Jamón Jamón


A more elaborate version (pic source: http://www.toastbev.com)

No, this was not about the Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz starrer at all. Though biting on the leaf thin slices of cured ham did evoke some primal instincts in one. I wanted more of those delectable smoky-salty pieces de la carne.

Miguel obliged. He was a man who knew his jamón ibérico from jamón serrano well.

One of the perks of learning a new language always was meeting new people. Miguel took the job of correcting my beginners Spanish at a Grape Harvest Festival. Red and sweating in February heat, he would patiently wait for me to arrive at a particular verb, conjugate it while staying in the present. When I showed a natural affinity towards Latin American coloquialities more than mainland Spanish, he sighed and went back to stomping on grapes with a vengeance.

The French are famous for being unforgiving when it comes to French. But the Spanish, every single one I had met, were friendly, encouraging dudes. Miguel had even promised to indigenously cook me some food.

So there he was, kind and accepting, messing about in his kitchen. He expertly sautéed some fresh prawns in olive oil and black pepper along with sausages in a separate sartén (frying pan). He was making Tapas – an assortment of appetizers. As we sat down to eat, he spoke about how Spanish families would get together at meal times, and fight for a forkful of ham rather unceremoniously. Imagine doing that under the watchful eyes of our ma-mashi where every member has a murir-bati to themselves. Fights over alu-r chop and beguni seldom end well.

My new friend taught me how to make quick Sangria. To the regular club-goer, a fruity Sangria is as familiar as House music. It is a typical beverage in Spain.  I have included the recipe here (finally, something useful in this blog). Sangria normally has wine, fruit pieces, soda and brandy. I watched pieces of orange bobble in a carafe half full of red wine. In went some Sprite, about the same in measure. He added a quart bottle of brandy, orange juice and sugar. I volunteered to stir the concoction; he gave me a massive ladle to navigate around the floating bits. To finish off, we added cinnamon sticks and bunged it inside the fridge.

Useful tip, make sangria in a glass container as wine acquires the taste of metal or plastic.

I was crestfallen when he said that the punch turns out best if left undisturbed overnight. Fortunately he had prepared a more elaborate version a day in advance.

I watched the seven o’clock Calcutta traffic fly past from the balcony. Sipping cold Sangria. Spanish rock floated about in the air. The rock was different. Or really the same. But the lyrics had started to make sense.

Jamón (pic source: www.hamazing.com) Miguel's quick sangria

Jamón (pic source: http://www.hamazing.com) Miguel’s quick sangria

Social dancing at Tollygunge club

Friends from Columbia

Social dancing at Tollygunge club

Salsa Under the Stars with Aditya at the Tollygunge Club

Just another day at the Kolkata International Salsa Congress. One is reclining with a splendid bottle of red wine, expecting warm dinner at the table any minute. Temperature steady at 13 degrees, and we are outdoors watching Latin social dancing at the lush lawns of Tollygunge Club. My teacher, Mr. Dibyajyoti Mukhopadhyay (founder of the Indo Hispanic Language Academy) introduced me to a lady eager to meet fellow Columbians in Calcutta. That’s how I met Julia, a sprightly and ever smiling person who loves to have conversations. For some reason she insisted on naming me Diya (Diya, mi querida, como estas tu?). Months away from home, it was good to listen to her gushing in rapid Spanish with Eider and Jose.  They would look at me expectantly in between and unable to come up with anything profound in my baby Spanish, I would stick to Si, Si and Verdad (yes,yes, true). Desperate to make an impression I volunteered an obvious: Hace frio, no? (It’s cold, innit?) To which Jose promptly replied in English: It’s actually kinda warm. 

Julia gave me an earful later for egging her on to dance with Jose. Fellow Spanish language enthusiasts, know that not all Spanish speakers dance.