Saturday, December 28, 2013

Food glorious food, Spanish style, means sharing, savoring

Chef Carlos Montero's paella for his sweetheart Gloria's birthday features a seafood medley.


Keller prepares to partake of fish stew in eastern Spain. 
Carlos Montero helps friend and fellow cook Pam Kaufmann serve peach tart.
Paella is a splendid main course, it needs only salad, bread, dessert.

THE FRENCH  have long said they live to eat, while their British counterparts eat to live.
The Spanish do both -- they live large and with passion, and they integrate eating into their lives with the greatest of ease.
Whether propping themselves up in bars to munch on a meal of tapas, or lingering over a delicately prepared feast with friends and  family, the Spanish dine with style and gusto.
THE SPANISH meal involves much theater, along with swapping stories, telling jokes, gathering the generations and neighbors to celebrate life -- and one of its greatest pleasures, eating!
AROUND THE GLOBE, food brings people together. In Spain, food means feeding the complete person --so music is an essential component, too.  In Spain, perhaps more than any country of the many we've visited, music is food for the soul.  A Barcelona friend told me, "When we get together for a meal, it's a meal for all the senses --  your Thanksgiving and Fourth of July combined!  And we do it every weekend of the year!"
Jesus Soriano, right, is an accomplished classical guitarist and fine
  paella chef.  Here he sings with Keller at Costa Brava, San Diego.
In a Spanish meal, each course is lovingly served and the pride in preparation is excelled only by the pride in presentation and serving.
BECAUSE THE Spanish are proud of their knowledge of food, they love to discuss cooking as they gather with friends to share their efforts.
Whether fixing a fish pasta with delicate cream sauce, or preparing an elaborate culinary celebration known as a parrillada, the result is an adventure, both eye-catching and delectable.

Seafood ravioli is a taste treat, prepared by the chef
of  Parador Aiguablava, on  the rocky Costa Brava.

THE BASQUES, in particular, take delight in the parrillada, a direct descendant of the beachside fires on which fishermen grilled their catch over charcoal.  The original paella, in fact, was probably a stew prepared from leftover catch that the fishermen were unable to sell. The cook would have added vegetables, along with roast lamb or sausage or veal for flavoring.  Add the precious and omnipresent olive oil, parsley, garlic and whatever vegetables the cook had around, plus precious saffron, for taste and color, and voila, paella!
Desserts gild the lily, here two  short breads and a pear tart.

OUR FRIEND Jesus -- Madrid born-- makes paella feasting into a major social occasion.
It begins with his gorgeous flamenco guitar and segues to communal cooking, with a salad and dessert bracketing the feast. Spaniards favor desserts featuring tart chocolate or fruit.

NEXT UP:  We ring in the New Year with our favorite paella recipe! And a meal at the luxurious parador Aiguablava in eastern Spain.
Then on to New Orleans for jazz, gumbo and a merriment Big Easy style.
Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch
 us Wednesdays and Saturdays at

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