Posts Tagged ‘mayonnaise’

fried squid sandwich: laughing our youth away

yesh-squidOnce upon a time there was a very young lady and a not-quite-as-young man (a scandal left for another story) that were carefree, adventurous and childless. On a whim, they decided to tour the country of Spain, and as was their manner, to tour it in full culinary detail. Of course, this dashing duo tackled with the small inconvenience of being broke and feared little finance would serve as a burden in their experience of food.


They were joined by other friends on this journey that took place in the heart of a scorching summer twenty years ago and together they all crammed into a tiny and dusty red Ford Fiesta and, listening to endless rounds of Chrissie Hynde’s “Brass in Pocket” and Mecano’s melancholic “Aire” explored their souls and the Iberian peninsula for a sultry five weeks filled with laughter, sights and, many “fixed menu” meals that where exquisite and reliably affordable, casting aside financial doubts. The experience left me, that very young lady, enamored with Spain, whose images and flavors have steadily nourished me over the years.

The trip began and culminated in La Plaza Mayor, the legendary square-turned-tourist attraction in Madrid famed for being the center for public beheadings back in its heyday. By 1989 this pastime was long gone, of course, and in its place stood clowns folding balloons for giddy children, men posing as Charlie Chaplin and heavyset women draped in clay personifying statues under the unforgiving heat. Nestled amongst stores selling Chinese-made plastic albañiques and sword replicas sat an inconspicuous space whose only connection to the outside world was a tiny window with a miniature blackboard scribbling the day’s dish, which was always the same thing: bocadillo de calamares (fried squid sandwich). Our noses had led us to this spot, our eyes saw the crowds lined up and reconfirmed the choice, and the price sang pretty in our light wallets, making it a done deal. Time and time again we sought excuses to return to this alcove and gobbled mounds of freshly fried squid rings crammed into warm crusty mini-baguettes doused with fresh ocean, crunchy sea salt and nothing else. It was a memory I carried and protected vehemently through the years.

So it seemed fitting that now, this young duo that had grown up a bit, married, and created a family head straight for La Plaza Mayor on their return trip to Spain. It was early June and the heat still jostled us, even after being Miami residents for almost fifteen years. Clowns and Chaplins still abounded as well as the outdoor cafes serving overpriced cold beer. We had come here with one purpose really and that was to recapture our carefree youth through the unforgettable bocadillo. Our long-time Madrid-based friend thought we were insane twenty years ago and still insane today: insane to head to this touristy spot and pay what we were paying for a beer that would be colder and cheaper two blocks away and certainly insane to brave the bocadillos of Plaza Mayor.

“Everyone knows you get Hepatitis  from those. The grease here is from last century. Let’s go three blocks away, the best bocadillos, fresh calamares, pure olive oil, no worries”, he begged. Now, this is a guy that thrives on cheap eats, so I would be lying if I say I didn’t hesitate a bit. But the memory of youth and flavor drove us forth as our eyes scanned the perimeter of the square in search of that memorable little window.

And then we saw it off to the side. It was dark and dank and still had the scribbled little blackboard but the crowds where gone. My mate and I eyed each other suspiciously and in the silent ebb of mind language shared by soul mates conferred:

“No line, huh? Do we really want to venture there? We’ve come a long way, filled our wallets a bit since then, might it not possibly be a wiser move to hit the tapas bar around the bend?”

It all happened within the span of three blinks. And even those three blinks where futile, as we both knew the answer: Yes. Undeniably, undoubtedly yes. We will forge onward and ahead. To the abandoned window that housed a time filled with adventure and promise and fun, and we think, good food.

Our friend shook his head and moved to the side. Our children smelled distrust and graciously declined. But my mate and I pressed forward, approached the tiny hole and rattled off our order: “Dos bocadillos, por favor.”

They arrived too quickly.   We quietly acknowledged this as the first bad sign. No time to heat up the oil, gently batter the squid and fry. But there we were, holding our youth in our calloused hands, hands that had locked together over twenty years ago and traveled the world, filling our hearts and bellies with love, food and adventure. So we did what we do best and flung ourselves forward, creating a new memory, we took a bite of our bocadillo in unison, with our children apprehensively looking on and our friend looking away, and as we both took that first anticipated bite we realized it was disgusting; truly and utterly disgusting.

When something is that disgusting it is hard to describe why. Way too salty. Way too greasy. Way too old. Way wrong. And where someone would normally spit it out and spew in despair we did what only lunatics as us do and took another bite (again in unison) just to make sure it truly was that disgusting, in ghoulish curiosity and desperate need to verify our past, for now the questions loomed in our mind:

Was it always that gross? Did we have no taste back then? Where we that desperate?

I can tell you that was the end of that. The bocadillos ended up in the trash after our giggling fit subsided. Our children looked confused and our friend was vindicated:

“See, I told you. Hepatitis, amigos, hepatitis.”

And with that we let the memory alone, clasped our greasy hands together and held one hand out for each one of our kids to grab and form a chain as together, we moved forward, laughing our youth away as we headed towards the tapas bar around the bend.

alona-bocadillo

Había una vez una joven señorita y hombre, no tan joven como ella (un escándalo reservado para otra oportunidad) que eran aventureros, despreocupados, y sin hijos. En un capricho, ellos decidieron recorrer el país de España, y como era su manera, recorrerlo en detalle culinario completo.

Fueron acompañados en su aventura por otros amigos y este viaje ocurrió en el corazón de un verano caluroso hace veinte años atras. Montados sobre un pequeño carrito escuchando rondas interminables de Chrissie Hynde de “The Pretenders” y las canciones melancólicas de Mecano, exploraron sus almas y sus paladares durante cinco semanas bochornosas llenas de risa, vistas y, muchos “menú fijos” que ofrecian excelentes y baratas. Yo era esa misma señorita y la experiencia me dejó enamorada de España:  por sus imágenes y sus sabores.

El viaje comenzó y culminó en La Plaza Mayor, la atracción turista en Madrid famosa de ser el centro de la decapitación pública años atrás. Ya en 1989 este pasatiempo no existía, por supuesto, y en su lugar andaban payasos doblando globos en formas de animalitos, hombres que se hacen pasar como Charlie Chaplin y mujeres corpulentas cubiertas en la arcilla que personificaban estatuas bajo el calor implacable. Recostado entre tiendas que venden albañiques plasticos de la China había un espacio discreto con una ventana diminuta y un pizarrón en miniatura anunciando el plato del día, que era siempre la misma cosa: bocadillo de calamares. Nuestras narices nos habían conducido a este punto, nuestros ojos vieron la cola de gente esperando y el precio barato nos dijo que este era el lugar. Encontrabamos cualquiera excusa para volver a este nicho y devorar esos deliciosos anillos de calamar frito recostados dentro de mini-baguettes crujientes empapados con océano fresco, sal de mar crujiente y nada más. Esta era una memoria que cargaba conmigo todo estos años y protegía vehementemente.

Entonces nos parecio obvio que ahora, este dúo joven que había crecido un poco, se habían casado, y andaban con dos hijos, irían directamente a la Plaza Mayor en su viaje de vuelta a España. Era principios de junio y el calor nos picaba la aun siendo residentes de Miami durante casi quince años. Los payasos y Chaplins todavía abundaban así como las cafeterías al aire libre que sirven la cerveza fría demasiado cara. Habíamos venido aquí con el objetivo de recobrar nuestra juventud despreocupada con ese bocadillo inolvidable. Nuestro amigo Madrileño pensó que estabamos locos hace veinte años y todavía locos hoy: locos por dirigirnos a este punto demasiado turístico y pagar lo que pagámos para una cerveza y definitivamente locos para comer un bocadillo de calamares en La Plaza Mayor.

“Todo el mundo sabe que estos bocadillos dan Hepatitis. La grasa es del siglo pasado. Vamos tres cuadras de aqui donde hay mejor bocadillos, calamares fresco, aceite de oliva puro, ningunas preocupaciones”, nos suplico. Pero la memoria de juventud y sabor nos condujo adelante y con nuestros ojos exploraramos el perímetro de la Plaza en busqueda de aquella pequeña ventana memorable.

Y alli estaba, oscura y pequeña pero completamente abandonada. Mi compañero y yo nos miramos y en ese lenguaje silencioso de los ojos nos consultamos:

¿“No hay gente, ¡eh!? ¿Realmente queremos arriesgarnos allí? ¿Hemos crecido mucho, la cartera un poco mas llena que aquel entonces, no seria mas sabio ir a comer unas tapas en el barrio del lado?”

Dentro de tres parpadeos nos consultamos. Y imediatamente ambos sabíamos la respuesta: Sí. Sin duda, indudablemente sí. Forjaremos adelante con nuestro bocadillo famoso. A la ventana abandonada llegamos llenos de aventura, promesa y diversión, y esperabamos, buena comida.

Nuestro amigo sacudió su cabeza y se movió al lado. Nuestros niños nos vieron sospechosamente sin hablar una palabra. Pero mi compañero y yo avanzamos, pidiendo nuestra orden: “Dos bocadillos, por favor.”

Los bocadillos llegaron rápidamente. Reconocimos esto como la primera falla. No había tiempo para calentar el aceite y freír el calamar. Pero allí nos encontramos sosteniendo nuestra juventud en nuestras manos, manos que se habían unido hace más de veinte años y habían viajado el mundo, llenando nuestros corazones con amor, alimento y aventura. Entonces hicimos lo que solo sabemos hacer y, creando una nueva memoria, tomamos un mordisco de nuestro bocadillo a la misma vez con nuestros niños viendonos aprensivamente y nuestro amigo que no se atrevia ver y en en aquel primer mordisco nos dimos cuenta que este bocadillo era asqueroso; realmente y completamente asqueroso.

Cuando algo es así de asqueroso es difícil describir por qué. Demasiado salado. Demasiada grasa. Demasiado viejo. Y riendonos nos preguntamos:

¿Era esto siempre tan asqueroso? ¿No teníamos ningún paladar en aquel entonces? ¿Estabamos tan desesperados?

El bocadillos terminó en la basura mientras que nos reímos como dos tontos. Nuestros niños se veían aturdidos y nuestro amigo sonría:

“Vez, les dije. Hepatitis, amigos, hepatitis.”

Y con esto dejamos la memoria sola, enlazamos nuestras manos grasosas y ofrecimos nuestra otra mana para cada uno de nuestros niños donde formamos una cadena y juntos, avanzamos, riéndonos sobre nuestra juventud mientras que nos dirigimos hacia el otro barrio buscando comer unas tapas.

egg sandwich: comforts of a friendship not forgotten

Twelve-year old girls usually come in twos and I was no exception. Attached to my prepubescent hip was my all-time buddy and life long pal, Kim. Together we witnessed the first coveted signs of growing up: The Beloved Pimple (she got hers first), The First Dark Hair ANYWHERE (she got hers first) and of course, The Fateful Symbol of Utter Womanhood: any sign of a Boob (she got hers first (okay, so I was a rather late bloomer)). Even the illusion of the first signs of affection from a crooned-over unattainable boy like super cute Mark Decasola (to whom I readily handed over my much-coveted Venezuelan candy bar at lunch just for a flash of those amazing pearly whites) was done hand in hand. She always told me I was too good for him.Even though Kim moved away at the start of high school and we lost touch soon thereafter, too many secrets and pacts where exchanged for me to ever forget her. But aside from mixing blood (Best Friends Forever Pact) and mixing each other’s hairs (Best Friends Forever Backup Pact), we also mixed taste buds in the kitchen as we were both adamant and fervent lovers of cooking.Mornings in Kim’s house began early when we’d wake up to the sound of her large labrador barking, brush off her annoying little brother, and head downstairs to the gleaming and abandoned kitchen, where we had free range to explore and invent as our taste buds and imaginations desired. Many combinations deserve to die within the secrecy of our friendship, but one dish that was born amongst our frenzy for culinary perfection was so good, so perfect, so us, that it remains one of my favorites today. The Crazy Plopper, as it was named that fateful day in 1984 was a marriage of mess and deliciousness. Nestled amongst a crusty baguette, Kim and I created the ultimate egg sandwich that serves as the perfect crossover from breakfast to lunch to dinner. Whichever hour of the day we chose to devour this delight, we’d always wash it down with a cold Coke and a climb up to our secret hideout, the roof of the storage room, where we’d sit and listen to the wild parrots squawk and drool over our pact of delicious food.