After months of observation, I’ve come to conclude that Spanish people have a much more honest attitude towards food. In Spain, it’s not uncommon to see an entire pig head on display; fish almost always comes served with the spine and often the head still attached; and a whole roasted pig is considered a culinary delight. In America, we don’t want to see any of that. We want our meat pre-packaged sans head, sans feathers, sans anything reminding us of the animal it used to be. In my bold new effort to incorporate fish into my diet, I didn’t have much difficulty consuming a mild white fish (pescadilla), breaded and sautéed. But when they served me dorada, head, spine, and tail attached, I shrieked and refused to eat it. A kind friend took over the situation and cut off all the disturbing elements for me.
In addition to the perceived safety of pre-packaged food, in America, we are obsessed with refrigerating everything. I know that my instinct after going to the grocery store is to immediately store all perishable food in the fridge. Leftovers go in the fridge. Take-out goes in the fridge. Last year I made a cheesecake and stupidly left it on the counter overnight. When I realized this I freaked out and tossed it in the trash. A loss of a beautiful cheesecake! Bacteria, salmonella: eating can be dangerous.
So imagine my surprise when Milagros prepared a lunch for me one morning before heading out for the day, and set it out for me on the counter. The lunch consisted of a baked potato with her delectable blue-cheese dressing, and lentil soup. That afternoon, I carefully surveyed the food. The lentil soup, I concluded, should be okay, since it was made of only lentils and veggies. But the blue-cheese dressing? That’s dairy. Visions of food poisoning danced in my head.
But, I decided, I’m in Spain after all, and if the Spanish aren’t getting sick off of all their non-refrigerated food, then neither will I. So I ate it. And I didn’t get sick. The Spanish have been eating this way a long, long time, long before refrigerators were ever invented, and maybe we Americans can take note and loosen up a bit.
By the way, I’ve steadily been pilfering recipes from Milagros, and here’s the one for her scrumptious blue-cheese dressing:
- mayonnaise (about ¾ a jar)
- 75 grams blue cheese or Roquefort (broken into little bits)
- 1 plain yogurt (6 oz)
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
Mix all ingredients. Serve on lettuce hearts (“cogollos” in Spanish), or on a salad of lettuce and diced green apples, or on baked potatoes. Yum, yum!