Bibs for adults
An old Spanish proverb says "spring alters the blood." However, not only does it alter the blood, but also our diet. Spring is full of fruit and vegetables that give their best with the first rays of sun. One is the modest 'calçot', a type of fine onion with a delicate flavour. Eating it is a kind of ritual to start the spring in the warm areas surrounding the Ebro River as it passes through Catalonia. Beware, like every initiatory ritual, it has its rules: of course you can eat it in private but it certainly does not taste the same.
Tradition has it that calçots should be eaten in the town square at a table with one’s neighbours. The whiteness of the calçot is blackened by the cooking on the grill and, once off the fire, by its immersion in the famous ‘salvitxada’ or ‘romesco’ sauce with its reddish hue. Salvitxada is a compendium of the Mediterranean diet: olive oil, salt, tomatoes, almonds, hazelnuts, peppers ... As canonical rite orders that calçots have to be eaten by hand without cutlery, the sauce slides down this vegetable to such an extent that it is necessary to wear a bib to avoid staining one’s clothing. Watching all those well-fledged men and women so proudly wearing a garment so childish is a picturesque sight, but believe me, nobody refuses when the whiff of calçots reaches your nose.
And for those still hungry, the Catalans, known for their legendary ability to save, roast meat and homemade sausage (the so-called ‘botifarras’) on the embers of the fire used to cook the calçots. Between the vegetables, the meat, the sunshine and the banter with the bibs, the calçotada feast becomes an irresistible popular and gastronomic party. For in spring in the region of Tarragona, not staining your shirt while eating is frowned upon.
Photos: Ajuntament de Valls
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