Sunday, 9 August 2009
Summer is the finest season of the year. Everything is alive, green, and bright, putting all its energy into growth and ripening. The fields are cut and brown, but gardens are going full blast.
Our little garden, the scruffy outcome of months of work and planning, is cranking out tons of free vegetables. We´re filling up our freezer and our bellies, luxuriating in all the extra vitamins and minerals. Today it was zuchinni fritters, a red-pepper tortilla, and slices of tomato drizzled with olive oil. Yesterday it was baba ganooj and a pitcher of gazpacho. Tomorrow we may sample a melon!
Fresh food does not get any better than this, and I am careful to chew slowly and savor the gift. Most gratifying of all is the abundance allows us to share. Seems none of our neighbors grew eggplants/aubergines this year, so we´re handing out these purple-skinned wonders to whomever wants them. (And probably to a few who don´t, but are too polite to refuse.) For years now, the Julis and Milagros and Edu and Segundinos have been giving us bags of beans and peppers, figs and courgettes and squash and tomatoes and roses. Finally, we have something of our own to hand back.
We don´t see many pilgrims at our door these days. We are preoccupied with Una dog, who is recovering from her leg-amputation surgery. It is gruesome and shocking and terrible, seeing a dear friend maimed and suffering. Still, she is taking it better than any of us would. I only wish I knew what “normal” looks like, in reference to a catastrophic wound. She may be doing just fine. She may be fighting a terrible infection. She may be undoing all our anti-biotic efforts by licking the thing when we´re not looking. I just don´t know. We take her back to Leon tomorrow to find out.
I am not cut out for anything medical. Just changing Una´s bandages makes me cry like a baby, because I know I am hurting her.
I wonder if our lack of pilgrims is a failing on my part. We´re supposed to be here helping them out, but we´re holed-up at home instead, licking our wounds and eating our vegetables.
It´s not all joyless nursing here. Over in Sahagún the town is hopping with natives returned home for the holiday month and Asturians come down to enjoy the dry Meseta air. I need a haircut, but I shall have to live with my haystack demeanor for a while – even the peluquerias are packed-out! Bars and restaurants are offering all sorts of parties and specials, and one particular poster caught my eye:
Comida de India
Cena completa 12€
This was unusual on several levels. First, the locals are NOT eaters of foreign food, especially something as potentially spicy as Indian. (I´ve learned to not bring “foreign muck” to community dinners, as it will go practically untouched. Even apple pie, and baklava, alas! )
Second unusal thing was the setting. The cafe at the sports complex is a rough spot, where you might find a crude sandwich or a reheated frozen “pizza” among the Cheez-Kurls and ice pops and cold drafts. Dinners? Exotic foreign cuisine? No way, Jose.
And the price! Twelve Euros for three courses and wine? Not on this side of Mumbai. And just the idea of Tikka Masala translated to a Spanish palate was intriguing. We were SO there!
And we were not disappointed. It seems an Andalusian-African couple is running the place now, and is making a real effort. The woman pinned a colorful Indian tablecloth sari-style over her dress, and wore her hair in a long black braid. The man tacked Buddha posters and elephant-print cloths to the dining room walls, and lit incense sticks on a table laden with tropical fruit. He dimmed the lights, and ignited our little tabletop candle. Which was, unfortunately, made for repelling mosquitoes. (Combine several tables´ worth of these with joss-stick incense in a garage-size room, and the effect is exotic to the point of pleurisy.)
Theirs was not like any Indian food I´ve eaten before, but it was tasty, abundant, and served with care and even flair. By candlelight. It was weird and foreign and lovely, a beautiful way to spend an evening at the Polideportivo.
We´ll be back. Every Saturday they will offer something different, the man said. Different, in Sahagún! Someone´s gotta support this kind of thing, even if we are all Anglos and Asturians.
We will bring along company, even. Soon our friend John Rafferty (aka “Johnnie Walker”) will hike to here on his epic journey from Madrid on an alternative camino. (he´s updating the CSJ Guide to the Camino de Madrid.) And Gareth, an English priest-in-training will show up here soon to help us out, part of his summer holiday. So we´ll have to get some pilgs in here to keep him occupied!
He´ll be here for the fiesta, coming up on the weekend of the 22nd. And here, too, will be Adam Levin, guitarrista, who is performing a concert for the village on Sunday afternoon. Word is the fiesta may be smaller than usual this year, as most of the Juli and Pilar families will be out of town that week. But we´ll do our best to beef up the numbers and jolly-up the joint with some charming foreigners. Maybe they´ll dance!