Monday, June 12, 2006

Death by dinner

Since we’re back in the city where the Left-Wing Intellectual was born and raised, naturally when we return there are lots and lots of friends to see and relatives to visit. Spaniards, as many other cultures, like to express their affection through and over food, so it’s common for us to meet friends out for dinner or to be invited to people’s houses for a meal. Naturally this is a delightful experience (especially since I have a particular fondness for Spanish cuisine), but it can be dangerous when too many of these outings cluster too close together.

Last weekend was one of those clusters. It began on Friday, when we met Guy Who Knows Everybody for lunch at his favorite Asturian restaurant. (He really is the guy who knows everybody; every time we go out with him, we can’t get half a block down the street anywhere in the city without people stopping to greet him.) The Asturian restaurant has ohmygod the most wonderful food, but in quantities that would have gotten Napoleon’s armies all the way to Moscow and back. We started with a fabada – a cauldron full of beans in a rich thick sauce seasoned with baseball-sized chunks of chorizo and morcilla sausage, eaten with warm crusty bread and fizzy Asturian cider. A plateful of this is more than I generally eat for a meal, but it’s only the first course. Next comes the merluza, a table-width platter of the most tender, delicate white fish, over a layer of tasty fried potatoes. After that we gave up any hope of moving for the next few days and went ahead and had an almond-cake dessert with liqueurs. After slouching back in our chairs and groaning for half an hour or so, we proceeded home where we collapsed on the couch and groaned for the rest of the day.

Saturday, we were invited to the house of some family friends for a barbecue. Mmmm! Nothing like a big plate of sausage and steak after a long day of sitting around recovering from sausage and beans! (Those of my readers who attended our wedding will probably have vivid memories of how Spaniards serve steak. Beef actually isn’t that common here - pork and lamb are more frequently found - but when they do beef they do it big. Nothing says love like a steak the size of my laptop!) Sunday we celebrated my father-in-law’s 80th birthday, with what else but a giant meal at a restaurant with a lovely outdoor terrace. What? You’ve only eaten two servings of ham? Here, you must have some more, it’s the best in town. (and how can you say no to a man celebrating his eightieth birthday?)

It doesn't help that left to my own devices I tend to be a vegetarian; did you notice that not a single vegetable appears in this narrative? (no, fried potatoes don't really count as a vegetable.) I love these people dearly, but I'm afraid they're going to kill me. ...In the meantime, pass the potatoes?

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