Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Trip Down Calcot Memory Lane (no original photos, fair warning)

I'm not sure how this came across my mental awareness screen except for a string of randomness. Yes, I know it's not Free Range Friday but this memory made me so happy I can't - and won't - wait to share this. I actually have PHOTOGRAPHS of this piled away someplace inaccessible or I would share them with you. This was all pre-digital, pre so very much. And oh so lovely.

I was in Spain, working on a boat as hell crew first mate with a friend of mine I knew from St. Croix and points elsewhere. He'd bought the boat and had asked kindly if I'd like the job of first mate to go around the world for the next eight years. I would and I did. The boat didn't go around the world, but this did happen.

At some point, after we'd left Majorca and were in Barcelona in the amazing boat yard there, we heard about this festival celebration of the calcots. That link isn't the place we went, but it is such a lovely description of a calcotada, you should read it just because. I wrote about it at the time, but all those writings were lost...that writing is good to better. Enjoy.

Calcots on the grill - photo credit unknown
A festival celebrating onions? Yes. But we wanted to go to someplace not a restaurant to enjoy it. I'm not sure if I'm remembering this perfectly but it went something like this - we got a flyer advertising this traditional late winter into spring celebration meal out in the country. You'd go and pay a fee and then it was all on, the calcots on the grill, the wine, the company - who would be other people who happened upon this advert and wanted to be there rather than stuffed into a restaurant at a table of their own. It was at an old mill that this lovely couple had converted into their home. We went.

Oh, I wish I had the photos, but I'll try to word paint it. Yards of grills, layered with calcots, wood fire smoke...people in and out of it, laughing, meeting, the air delicious to breathe. It would be the high school reunion you wish you'd had, the party in the movie you don't get invited to, the dinner that in your mind you host, where everything goes perfectly, just like in the magazine, without a false note. On a hillside, in the country of Spain, with an ancient mill for background on a cool sunny day. Those were my expectations. That was the reality.

After a drive out of Barcelona into the country and a few missed turns with more than a few loud objections from one or more of four very strongly opinionated people - who didn't have a damn clue where they were - but a few being rather large in a very small vehicle adding to the beyond grumbling in tight spaces, I kept pretty quiet until we finally found what might be the place.

Climbing a craggy drive up a hill and finding, hoorah! at the top of it a field with tables covered in white, grills smoking wildly and buildings of big stone,  with people in colorful get ups wandering about. Yes, this was it. The grousing stopped in anticipation of wine and good food and better company than we'd been among ourselves. Let me out of this car, we're here!

A Festival of the Calcots! We'd arrived. People from all over the world along with a few from down the lane, strangers many. And yet not too many, maybe there were 30 people there at most; a good number for strangers mingling. We swapped stories of how we found this out of the way place, and watched to see how the locals dealt with the calcots. I wandered around taking photos (back in the day of my trusty Pentax SLR and film), the smoke thick, and no way to record the laughter and smells and wonder of being out of time, out of a zone I knew, far from any place I knew anything about, steeped in a learning curve full of wine and good food and good people, stuffing myself with all of it...

This, of course is NOT an actual video from that event 13 years ago, but it is very much what it felt like. I wish I'd had the advantage of knowing the how of it before embarrassing myself at the actual event. But truthfully, embarrassment wasn't possible because there were more like me, who'd never done this before, than like the lovely lad in the video. And nobody cared was food people happy joy.

I do remember the romesco sauce. There was another one as well, the name of which I don't remember. I remember a lot of good local wine, continuous laughter, easy talk and a tour through the mill by the husband half of the owners, into the places few got to see because I'm the nosy as hell curious person I am. I asked and I was given. I've tried to find the place via an internet search and am very sorry I have had no joy. It was one of those places you read about after you've been in that area and say, oh!! I wish I'd known! and we found it, as occasionally happens. Joy.

When I moved to Culebra, a place I never thought myself to be, in part I was thinking about Spain, only a few months in my past at the time. I never really even thought much about it being a part Puerto Rico, I was thinking Spain because it felt that way - the people, the simplicity (even though I'd spent a lot of time in Barcelona and Majorca, there was still a small town feel there). 

I was thinking tapas and vegetable markets and wine and calcots. And wasn't Puerto Rico descended from Spain? Well - no. Not in the way I was thinking. I fell in love with Culebra anyway, minus the wine and markets and festivals. But maybe there will be a time to have a calcot festival here, grilling on a lechon pit. Or maybe I'll just have it in my back yard and have friends with bibs dripping romesco sauce and slurping wine. There could be worse days. 

Have a wonderous will o' the wisp Wednesday. Do something Waldensian.

p.s. Buddha is home!!! Thanks to all who cared and acted.


  1. Great read. Thank you.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Now get grilling (it will melt the snow).