Monday, June 22, 2009

The Ghost of Garcia Lorca

The day is boiling and Talamanca Bay is like a lake again. Totally flat, not a ripple. I’ve forgotten my sunglasses so am squinting to such a degree that it is giving me a headache. The sun is beginning to descend but hasn’t hit the water yet.

I walk over the rocks and down to the shack.
“Have you got a table?”
“Yes I have.”
“Good, then I’m going for a swim”

I dive in to the crystal clear water and take a moment down there to let the water that has flooded over my body, flood over my senses. It is cool and it is quiet. Up there it is often quiet but rarely cool. Unless you want air conditioning, which I don’t. I come up for air and go straight back under doing somersalts towards the sun with my eyes open whilst blowing the air out through my nose. The sunlight is dazzling underwater but has the quality of being looked at through a telescope backwards.

My 2 minutes of exercise completed, I get out of the water pulling myself out with the steps and boat bars that someone has cemented in place years ago to aid people’s otherwise tricky exit from the water. The useful stainless steel tubes are arch infringers of Costas' 50 metre moratorium and will no doubt be removed. Along with so many excellent chiringuitos along Ibiza’s coastline. Apparently the removal of the chiringuitos is an improvement. Fuck that. Apparently it is Spain's coming of European age. So what? A sanitised Spain is a poor mans Spain. Might as well go to Portugal.

I look up at my favourite joint on the island and know its days are numbered. Men in suits want this place gone. Probably so they can build a bypass to nowhere or an apartment building to hang pretty fluorescent orange for sale signs in.

The Coca-Cola umbrellas are jammed in the places that the awning don’t cover. The table are red and so are the bench seats. The place is humming. It always is. Opens at midday and closes after dark. Always full. But of course it is fucking full. It is right on the waters edge, the food is simple but excellent, there is a feeling of escape. This is Spain. Of course it is full. Some otherwise intelligent person said to me once that the place was unsanitary. Firstly, what the fuck does that mean? How does he reckon the human race survived up to the invention Unilevers cleaning products? And secondly, who gives a fuck? THE PLACE IS EXCELLENT. ALWAYS HAS BEEN. So what if they don’t have running water. Congratufuckinglations is what these people deserve for pulling off such a groovy thing in such difficult circumstances. So what if it does have a toilet? Piss in the sea.

Over at the end there is a family cajoling their two children to eat and then wisely giving up and getting stuck in to their own food and wine. They are sharing a table with a bunch of sextagenarians Deutches who are drunk, loud and have been sitting here since they moved to the sun, the sea, cheap booze and fags 25 years ago. I don’t understand German but I know those blasts of laughter are ignited by humour in its purest form.

On the next table are a bunch of really good looking young Spaniards who have probably not been to bed in 3 days and have an awful lot of sex. The Spanish can really do that party thing. It is as if after Franco’s peaceful death each child was born with a birth rite have a ball. They do it with such panache. I lived near Space for a short horrendous season and marvelled at the difference between my native countrymen and those from my adopted home. The English looked bad at the beginning of the evening anyway but by morning were dribbling, vomiting, trouser wetting shit stains. The Spaniards on the other hand would be smart, still drinking cubatas out the back of their cars, grooving to some noise coming out their car speaker. About to have loads of sex no doubt. Fuckkers.

Next is a table of middle aged spics just enjoying lunch in the way that these people can just enjoy lunch. There is no hurry. There is no agenda. There is just lunch and the sea. The order is taken slowly. The food prepared slowly and then eaten slowly. There is wine throughout. Then coffee and tobacco. Then chupitos and more tobacco. The art of now is being practised.

I'm on the next table and behind me are a couple of really drunk blokes. I think they are Spanish but it is hard to tell they are so drunk. But they are laughing. The are having fun. There is no atmosphere of ‘shit, this could go wrong at any moment.’

A jetski passes by and then starts to do those anything but irritating, must be a right laugh, exhibition circles for our benefit. I catch the owners eye who nods his permission. I open up my brief case and quickly assemble my AK47, take aim and blow his fucking head off. I don’t really. But it’s a nice thought. So, still alive, the squirt fucks off and the waters become calm again. The shack is just over the headland so has constant wave motion, unlike the bay itself but it is still way calm. The waves are more ripples than waves.

Carlos comes over and goes through the list that has not changed in the hundred times I have been here. Seabass, dorade, squid, cuttlefish, tuna, grouper, swordfish, sardines, prawns. Oh yeah and the ever incongruous steak or lamb chops that I have seen people actually order. I order the cuttlefish. It is not the first time and it wont be the last. Hmmmm, but for how long? The cuttlefish will come golden and crisp from the plancha with its, I hesitate to call it, flesh, perfectly cooked and perfectly fresh. They get through so much stuff here, it is always fresh. Everything comes off the plancha. And it always comes perfect. That old woman in there knows her shit. There is something so completely beguiling about white fish flesh glimpsed through the scores made in the now golden skin. The skin of the dorade and lubina is crisp and tasty, almost as good as chicken.

I order a beer which comes with olives, bread and some Dulux with garlic in it. The beer goes down easily of course. And I look out to the bay again. No windsurfers today so of course no kite surfers. No wind. From round the cliffs of Botafoc suddenly emerges the enormous Denia ferry. It ploughs through the tranquil sea with a speed that is breathtaking. It is so big it seems almost impossible that it can go that fast. But it does , its bows cutting a huge wake. Within seconds it has disappeared out of view. I reckon that the boat builders brief was ‘build the biggest Sunseeker you can.” I don’t think the word ferry ever entered their heads so unlike a normal ferry it is.

My sepia arrives crisp and golden as always with its never changing salad. Tomato, onion, lettuce, green pepper and potato. Never varies and is never anything but excellent. You just know that the stuff comes from their cousin or brother or uncle or grandfather and you know it was pulled out the ground about fifteen minutes ago. Round the back there is an old woman peeling potatoes. Continuously. Whenever I walk past there she is, peeling potatoes. The Ibicencos boil them in their skins, the potatoes that is, not the old women, and then peel them. In doing so all the starchy waxiness stays in the potato and is not boiled out into the water. The potato is then dressed in oil and salt and left for us to enjoy. They say simple food is best and they, whoever they may be, are right.

Just as I am about to cut some sepia a huge swell crashes against the rocks. Then another and another. After a few moments the swell that has come out of nowhere dies down and the sea is placid again.

“What the fuck was that?” I said to myself.

One of the really drunk Spaniards sitting over from me says “That, my friend, was the ghost of Garcia Lorca.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Strawberries. Past Perfect.

Strawberries are in the shops in full force, the ones from the island sweeter, redder, better than those from the Costa Plastica (an immense tract of land somewhere in the south of Spain covered in enormous greenhouses). I was in the veg shack outside Sta Gertrudis de la Fruitera yesterday and they has huge quantities of these little mothers.

There are so many places you can stick strawberries. Jams, smoothies, cakes, icecreams, sorbets. Mashed up with a yoghurt. You gotta wash ‘em though, before you start sticking them places. They absorb any kind of deterrent sprayed on them so you gots to wash them. Add a banana and some strawberries to your morning juice every day until the season is over. The juice will taste nicer, you will be happier and you will probably live for longer too.

Strawberries now are different from when I was a little girl. I remember them to be much smaller and also remember you could always pull the stalk right out. The green stalk would lead onto a tiny white coned stem that you could remove easily. Now that variety just doesn’t seem to be around. You have to cut out the stalk and any white bit of the fruit that may be there where the stalk meets the stem. Apparently the strawberry itself will taste sweeter if eaten without this white bit. Apparently. I had the most extraordinary strawberry in La Paloma a while back and it was one of the sweetest things I have put in my mouth in some time. It had a stalk that came right out and was tiny and sweet like in days of old and it took me straight back to my childhood summers in Dorset. A bit like the madeleine in Remembrance of Things Past. Except without the words.

A lot of people have started adding savoury stuff such as Balsamic vinegar (not that savoury I guess) and black pepper. I would say I hold no store by this kind of chefwankery but it wouldn’t be true cos I have it as a canape on some of my menus in the form of a granita and it is tres popular and I actually quite like it myself. Up to a point. It still grates with me – the messing around with foodstuffs that just don’t need to be messed with. Best leave it to the boffins such as Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria. Those who have the time and resources to do such messing. But I like to have one rule for me and one for everyone

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Big Grill?

No. Big Rip Off. Actually outrageous rip off.

I was completely and utterly dumbfounded when I was cheerfully charged €54 for:
1 plate of disgusting lowest grade possible chorizo that bounced around your mouth like one of those rubber balls that boing uncontrollably all over the place.
1 plate ribs that we still raw at the edges.
1 thimble of the vinegar posing as wine
1 thimble of white wine posing as urine or vice versa
2 of the cheapest waters on the market

Fiftyfuckingfourfuckingeuros for absolute crap.

I said to the owner that really if they were going to rip everyone of so blatantly surely Jose Publico should at least have a menu board to peruse so they can decide whether they want to be fleeced or not. She looked at me as if I was mad and pointed out the 30cm x 60cm menu board standing some 15metres away on the other side of the stall. It is the red thing in the opposite corner of the last picture. If you look there is someone taking a photo of it. No doubt incredulous of the marketeers scorn and and wanting a memento. "Look kids, this is the reason you couldnt have a crepe or a coke later on. Cos these people wanted all our money"

I was thrilled to see that the owners of the 'eatery' were saving themselves on any wastage by using undefrosted frozen meat. This was skillfully cut out of its plastic bag and lumped on the grill with all the other shit that was thawing and grilling at the same time. The bitch who owned it told me that by law they were obliged to only cook frozen meat without prior defrosting.

This was at the Medieval Festival in the old town. Good thing was they all we medieval costumes. Man what I wouldn't give to use that grill as a stocks, stick them in it and beat them round the head with their frozen crap.