The title of this post is the start of a song from my childhood. And it hasn’t stopped playing in my head since dinner last night. I’ll soon explain why.
|COMMEMORATING THE 2ND OF MAY 1808 REBELLION AGAINST THE OCCUPYING FRENCH.
MONUMENT TO LUIS DAOIZ DE TORRES, ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THE UPRISING.
We returned to Dos de Mayo, one of the best (if not the best) tapas bars around. The place is always busy and the food and service are always phenomenal. Everything is made fresh to order. We started off with a spectacular plate of large grilled shrimp — the bartender showed us the fresh gambas (shrimp) as soon as we sat down and then had them cooked up for us. As usual, we ordered too many — eight instead of simply four — and they were very expensive I’m sure, although they were worth every penny. They were so good I didn’t even mind getting my fingers messy (and I usually mind very much getting my fingers messy). And I now know the Spanish word for those individually packaged moistened towelettes — toallitas.
|FOUR DOWN. FOUR TO GO.|
We had to have spinach and garbanzos again. As delicious as we remembered. And we were pleased to note that the spinach and garbanzos Jerry cooked in Irvine were exactly right. I then asked the bartender to choose two more dishes for us. He suggested, and I agreed to, a cazuela (casserole) of shrimp and fish, and a lamb and vegetable skewer.
When the cazuela arrived, it was filled with shrimp, fish, and what looked like some kind of sprouts (like alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts). On closer inspection, the “sprouts” appeared to be worms. A bowl filled with worms. Jerry and I were both brave enough to try one each and we then agreed that not only did they look like worms, but they felt like we thought a worm would feel in one’s mouth.
|BEAUTIFUL AND DELICIOUS… EXCEPT FOR THE “WORMS.”|
I asked the bartender if he knew what they were called in English and he did not. He called out to a customer at another table and she told me in English that she was pretty sure they weren’t worms, thought they were fish of some kind, but did not know more than that. I laughed and said they still looked and felt too much like worms for our taste.
|EENSY WEENSY SQUEENSY ONES|
After I emailed the photo to Margarita to find out what they were called, my personal research librarian, Jerry, checked things out this morning and we now know all we need to know about the worms that are not worms. Angulas, 2-inch-long (5cm) baby eels are a traditional Basque dish. Six families are the principal suppliers in the world. These baby eels, also known as elvers (a crossword puzzle staple) in English, are rare and very expensive (more than $40 a pound) and in the 1980s were so hard to find that the price was up to $120 a pound. So, one of the Basque family companies came up with a less expensive imitation. They work with Japanese technology to convert surimi (fish from Alaskan waters pressed fresh into blocks on factory ships) into pseudo-elvers, which they call “gulas,” by forcing the material out, spaghetti-like, into the shape of elvers. A touch of squid ink is then added to tint the backs dark. What makes it obvious these are fakes is that there are no eyes. Now, why anyone would want to eat anything that looks and feels like a worm (or baby eel) — pseudo or not — is beyond me. Margarita, by the way, thinks they are “marvelous”!