Visiting the picturesque region of Andalucía for a review of our olive oil supply base provided not only an experience to learn about the technical processes and current markets but an opportunity for an insight into everyday life in Spain.
Approaching, along a winding country lane, a valley of pale stone buildings nestled between steep hillsides of olive groves and treacherous mountains in the distance topped with snow.
Strolling around the quaint traditional Spanish town, exploring the wonders it has to offer to those who venture into traditional Spain, with a relaxing aura and tranquillity which is a refreshing contrast to the bustling tourist hot spots. Narrow roads weaving between the Spanish equivalent of a chocolate box village; worlds apart, but feeling somewhat at home and comfortable in the surroundings. Unique and intricately designed buildings, each with their own distinctive characteristics, not a single one like another. Tucked away in a small corner of the central plaza, a Tapas bar; packed with locals, one can assume this is the place to be!
Welcomed as one of them by a jubilant waiter, full of life; “Hola, bienvenido!” [Hello, welcome!]
The menu presented was typical of the Spanish cuisine incorporating historical and cultural influences of many years before from the surrounding Mediterranean and further afield. Being able to make out only a little of the menu, the waiter selects the most traditional dishes. The slight apprehension of what will be presented is soon quashed as smells from the kitchen drift into the bar.
Shortly after ordering, a plate of “jamon y queso,” is presented. The Jamon, a cured ham from the black Iberian pig, was rich in colour, equally matched by taste. Sliced paper thin, each piece provided so much intense flavour it created the ultimate taste sensation. Accompanied by Manchego, a traditional Spanish cheese made from the milk of sheep, with a slight hardness and bite releasing a concentrated culmination of sharp, nutty tanginess with each mouthful, despite the mild aroma.
Succulent chopped tomatoes drizzled in the finest extra virgin olive oil follow, served with slightly warm fresh bread which soaked up the remaining liquid gold. A dish so simple but utterly delightful. Pulpo a la Gallega [octopus] served alongside, also generously trickled with olive oil and dressed modestly with fresh herbs. With a tender texture, it melted in the mouth releasing a delicate and mild flavour which satisfied the taste buds.
Yet another plate arrived soon after, and despite having overindulged in what had already been served, the enthusiasm for sampling more delights was not lost. Next served, “croquetas,” each oozing different delightful combinations of various fillings concealed in a rich melted cheese and a light breadcrumb. Beside these, Calamares a la Romana [battered squid], not dissimilar in appearance and texture to crinkle cut chips! Served with a lemon and garlic dip these basic ingredients intertwined to create a pleasant contrast of flavours.
An experience more than just the tasting new dishes, with different flavours, textures and smells, this was an experience of culture and a way of life. Stepping out into the warming winter sun in the village plaza, the five sensory cravings were blissfully satisfied and provided an everlasting feeling of connection with the Spanish cuisine.
Joanne Slatcher (Trader)
Sarah Breckon (Senior Group Auditor)