Kim, Anne and I started our journey with six culinary enthusiasts in Malaga on Friday.
Hitting the outdoor covered markets we gathered all that we could think of to create the menus that Kim had devised for our next six days in the mountains. Each student received a list and fulfilled it on his or her own. Not one of them spoke Spanish, including me—and my Italian can only go so far. So what to do? Most of it became sign language, although “quisiera un kilo di …. ” and point… goes a long way.
But a trip to the market doesn’t always imply that you know what you want, you just know that you are in search of the most succulent thing.
If I want a firm fish for a brocheta, are the fish choices different? Who are the fishmongers that you can trust? How do you find that out if you don’t know anyone? You can look and see quality, but knowing is always better. So I asked the butcher at Carniceria Villamuela. Kim found Manuel last year. He had an “I speak English” sign hanging over the counter. After buying numerous chickens and pork loins, she asked him how he learned English. He said, “I had good teachers, Snoop Dog, Doctor D, Iron Maiden…”followed by other rappers she had never heard of. His answers to our questions didn’t rhyme, but he was charming in every way.
As I wandered the market and scoped out the fish, I had questions that needed answering. I wandered back to Manuel. He said, “I know nothing about fish and I don’t trust anyone.” Yet, he offered to go with me. Luckily, we ran into a chef friend of his who gave me advice and told me which vendor to go to. I was pleased, as it was the one I liked the best. Javier—we now know him by name—definitely had the best sword fish for our brocheta. Costly at 20 euro a kilo, but fresh!
Piling into the bus after loading all of our goods, we headed for a seafood lunch at Tito Yayo. I couldn’t possibly tell you where it was, yet we were feet from the sea and ate like rogues. Plates of bocarones, (fried anchovies), grilled octopus, gambas plancha (potato chips with thin slices of jamon on top), pimentos de padron, (3 inch fried-green peppers where every third one is hot!), berenjena con miel (thinly sliced eggplant with honey), and to finish black (squid ink) paella. Yayo was a delight and welcomed us into his exquisite seaside shack open-heartedly. His chef? A Cuban from Bilbao, quite pleased to meet Kim, a chef from California.
After a full meal, we still had an hour and a half to go. Ferrierola lay waiting for us in the black night with bright stars, hot tea and cozy beds. When we woke in the morning, we fell into the arms of the Alpujarras.
Now on full day three. Hikers took a walk in the pouring rain. They came back for hot toddies and warm bowls of sopa de garbanzo, pureéd with a sfumato of rosemary and garlic in olive oil. Escarapuche, pork tenderloin and tomato salad, and the afore mentioned smoky eggplant salad. A bottle of good Sherry.
Francisco Lillo, owner of La Oliva, a specialty shop of all things delicious, has come from Granada
to show us how to make a good paella.
“First you have to make a fire,” he says, “and that is what we will do on the stone patio with dirt and wood.”