Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Editing the New York Times

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Honestly, I find multiple copy errors in the Times every day and each time, I die a little inside. It’s not often I know more than the writers, though. When I do, I get downright angry; if I know something, they should too! It also makes me angry at the editors since apparently none of them bothered to do their damn jobs.

Today’s gripe is about Catalan cuisine. In a blog post about aioli, a garlicky mayo typical in the Pyrenees region, a Times food columnist writes

In Catalonia [aioli]… is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to grilled spring onions and snails at a feast called the cargolada. It’s also an indispensable accompaniment to paella.

I need to take a few deep breaths here. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I almost can’t see straight.

The grill guys are wearing the typical Catalan hat so that everyone’s photos have that “authentic” feel

In Catalunya, there is a kind of green onion called a calçot [kahl-sot] which is in season the first few months of the year. During this period, people frequently attend calçotadas, a kind of party where the onions are grilled over charcoal and then served with a romesco-type sauce. Romesco is a tomato-based sauce. It is therefore distinctly red and can in no way be confused with garlic mayo.

Second big gripe is that the word “cargol” does not exist in Catalan. There is caragol, which is a snail. Snails are very popular in northern Spain. They are, in fact, most frequently served with allioli, the Catalan way of calling garlic mayo. This duo is so common that it has its own name which is caragolada. There is not a festival or special feast associated with this dish. To claim that there is would be like saying shrimp cocktail is a holiday.

Finally, after living in Spain for five years and even waiting tables at a restaurant that served paella, I never saw anyone eat it with aioli. Perhaps if your mojo (from “wet” ; the spice paste that’s the base of the dish) isn’t very flavorful, you need the extra kick. There are recipes online for this combo, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the dish as the writer suggested.

Grrr. I’m going to grind my teeth for a while longer. Then I may actually make a rice dish since it’s on my mind now.


Learn Something (Else)

Romesco sauce is the only genuinely Catalan recipe to be incorporated into the international culinary world. It hasn’t reached the level of the Five Mother Sauces (the classic French ones taught in cooking school), but it is actually seen outside of Catalunya, so that’s a big deal for them.

Here’s Brendan, from his 2009 trip, showing almost perfect calçot-eating technique. You’re supposed to throw your head back and let the sauce drip into your mouth and then bite the calçot when you’re about to choke on it. It’s much safer to just chew the damn thing.


Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

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