Saturday, April 28, 2012

Calçots From laTerra Ferma

Long have I waited to eat calçots. Panic was beginning to set that this was the last weekend of Abril and I was going to miss out on eating these delicious onions. The period of calçotades begins on January 31 in Valls and ends in April. So understandably, I was worried I wouldn't find were to buy calçots and get my calçot fix.

An American could easily confuse calçots in the supermarket for leeks. Calçots are grown regionally in Valls, a small town in Tarragona, where it is said a peasant started the tradition of eating calçots by charring them over a barbecue and peeling the outer burnt layers. The peasant sought to salvage the onions instead of starving and throwing them away. The tender part of the barbecued onion is then dipped in salvitxada and held above your mouth. You lower the calçot covered in romesco sauce into your mouth and slowly eat away at the calçot as you would a piece of licorice or french fry, only in reverse position.

The best setting for experiencing a calçotada is at a masia owned by a Tarragonan friend and barbecuing outdoors. We had a friend whose family owned a masia out in the back country in Tarragona where we got to pull out the calçots directly from the earth, grilling them on the barbecue, and dipping them in the best homemade salvitxada I have ever provat.

Here is what you do if you don't have a friend with a masia or do not feel like going to a restaurant and opening your mouth like jaws in front of patrons staring at you as you swallow calçots. Resort to using your broiler i ja està! Calçots a la broiler! I tried it this weekend and they turned out tan deliciós, que bo.

I shopped for my calçots at my online provider for fruita y verdura ecològica, all fruits and vegetables include dirt and critters. The calçots  mysteriously appeared as a seasonal item to purchase in late April, hmm.

Err, my romesco sauce was not homemade

But it was prepared with artisanal methods

Washed and stripped

El resultat

Thursday, April 26, 2012


There is a corner not far from where I live, that a young teenager died. How? I can only speculate the cause of his tragic death. For more than a year, friend's of Picu or Piku (I see his name written both ways) have been coming to an intersection to leave a nylon canvas and artificial flowers to commemorate the passing of a well loved friend. I don't know anything about Picu. I don't know his real name or his age or why he was at an intersection that is not traffic heavy but deceptively dangerous.

I have scoured the internet, Sant Cugat newspapers and done searches on the graffiti artist  who creates the canvases, and remain empty handed for news on Picu. My altra meitat tells me it's probably because he was poor and nobody cares about the humble dying and reporting it. My Picu/Piku searches have led me to terminally ill children or Japanese characters. No sites lead me to news of a vibrant teenager abruptly immortalized.

Driving on Avinguda de Can Bellet and passing by Picu's memorial, I wonder about his grieving mother, the music on his MP3, how many friends he had on Facebook or Fotolog, and why life denied him longevity. Did he get to fall in love?

One day that empty lot with the chain link fence will disappear and construction of an apartment building will begin. What then? Will Picu's friends still leave flowers or tag the walls of those future apartments? I don't know, perhaps his friends will move on in life and their memory of Picu will begin to fade. If ever his friends find my blog, I hope they surmise he will always be present through pictures of their commitment in keeping his memory alive.

Estimat Picu,
I didn't have the pleasure of knowing you and I am sorry I only came to know about you driving through a bland intersection. There is one thing I know for sure. You were an important friend to a group of people who remember you constantly and monitor the state of the acrylic canvas, fading spray paint, and bright artificial flowers quickly worn away by wind and rain. Know that you live in their hearts.

Descansa en Pau,

California Noia

Monday, April 23, 2012

St. Jordi 2012 in Black and White

My other half could not leave work early to join me in Barcelona to stroll and look at book stands  set up on popular city streets to celebrate Sant Jordi. So I asked a Wonderful lady to join me on my excursion to Rambla Catalunya to look at stands. The promenade was one giant can of sardines with absolutely no space to walk and stop to look at books. Agitated by the horde of people on Rambla Catalunya, we headed to Paseo de Gracia and Diagonal to better enjoy our book browsing, where the multitude of people was less.

People carried roses in backpacks while driving their scooters or hand held roses given to them by a special person. I received my rose when my special other came home flustered he had missed St. Jordi and upset the front part of his shoe was completely unglued and dangling from the sole. Not a good way to end the day. This weekend we will go to a book shop and select our Sant Jordi book without a swarm of people trying to do the same in the name of tradition.

See if you can spot the roses people are holding in some photos.

p.s. Cultural, historical and creative information for this holiday can be found in the 2011 folder in the month of April.

FeliÇ dia de Sant Jordi!

this was all I could see in front of me

trudging along like penguins

at a complete standstill 

Wonderful lady

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Found a Drac

In my musings about St. Jordi's Day, I wondered if I should retell with historical information once again the tradition behind this holiday in Catalonia. I soon decided I would let the reader refer to last year's post on this special day for more detailed information. You can find it the 2011 folder for the month of April.

I was lost in thought thinking about this subject, walking about with my camera in my barri, when I remembered a particular stone in a high retainer wall in my neighborhood spotted while strolling on a hot summer day.

It's a knight slaying a dragon!

St. Jordi i el drac? It has too be!

See the carved stone on the bottom right of the picture? Anyone can miss this marvelous work of art mixed in with the  masonry.
The stone is easy to miss because it is not placed at eye level and blends in with the other stones. You have to want to look at the wall and admire the masonry to find this hidden treasure. This wall runs a rectangular perimeter around Can Bellet, an old country farmhouse, called a masia in Catalan, known to be there since the 16th century.

As it looked in 1960. No more farmland left here due to the building boom. 

A standing placard describes in English, Catalan and Spanish the history of the neighborhood.

Can Bellet is to the right of this street corner shot taken a block away.
I plan to take pictures of St. Jordi on Monday and post them afterwards, Adeu!