- Australian Vegemite, fairy bread and Anzacs
- English Marmite, shepherd’s pie, sausage rolls, sherry trifle, Eton Mess, scones with jam, fruit flan, cheese and pineapple on sticks
- Israeli cholent
- Canadian smoked salmon
- American macaroni and cheese
- Dutch apple cake.
The foreign residents gave the Spanish locals a ‘taste of the world’.
CULTURAL WEEK IN MONTEJAQUE
Four weeks before the annual cultural week in our little Spanish village, I was asked by the organisers to come up with an activity in which the foreign residents and visitors could take part. Games for the local children and a paso doble competition for the adults had already been planned.
I briefly toyed with the idea of organising a competitive game such as skittles or darts, but decided these were far too English-oriented, and probably would not appeal to most of the nationalities in the village. Then, while I was enjoying a local dish of pigs’ cheeks (carillada), I hit upon the notion of a ‘Taste of the World Food Festival’, where we foreigners could make our local dishes for the Spanish to try. I sounded out my friends – and they were all keen to come up with a dish that could be served in 30 to 40 bite-sized portions.
The Cultural Week organisers were thrilled with the idea, and promised to include it in their activities programme. More than three weeks passed. Potential participants were stopping me in the street and asking what day and at what time we were supposed to be serving our dishes. Temperatures were soaring (it was usually above 30oC in the village square by mid-afternoon), and those of us considering making dishes using cream were having a re-think. And would the organisers be providing plates, spoons, napkins, or was each participant to bring his/her own? I really came to understand the meaning of mañana … and kept trying to convince myself, and others, that it would be ‘all right on the night’. Meanwhile, a deputation was sent to Morrison’s in Gibraltar to buy foodstuffs unobtainable in our part of Spain – e.g. frozen raspberries, trifle sponges, sausage meat, thick cream, pineapple chunks and English cheddar.
On the Friday evening before the start of Cultural Week on the Monday, I saw an advance copy of the programme. There, in black and white, it told me the food festival was scheduled for 8 o’clock on the Wednesday evening. We were in business.
Next came the logistics of how to safely transport (by the 7:30 p.m. set-up time) two glass bowls of trifle from the fridge in our house at the bottom of the village up a winding, steep, uneven incline to the village square. (Bear in mind that I was also dressed for the occasion in a red, white and blue outfit, and wearing high-heeled sandals). I also had to carry 40 plastic cups and spoons, three serving utensils, and six tent-cards bearing the flags and names of the participating countries. I decided to make two trips, and was somewhat sweaty and breathless as I set out my trifles on the allotted area of the trestle tables that had been provided.
We were initially ‘roped off’ from the eager Spanish locals, while five judges had the opportunity to taste and score our efforts. They started at one end of the tables, with the intention of working their way along to the other end. After consuming large helpings of each of the Australian offerings, and half of the Dutch ones, I suggested that maybe they would like to try the savoury dishes first, then the sweet ones. (After having sampled an Anzac biscuit, Vegemite on toast and then Dutch apple cake with cream, soon to be followed by shepherd’s pie and trifle, they readily agreed).
It took about half an hour for the judges to taste each of the more than 15 dishes and to make their decision on the winning (Eton Mess), second (shepherd’s pie) and third place (fruit flan) entries. Winners were all awarded a chef’s hat and apron, while I was given a 1.5 litre bottle of local red wine as a thank-you for coming up with the idea. (As I would rather drink than cook, this was a much-appreciated gift).
The ropes holding back the crowd were removed and the locals surged forward. In less time than it had taken the judges to make their decision, all the dishes were empty. Sandra’s cheese-and-pineapple on sticks, which she had artfully displayed by sticking them into foil-wrapped (uncooked) potatoes, were a big hit … one Spanish señora took the potatoes as well. I had served a lot of my trifle into plastic cups with spoons, and at first it was being avoided – until someone pointed out that it looked like it was other people’s leftovers, and was all in danger of being swept into the rubbish bins.
There is no doubt that the first ‘Taste of the World Food Festival’ will not be the last, and will become an annual event during Cultural Week in Montejaque. The next morning, the villagers were coming up to me and saying they had ‘nunca’ (never) tried any of these foods before, and there was nothing they did not like.
“Not even the Vegemite on toast?” I wanted to ask.
And next year’s festival promises to be even more cosmopolitan; this year, we had visiting friends, an Englishman and his Japanese wife, and they were so impressed with Montejaque (and the week’s events) that they bought a house here. Barry and Micko will be moving to the village at the end of March 2012, and she’s already planning her entry – possibly sushi and a Japanese tea ceremony – and has promised to wear her kimono. Sayonara.