3 billion for the third quarter of 1998.
For the first nine months of the year, earnings were $3.7 billion, or $4.27 a share, up from $3.6 billion, or $4.18 a share.
Jabali operates 5,732 stores worldwide, including two Jabali megastores in La Coruna, Spain and Ulan Batur, Mongolia, selling a variety of vice-related provisions, including coffee, tobacco and pork and pork-related products.