Sunday, May 10, 2009

seeing is believing at the feria

Overwhelmed. In a good way. This is how I felt when entering the feria of Sevilla. By the array of colors, the dresses, the horses and carriages, the dancing, the casetas, the rebujitos...

Fresh off the train from Madrid, we dropped off our baggage and went straight to the feria. It's difficult to process the visual stimuli of the feria on one's first time. Immediately you are bombarded with a million things to look at. Stunning women, each one wearing an unique flamenco dress in eye-popping colors and patterns, amble down streets where horse drawn carriages circle around, and people are going in and out of casetas. The casetas are tents that line the streets of the feria. Now if you're like me, "party tent" conjures up images of bar mitzvahs inside plain white tents with plastic white table cloths. Also being 13 years old and doing the electric slide. In Sevilla, it is anything but. It's quite the posh ordeal, really. Private groups rent casetas for the entire week, and they are lavishly decorated and replete with bar and food to order. Doormen stand guard at the entrances to protect these exclusive worlds from the commoners outside.This lady was stunning

So cute it hurts
The feria at night

I was lucky to have gone with my own Sevillano to get me into many of the casetas. Inside... there is dancing, family, and rebujito! Pitcher after pitcher of rebujito, which is a mixture of manzanilla, a sherry wine produced in Andalucia, and sprite. It goes down dangerously easy, causing some unanticipated disequilibiurm when exiting the casetas.

But there was much more to the feria than just drinking. Eating too. All day we picked at plates of Andalusian tapas that were passed around. To make you envious:

Puntillitas (fried baby squid)

Jamón serrano, queso manchego, caña de lomo (cured pork loin)

Tortilla de patatas con verduras (potato omelet with vegetables)

Espárragos con jamón (asparagus with jamon and crunchy sea salt)

And lest we forget the churros con chocolate at 6 am on the way home:

And perhaps most important of all - the sevillano dancing. It is a partner dance that has four sections, and involves graceful turns, spins, and hand movements for the women. It's a beautiful tradition to watch. And seemingly simple, but guess again. Yes, I attempted a dance or two. Never have I felt so ungraceful and uncoordinated, and not because of the rebujito. To my defense, the girls start dancing sevillano style when they are teeny.

With all the socializing at the feria, I got to practice my Andaluz, the Andalusians being famous for their distinct accent and manner of speaking, sometimes causing difficulty for even native speakers of Castellano. To elaborate.

Saturated. Exhausted. This is how I felt after 2 days of the feria. Pablo's parents were kind enough to invite us all to their home in the village of Gines for a delicious paella mixta, with seafood (mussels, shrimp, calamares), chicken, and some veggies, including artichokes, which I had never had before in a paella. The main ingredients in any paella are rice, safron (giving it the deep golden color), olive oil, and a meat or fish, although this isn't absolutely necessary. Last summer, I worked in the countryside in Valencia, where paella is from. Many people think that paella is a typical Spanish food, but it's actually a Valencian specialty. One day a woman that ran a hostel there prepared us paella in an enormous pan called a paellera, with rabbit, chicken, and fresh rosemary. One thing I've learned from eating many paellas is you must scrape the burnt rice from the bottom of the paellera when serving, because this part is reeeally tasty.

Our meal was followed by a much needed siesta. After watching Real Madrid lose to Barcelona in a soccer match, we returned to the city, freshened up, and went out for a late dinner. With all the people in the feria, it was a very atypically quiet Saturday night in Sevilla. We ventured to a spot of my friend Peter, who studied in Sevilla during college. It's a little place called Bar Alfalfa that's always crowded with people, and only has standing room. They prepare Andalusian foods with an Italian twist, such as bread topped with buffalo cheese, salmorejo, and bits of jamon. Sounds a little strange, the combination, but it was yummy. Although I would probably love salmorejo in any arrangement. With a tapa of plump olives and a plate of thin slices of jamón with parmesan and rucula, it was a perfect way to round off a very intense weekend.

During the 6 hour bus ride back I was going over all of the things I had to share with you, and realized it would be selfish if I were to withhold Pablo's recipe for salmorejo, which I am becoming an expert at preparing ... I will leave you hanging for now, but go buy your tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, and green peppers, and I'll show you how to make it this week. Hasta pronto.


Su Penkissima said...

Needles to say that has been an enormous plasure to have you and to drive you trhough that crazy and coloured jungle called the Feria de Abril in my home town Seville. It has been also very exciting time even for me (keeping in mind this is not my first time at the feria, nor even the seventh) to watch your espontaneous reacctions while facing such a big event.

Has been too, a good oppotunity to introduce you many people whom are very important to me, like all these people that let us go in their casetas (just kidding), close people like Nico, Fabián, Fernando, among others, and of course my parents.

Well Cait, I hope this is not the only time you're comming to the feria by my hand, and I'll feel offended if you choose another Sevillano "on your own" to go with.

Thanks to you too.

Berto Zingamo said...

Ey! Cait. Nice post. You've got a very good touristic style, shall we say, in your writting.

I'm so glad to know that you spent a great time at the Feria. I did'n come with you guys 'cause I had (and I wanted) to see my old friends, and they're not so much feriantes.

Maybe the next year I will go with you.

See you at Madrid!!