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Camarones, Calamares, and Café

November 20th, 2016 jmocon18

What does a typical Saturday afternoon look like in A Coruña, Spain?  I have spent some time thinking about this question, and I finally came to the conclusion that it boils down to three words, camarones, calamares, and café.  Just last weekend I woke up late on Saturday, as usual, I showered, ate a small breakfast, and then in no time, my host family was herding me out the door.  Almost every Saturday there is some grand family gathering, involving a larger than life lunch.  These weekend lunches are no laughing matter.  The moment I arrived at my host grandmother’s apartment I had three appetizers stuck onto my plate before I even had the chance to sit down.  There was a perfectly flaky empanada, wheat bread with olive oil, and a diverse plate of crackers and cheese.  Now that I am experienced in Spanish culture, I avoided the trap.  I politely ate bits of each, (perhaps a bit more of the empanada, because it is just unbelievably delicious), but then I steered clear of the bait.  About an hour later the real lunch had begun, and a course of camarones was brought to the table.  For those who do not know, camarones is Spanish for prawns, and they are a specialty of the Coruñian fishermen.  Eating them is a messy business, requiring a bit of work to crack each individual miniature shrimp out of its shell.  On my plate the pile of shells steadily grew with each one I ate, but there was nothing I could do to match the natives, who ate their camarones like popcorn, and quickly grew their piles into small mountains.  The camarones were followed by courses of vegetables (which I cannot say I ate).  After the vegetables was a very interesting dish of calamares.  The Spanish word calamares is very similar to the English word calamari, but the way they served squid was quite different from what I was used to.  The head of the squid was laid on my plate, looking very much like I imagine it looked when alive.  I cut it open, and inside they had stuffed it with its own tentacles.  I ate the whole thing, albeit a bit cautiously, but it was definitely a nice tasting dish.  Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anymore, it was time for dessert.  I had seen the cook in the kitchen preparing the frisuelos, a kind of creme filled Spanish crepe, but I did not see that she had also bought two boxes of other cake treats.  I was slightly overwhelmed, because my host family continually dropped pieces of these desserts on my plate, even though I tried to explain to them I was full about two courses ago.  Finally, when all the food was taken away, and everyone in the room had a distinctly sleepy look about them, the last item on that day’s itinerary was brought out, a welcome pot of Spanish coffee.  We sat around the table and talked for a while in Spanish while enjoying the café.  So there it is, a Spanish Saturday lunch, as told through the three c’s of Coruña, camarones, calamares, and café.

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