My friend Rob was invited to a dinner through the With Locals platform.
“You want to come with me?” he asked.
“What kind of food is it?”
“It doesn’t say.”
“Oh. Where is it?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Ha. Ok, let’s try it.”
Friday night. 8:30. An ‘eclectic’ meal in Sant Andreu which would have cost €47 for 7 courses with wine but we were non-paying guests. I’m not a fan of eclectic, I think most good things come from focus. Because with focus comes practice and practice makes perfect.
Felipe came to meet us downstairs. It was one of those heavy humid August evenings, the kind that has you standing with legs splayed and hands on hips to get as much air as possible circulating. Felipe was in a black chefs jacket and jeans, if he was dinner, I would have pulled him out of the oven and pronounced him ‘done’.
Upstairs we met Felipe’s friends: A professional flutist also from Chile, a mustachioed friend in a Hawaiian shirt who writes copy for McCann, a young photographer from Malaga who works for Uterqüe and his beautiful girlfriend who looked like Natalie Portman until a large smile would erupt making her look like Julia Roberts. Behind a camera was Marta, an Italian taking pictures of the evening for With Locals.
Felipe started us off with a gazpacho. Then his vegetarian interpretation of Sobrassada, like a tomato confit which we spread on crackers. A brandada de bacalao with flatbread. He served us Peruvian ceviche with Pomfret or the colloquial hija de puta because Pomfret has so many bones it is hard to clean. Then we had a Chupe of cochayuyo (a bull kelp that looks more like bamboo than any seaweed I’ve ever seen) with plenty of Merkén running through it. Baby back ribs with miniature vegetables from a huerto that Felipe had access to. And to finish, a big wedge of cold millet brownie with lemon cream.
So it was eclectic after all with a helping of Chilean influence.
Rustic presentation. The brownie sliced out of the tray and served at the table, the tomato sobrassada cut into rings of varying thickness.
We discussed the meaning of the various tattoos around the table (I don’t have any but the entire world now seems to be in possession of one: I would like to propose this topic as an alternative to ‘the weather’ for British people.) The hirsute flutist complained that all his Spanish roommates shave all the hair off their bodies – having not sampled this category of men, I couldn’t comment. Mustachio McCann turned out to be quite funny and the Salvador Dali mustache with the waxed tips didn’t seem like such a bad idea as the evening wound down. An exhausted (and after the profuse heat of the evening – probably dehydrated) Felipe slumped down on the sofa eager to know what we had thought of his food. He began to tell us about the painting on the wall that he and his partner (who is a translator for Tony Robbins) had recently acquired. After a while, someone suggested we go down to a local bar and continue the party there.
And that is the appeal of the exercise: being thrown into a cauldron of cultures and relishing the adventure of dipping into the lives of others.