Note Number Three
I have been thrashing pop for 100 Catalans. The event was a to celebrate the continuing life of a very old salty sea dog that had been pulled into the depths of cancer hell by a humongous octopus. He had lopped off the tentacles though and had prevailed against this appallingly common disease. A year later he is as fit as a fiddle and wanted to mark the occasion with family and friends by consuming the fear that had embodied itself in the form of an octopus.
Pop is the Catalan name for octopus. It is a nice name but perhaps not so descriptive as its English counterpart. The dish he wanted to eat was similar to the Catalan dish pop amb patatas but there was no way on earth I was going to let on to any of the diners that it had anything to do with a native dish. I had to describe it as a dish from the outer Hebrides that had certain similarities with their version. Had I let on that it was anything to do with the Catatalan version I would have had a fairly unpleasant time of it. If there is one thing that Catalans cannot or will not agree on, it is how to cook any dish, let alone if some jumped up foreign git ie me, was doing it on their turf. No, I had to dissimulate.
The pop had been ordered form a local fisherman a few days previously and when my accomplice went to pick it up, it turned out the fisherman had sold it to others. This meant that we could only get half the required amount from him the next day. The fisherman had obligations to his restaurants. Never mind his obligation to el meu amic. This in turn meant that there was more potato than pop so whilst I was cooking it I had to explain to the sceptical onlookers that the Outer Hebrideans were potato fanatics and the octopus in their version was more of a flavouring than anything else, that the star of the show was the potato. The potato that sucked up and absorbed the stock and tomato sofrito. To confuse my audience still further I explained that the potatoes had flown with me that day from Ibiza. They were agog with admiration. That I had travelled with 10 kilos of Ibiza potatoes as hand luggage earned their respect and they left me in peace a little after that. A little. Fortunately in the glow of there approval I did not relent and tell them I was making pop amb patatas. That would have been fatal.
A word to the wise – if ever you are cooking a paella and there is anyone with a thimble of spanish blood in their veins in the vicinity tell them you are cooking rice. Do not, for God’s sake call it a paella. It will ruin your day.