A Crapper of My Own / Mi Propio Caganer

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

I FINALLY JOINED in a Catalonian tradition this year. Barcelona, a 9.5-hour drive north from here, is in Catalonia. Some of you may remember the first time I learned about The Caganer. It was our first Christmas in Fuengirola. I was admiring the window display in a wonderful shop, called Moreno, in the center of town when I noticed an animated outhouse (click here) (and here for a Caganer from 2017). When the door opened, I saw a figure “doing his business.” I learned he’s called The Caganer (which means “The Pooper”) and has appeared in nativity scenes since the late 17th century in Catalonia and Catalan areas in Andorra, Valencia, and Southern France. The tradition even spread to Murcia (Spain), Portugal, and Naples (Italy). It’s become so popular that you can find most contemporary public figures as “El Caganer.”

This year, after making another video of The Caganer in the window of Moreno, I went inside and bought myself a little figurine. The most traditional Caganer is a peasant wearing a red stocking hat, a white shirt, and black trousers. I suppose I could have stuck with tradition, but my ceramic figurine is wearing an actual fabric hat. Besides, he had a much more substantial “purge.” Ah, the magic of Christmas.

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FINALMENTE ME UNÍ a una tradición catalana este año. Barcelona, a 9,5 horas en coche hacia el norte desde aquí, se encuentra en Cataluña. Algunos de vosotros recordaráis la primera vez que aprendí sobre El Caganer. Fue nuestra primera Navidad en Fuengirola. Estaba admirando el escaparate de una maravillosa tienda, llamada Moreno, en el centro de la ciudad cuando noté una letrina animada (haz clic aquí) (y aqui para un Caganer de 2017). Cuando se abrió la puerta, vi una figura “haciendo su trabajo”. Me enteré de que se llamaba El Caganer y ha aparecido en belenes desde finales del siglo XVII en Cataluña y zonas catalanas en Andorra, Valencia, y el sur de Francia. La tradición incluso se extendió a Murcia (España), Portugal, y Nápoles (Italia). Se ha vuelto tan popular que puedes encontrar figuras públicas más contemporáneas como “El Caganer”.

Este año, después de hacer otro video del Caganer en la ventana de Moreno, entré y me compré una figurita. El Caganer más tradicional es un campesino que usa un gorro rojo, una camisa blanca, y pantalones negros. Supongo que podría haber quedado con la tradición, pero mi figura de cerámica lleva un sombrero de tela real. Además, tenía una “purga” mucho más sustancial. Ah, la magia de la Navidad.

Catalina, Anchovies, and the Duchess of Alba

I never met an anchovy I didn’t loathe…

That is until last week at my new favorite restaurant in Sevilla (and maybe anywhere). The chef/owner is Gonzalo, our neighbor. He moved in shortly after we did and, until two weeks ago, we had no idea he had opened a new restaurant called Catalina. So, the other day, San Geraldo and I decided to try it out for lunch.

Like so many great things in Sevilla, it’s just a 10-minute walk from our house. It’s on a small plaza with a big name — Plaza Padre Jerónimo de Córdoba — across the street from Plaza Ponce de León, which is the major bus plaza in the old part of town… that is right next to the Church of Santa Catalina (hence, the restaurant name). The church was built in the 14th century and, as if that weren’t long enough ago, it was built on the ruins of a mosque (with portions of the mosque preserved).

BETWEEN LUNCH AND DINNER. A GREAT PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH.

I had walked by Catalina many times before not knowing it belonged to Gonzalo. It’s got wonderful indoor and outdoor dining spaces, but what always caught my attention were the pastries and gourmet shop I could see through the windows.

EVERYTHING FOR THE SWEET TOOTH. NOTICE THE “MMM…!” ON THE WALL. REALLY.

Every dish we ordered was incredible. But the proof (which is usually in the pudding) was in the anchovies. I hate, hate, hate — with a passion — hate anchovies. I have tried them dozens of times in my not-very-short life and have never — absolutely never, ever — found them remotely palatable. While we enjoyed the incredible dishes we had ordered, Gonzalo sent out a tapa dish for each of us with his complements. Each one was beautifully presented on a slab of rusk (crispy biscuit-like, twice-baked bread). Topping the rusk were slices of plump and delectable red and greenish-brown peppers. Topping the peppers… I could not believe my eyes. A huge anchovy. The biggest anchovies I had ever seen.

‘Oh, crap,’ I thought. ‘I have to be polite and eat it.’

With a smile on my face, I said to San Geraldo, “Is that what I think it is?”

He said, “Yep.”

San Geraldo is also not a fan of anchovies. He bravely took a bite of his as I watched with eyes wide. He looked at me and, with a huge grin and a sparkle in his eyes, said. “You are going to love this.”

Now San Geraldo is not the type to pretend to like something just so he can watch me gag. He’s not that cruel (but, primarily, he can’t keep a straight face).

I asked incredulously, “Really?”

He said, “Yes. You are going to love this.”

I tried it. I loved it. I devoured my entire portion and I can’t wait to go back for more. Anyone (Gonzalo) who can make me love an anchovy truly has a gift.

I NO LONGER HATE ANCHOVIES (AS LONG AS THEY’RE PREPARED BY GONZALO.)

MEALS TO GO (I CAN PICK UP A GOURMET DINNER AND PRETEND TO KNOW HOW TO COOK).

GONZALO.  DAZZLING SMILE (CHECK OUT THOSE DIMPLES). SINCERE WARMTH.
AND HE COOKS, TOO!

SANTA CATALINA, WISHING SHE COULD GET DOWN FROM THERE AND GRAB A BITE TO EAT.

Catalina (the restaurant) is several blocks away from the Sevilla home (palace) of the Duchess of Alba. I dropped by on my way home but she didn’t come to the gate. So I waved “hola” to the dog and kept walking. I’ll have to tell her about Gonzalo and Catalina (and the anchovies) some other time.

SEVILLA PALACE OF THE DUCHESS OF ALBA.

THE DOG WAS OUT FOR A STROLL (AT LEFT), BUT THE DUCHESS WAS UNAVAILABLE.

P.S.: I just found Catalina’s website: http://www.catalinacasadecomidas.com. Apparently, the menu (carta) is going to be online soon. You can eat your heart out until you get here and then … eat to your heart’s content! — m