Welcome to Catalan Cookery! I hope you enjoy reading about my culinary adventures and delicious experiences in Catalonia, Spain.

Come check out my current blogging project,
Scrumptious Company, in which I chronicle my once-a-week dinner parties with pictures and recipes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Home Town Festival

Manresa (the town I’m staying in) hosted an autumn festival this weekend, most of which could be viewed from the balcony of our flat. Every few hours, all weekend long, we’d have a front row view to all sorts of parades and shows. We’d hear a boom in the distance which would beckon us to the window, and a few minutes later, a small drum troop would march up, a crowd would gather , a short and lively show would ensue, and then as quick as they came, they would leave, marching on to their next stop along the way. A few hours later it would happen all over again, only instead of drummers, this time there would dancers or jugglers or people on stilts. It was so fun wondering what could be coming next.

My favorite act was a group of dancers outfitted in Hansel and Gretel-esque costumes and playing clarinet-like instruments that were somehow also guns. (That’s right, a musical instrument and a gun all in one!) So, in their story-book costumes, they’d perform a delightful little doe-see-doe sort of dance, and right when I start thinking that this is the most perfectly charming show ever…BOOM! They lift their clarinet/guns in the air and blast thunderous shots that I swear shook the two-hundred year old stone building we were standing in. It was so funny and strange and wonderful, I wish you all could have been there to see it.

And you know how festivals always mean great food? Well, this one did not disappoint! One particularly lovely stand was selling the most beautiful Middle Eastern treats I’ve ever seen, all honey-soaked and perfectly golden, studded with toasted nuts and jewels of dried fruit. It was all so gorgeous, I wanted to try one of each! But I had to save room for the blistery-crusted wood-fired pizza (with mushrooms and olives and Serrano ham) from the stand across the street, not to mention the lemon-sugar crepes just next door to that!

The crepe was, in a word, marvelous. Just a simple crepe, drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with sugar. But oh so perfect in its simplicity, and oh so marvelously delicious. It made me at once completely content and achingly homesick – Suddenly all I wanted in the whole world was be back in our cozy little Chicago apartment, spending a Sunday morning whipping up a pile of lemon-sugar crepes for Ben. Not that I normally ever make anything so chic as crepes - We’re more the fluffy pancake kind of couple. But it was just so yummy, I wanted him to have some too. I have a feeling that, newly endowed with a certain amount of European sophistication, I just may arrive home from this trip willing to forgo our old regular, Blueberry pancakes, at least for a little while. (But blueberry pancakes are soooo good too!)

Oh, and now I have to share a few words about the pizza. Not the pizza, really. (It was good but not earth-shattering. And, as far as pizza is concerned, I wouldn’t waste your time telling you about anything less than earth-shattering.) Not the pizza, but the pizza stand. It was a ramshackle setup of wooden beams and calico curtains, and in the center was a huge brick oven filled with smoldering wood. The stand was run by a small family - An adorable little girl about eight years old took my order and carefully wrote it down on her pad, while her pretty mom topped the pizzas and helped her calculate the change. The father was busy rolling out dough, while his brother manned the wood-fired oven. I have to say, it was quite an operation, and an extra-cute one at that! They were all wearing what you could tell were home-knit sweaters and scarves, and the whole scene was just so utterly rustic and cozy. They were really sweet with each other, and you could see they were having a lot of fun. I really could have just watched them for hours.

And one more thing I have to report. A spectacular thing! As I was walking through the festival, I noticed a crowd gathering in the square in front of a church. Curious as to what was going on, I stopped for a few minutes to watch. And I’m so glad I did. Within minutes, the buzzing crowd became suddenly hushed, and those near the center packed together into a tight nucleus, from which slowly rose a human tower, layer built upon layer, rising up to rival the church steeple. Person after person climbed up the bodies already in place, forming one story after another, until there were six floors in all. A small child was the last to make the climb, and claimed his place at the waaaay tip top. It was truly and incredible sight to witness.

This incredible spectacle that I was so lucky to have stumbled upon was actually an example of great Catalan tradition called ‘Castells’. I had heard about them before from everyone at work, and was itching to see one. I knew that a few were erected in Barcelona from time to time, but never imagined I would come across one in my own little village of Manresa. It just goes to show, that the best things in life always seem to happen when you’re least expecting it. They come just out of the blue.

No comments:

Post a Comment