It’s hot. July and August in Spain – it’s hot. Seriously hot. 40°C is forecast for today.
So at around 6 or 7pm there’s nothing better than firing up the barbecue.
Out in the campo, it means perhaps scraping some of the dirt off the ancient parilla (grill) that has sat outside, unwashed, for almost a year, but probably it just means lighting the twigs beneath the charcoal and letting the heat burn off last summer’s remnants. After all, it’s already been sterilised under the blazing sun.
The ritual begins with the trip to the butcher. A slab of tira de asado (big Argentinian-style beef ribs), a thick chunk of entraña (Argentinian if possible but Spanish is of course easier to get) to be cooked WITH the membrane on to conserve the juices, and some good chorizo sausages. Maybe some costillas cortadas (little pork ribs) to nibble on as a starter. Big calabacines (courgettes) from the neighbour’s campo, superb for char-grilling. Baked potatoes wrapped in foil for warming beside the flames. Perhaps a bowl of porra and crusty bread. Salad. I make a tasty dressing made with olive oil from the neighbours opposite, good wine vinegar, local honey, garlic, salt and pepper.
“The Day in the Campo” is an experience. Saturday or Sunday morning in the pueblos of Andalucía, the car gets loaded up with enough food to feed a small nation. A blanket and perhaps a rickety chair are thrown in the back and the car trundles off up hitherto unseen tracks. Friends and family gather, chat, tinker with the campo house, fix a broken window or lay a few more upstairs floorboards. Turn on the water and drench the struggling crops. Check whatever is growing in the parched plot of land, pick a lettuce and a few fruit, and eat and drink together. As the sun loses its heat, the parilla is lit, and a handful of wild rosemary or thyme is grabbed and thrown on to flavour the succulent meat and vegetables.
City folk with friends or family in the pueblos return to their roots for the Day in the Campo. Those without rural family connections remain mystified by it. The popular Malagueñan comedian Dani Rovira does a monologue about it – a bit difficult if your Spanish isn’t fluent (parts are too fast for me!) but some of it is understandable, especially the bit about loading the car up with food! http://youtu.be/0v4jwS0K6bI
It does feel different, cooking out in the campo. Obviously there are fire risks so only proper metal barbecue pits can be used. The land is tinder-dry and a couple of massive fires a week in the summer months damage vast swathes of forest in Málaga province, sometimes endangering people, animals and property. But with care, it’s a special experience. Maybe it’s the isolation, the view of the next house away across the valley, the distant sound of a dog barking or goats jangling down the hillside. Partly it’s the basic facilities, the usually unfinished casita, and listening to the plans for the grand home it might one day become. Mostly, it’s because there’s nothing but the sound of the cicadas, the heady scent of the vines overhead and the smoke from the barbecue.
Despite the loaded car, traditionally SOMETHING is always forgotten so we improvise. Despite the house being empty during the week, the tomato plants have managed to produce small fruit with explosive flavour. Green piquillo peppers are picked and laid roughly across the grill.
And later, as darkness falls, the distance from civilisation adds enchantment to the quiet chat over the last drinks. The fire dies, plates are rinsed and stacked, and the little campo house is left alone till the following weekend.
© Tamara Essex 2014 www.twocampos.com
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
“If it were not that we need to learn our conditionals, they would become boring ….”
If you’re beginning to learn the conditionals, it’s well worth looking up a poem usually attributed to Jorge Luis Borges, called “Instantes” (Moments). The whole thing is beautifully written and entirely in conditionals! It’s looking back over his life, setting out what he would have done differently.
We were set a task to write something along the same lines, about what we would have done differently in our lives. Here is a part of mine, with lots of would’ve and could’ve … and with the English translation afterwards:
Si pudiera vivir de nuevo, yo no cambiaría mucho. Trabajaría menos, y pasaría más tiempo con mi madre, porque nunca sabría cuánto tiempo nos ha de quedar. Jugaríamos más Scrabble juntas.
Si volviera comenzar mi vida nuevamente, no cambiaría mucho, porque todos mis errores y todas mis elecciones me han hecho ser la que soy.
Solo cambiaría una cosa más. Me encanta mi vida en España, y si la hubiera descubierto antes, me habría mudado más temprano.
If I were able to live my life again, I wouldn’t change much. I would work less, and spend more time with my mother, because you never know how much time you have remaining. We would play more Scrabble together.
If I could go back and start my life anew, I wouldn’t change much, because all my mistakes and all my choices have made me who I am.
I would change only one thing more. I love my life in Spain, and if I had discovered it sooner, I would have moved here earlier.