In Spain, it’s said that in the North they stew, in the center, they roast, and in the South, they fry food. Segovia is a city in the center; a quick thirty-minute train ride northwest of Madrid makes it a perfect day-trip destination. I went this past Sunday for a visit, and if in the center of the country, they roast, Segovia is the gastronomical queen of central Spain.
Segovia is primarily known for its “cochinillo” – that is, roasted suckling pig. Suckling pig means baby pig. Baby pig means that, no, not even in the name of gastronomical research will I touch that.
“It’s very tender,” Milagros explained to me, a fan of the baby pig. “The waiters will break it with a plate – this is to demonstrate how tender it is. And the skin, from being roasted in a wood-burning oven, is nice and crisp.”
Another Spanish friend said he didn’t like cochinillo. “It’s too fatty,” he said. I’m imagining it’s the Spanish version of veal (which would only naturally be a pig).
Segovia is also known for its roasted lamb. I decided not to go that route, either. My friend and I went to a restaurant for lunch, and I opted for fish. Pretty much all restaurants in Spain offer a “menú del día” – a “prix fixe” kinda meal. It comes with a first course, a second course, dessert, and often bread, wine, and water. I enjoyed my meal of roasted vegetables, a white fish, and natillas. I will describe natillas in a further entry. Segovia is known for its good food. Milagros told me that she, and many madrileños will make the trip just to eat there.
So, I enjoyed my meal, but I felt ever so slightly dissatisfied – here I was, in Segovia, and yet I couldn’t try the typical dishes. But – aha! There’s always dessert to be had. I had heard of “ponche segoviano”, Segovia’s most typical dessert, so after walking off our big lunch, my friend and I popped into a pastelería and ordered una porción.
Very odd, was my impression. And, very sweet. The ponche seemed to be constructed in layers – a sponge cake base, a creamy filling, all wrapped in marzipan. Too sweet, I thought, still full from lunch, and tossed the second half in the garbage. But, at least I got to try something typical from Segovia.