Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Festivals and field trips.

Well the man had the end of his truck-based physical, no big deal, they just took some blood. The younger daughter is off on a field trip today, which we found out about yesterday, or my kids would have won the loser award again with no lunch at all. Turns out that the teacher had written in the agenda that my daughter has, but I had not been shown the agenda by my littlest munchkin. Not really her fault, she is eight, which is not an age of GREAT reliability. We think that they have gone off into the mountains to look at rocks, and presumably talk about Geology, and then to look at the quintessentially Catalan animal, and the adopted symbol of the people, the burro...a donkey. Yup. Hee Haw. Until quite recently they were used by people for delivering everything and both my husband and his cousin rode in wagons pulled by donkeys to deliver goods when they were small. The man has even seen a donkey pulling a cart in a nearby town, and there was an IKEA bag in the back. It must be one of the very few IKEAS that still requires a trough.

Food Festivals still continue apace here, I swear, you could live here your entire life, going to a festival every weekend, and you would still miss some. Upcoming is the pea festival. You've got it. I like peas too, but a festival is a whole new level of excitement. They have a discussion about the most traditional and simple way to cook them. A stew with peas, spring onions, I am not sure exactly which type they mean by that, as the article was in English and Catalan has more names for onions, tender garlic, a bit of bacon there are two types here, smoked and before it is smoked, I don't know which they mean, a branch of peppermint, boutifarra, both black and white. These are very traditional sausages here, that I want to cook sometime, but I haven't yet. I thought the simplest was to shell them and eat them sitting on the back porch!
Another festival is the asparagus and olive oil, there is a map and calendar in the paper of all the different festivals for just the next couple of weeks! There is a cod festival, a little more fitting with the Lenten season, a festival of fish tripe, I kid you not, and get this, a pig slaughter festival. We missed that one unfortunately. I would have actually gone to that, without the kids. I think it would be fascinating, and it seems to me that at some level we should see exactly what happens with our food before it hits the table. It seems more honest. Needless to say pork is on the menu at this event.

The history for the massive popularity of pork here is, in my humble opinion backed up by some reading I have done, tied up with the Spanish Inquisition. All those many years ago, the Jews were (once again) being persecuted and driven out by the ruling people. Many left, many were forced to leave, and many were tortured and killed. Some converted, or hid their Judaism and pretended to be Christian. The traditional Catalan feast food is a complete, top to bottom, violation of Jewish food laws. Usually first a seafood dishes, by this I mean shell fish, then often Canelons, which are like Cannelloni made with a jumble of meats all ground together including pork served with a white sauce (as in milk and butter), then a pork roast or chops. There is often a stew, made with the snout floating intact in it, you can buy them in the market, and a treat before hand is deep fried pigs ears. Haven't tried them either but you can buy them at he market. Can you say, "No I am not Jewish please don't torture my children." any more clearly. When this sort of genocide goes on for hundreds of years like it did here, well it leaves a mark. Of course everyone had to eat like this, because if your neighbour took a particular disliking to you, or you dissed someone in the street, they could accuse you of being Jewish, and thereby condemn you to trial - usually by torture - so keeping the pig and seafood eating up was a good idea.

Now, this is simply my own theory, and I am sure that some will disagree with me strongly. I also want to point out for those of you who may not know the Spanish chronology, that one of the fascinating things about Spanish history is that the 'Moors' Arab nations ruled most of Spain for about 700 years, at which time Spain had one of the most uniquely tolerant and highly educated cultures in the world. It was only after the eviction of the Arabs, when the Catholic Church came to greater power that the Inquisition and it's almost never-ending atrocities began.
I almost certainly have some of these facts less than perfect, and I am sure that someone out there would be more than happy to correct me, but that is what I know so far, and I for one find it fascinating. The history behind what we eat, and what we as nations chose to eat, and speak and celebrate provides a depth and interest to the subject of a simple meal that amazes me.

FYI did you know that Chocolate first arrived in Europe in Barcelona?

The kids will be doing another field trip at the end of April, they will be for 3 days and 4 days respectively...the elder for longer. Wow, that should do their Catalan a world of good. They make perfume, and bread while they are gone...how Catalan is that! I never made perfume on a field trip.

This is getting so long....I have discovered that the local high school is taught at least 50% in Castillian. Since the eldest will be heading there the year after next if we are still here, there is a sudden compulsion to get her some Spanish lessons....the school isn't doing any. She attends the Castillian lessons with her class, but as they are all fluent, and they are essentially studying grammar structures, it is well beyond her. Hmmm. This will require some thinking. I can almost see her neurons straining. Poor thing.

I have an idea for getting lessons of a sort in Catalan for myself...my schedule is too erratic to take courses, and I work so many evenings that it I have not been able to take any and my Catalan is atrophying at a pathetically awful level. So you see, there is a young man at the language school who has passed all the exams for English, but who has not got a ton of practice actually speaking it, and I thought that maybe he would be willing to trade time practice oral English for him with Catalan lessons for me. Lets see if I can work out this barter, it would be great if I could. Cross your fingers for me.

I took the disposable camera in to be developed, and I think I asked for both prints and a CD. Everything I do here is edged around with, 'I think I asked him...'. I think that he told me that they would be ready today, in which case there may be some pictures in tomorrows post! Wooohoooo! Well, don't anyone get too excited. They may be ready next week, and that is a long long time to hold your breath.


Nomad said...

Great post, you write so well...that IS a long one, you do so much better than I...how do the kidlets feel about going away??I assume they are that is what they do here, (which we find a little bizarre...)
Found a very cool terrine cookbook today...
sorry off topic, we did an exchange and it was very satisfactory...used to do local juants to historic sites etc...which worked very well.
Great idea and with you English I am sure you will find lots of takers..can you advertise anywhere?? Even a poster stuck up at the grocery?? Free English conversation in exchange for...??I bet you'll get lots of takers...
my fingers are crossed!!

Beth said...

Fascinating theory re: pork consumption. (Right or wrong - still fascinating...)
Pea festival - yuck. You finally mentioned a food I dislike.
Looking forward to seeing those pictures - and, no, I won't be holding my breath for a week!

Beth said...

pictures! Woohoo!!!!

and girl, you can write! I am not much of a pork eater....I don't know why.

I love olive oil.

Dorky Dad said...

I think it's fascinating how food can reflect the details of an area's history. We certainly are tied closely with our food, that's for sure.

By the way, do you know there is an ass on your blog? (Sorry ... couldn't help myself)

Boo and Trev said...

Might there be a picture of Chuck! I'm beginning to think he's just your imaginary dog friend!!

oreneta said...

Nomad: Boy, do you sound busy. Glad you got the terrine cookbook. I got the one I ordered in the mail today, so I am also a happy girl.

Beth: I am so impressed, in a post that talked about eating deep-fried pigs ears, and having an entire pig's snout floating in the soup, you were thrown by the peas!!! ;-) I have to eat with you some time.

Beth: I've got the CD, lets see if I can launch the photos.

DD: I know...it is so fitting for a culture so interested in poo...see tha caganar post and the shit-log at Christmas.

Boo and Trev: It's the kids that have invisible dog friends, I have a friend who is writing a book, and I think the invisible dogs will be in it. I however have a real one, fur-bunnies and all.