Tuesday, November 12, 2013

After a long, long hiatus, this blog is trying to take on a new life. I have tasted so many different things in so many different places and it seems tragic that only a minuscule part of it gets into print. So this effort is to not only to put what's printed out there but also to write about the many little and large experiences.

Pigging out in Spain 

Restaurant Duque in Segovia (left) and its famous dish

There was hushed silence in the room. Very few things can induce such perfect silence amongst a dozen,
normally boisterous diners, but before them was one of such few things. A bit to the side was a smaller table and this is what held the diners in thrall. On it sat a roasted suckling pig in a large platter. That alone should not have been much of a spectacle, since it is a common enough dish in Spain, but this was in Segovia, at the Restaurante Duque, a restaurant founded in 1895, which adhered to certain traditions that ruled the carving of the pig. And hence the silence. Armed with a prettily decorated ceramic dinner plate, the Chef stood for a moment and then expertly used the plate as a carving instrument, strategically thrusting it into the pig and cutting it into segments. But that was not all: once done, he flung the plate onto the floor where it shattered into tiny pieces. “And that is how it is done in Segovia,” he said with a flourish.

Blood sausage with fava beans


I stood mesmerised by the drama and theatrics that went with what would have otherwise been just roast pork.I thought I would be queasy, but the panache, elegance and flair with which it was done put me more in the mind of an artist than anything else. Moreover, having just seen Segovia’s biggest attractions – the imposing Roman Aquaduct and the Alcazar, which became the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle and subsequently the company’s logo, I was not sure which was more fascinating. Not such a great pork fan myself, I preferred the other famous dish of the region, roast lamb, served in large ceramic shallow bowl, the tender meat accompanied by a fragrant gravy.

    Drinking wine, porron-style       

Earlier, I had tasted some of the unique sausages of the region, jamon, accompanied by red wine drunk in a unique vessel called porron, a cross between a jug and a watering can, which is shared among all those around the table. It made for an interesting exercise, with lots of hits and many more misses. For safety, we were advised to tuck table napkins tucked into the collars, to avoid the spectacle to having to explain the deep red stains down the shirt front. At the end of it, I came away with another culinary experience that promised to stay for long. 

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