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I cook a mean tortilla español. It’s not just a matter of sticking some cooked potatoes in an omelette, you know. It takes time, skill and patience. But it’s well worth it. A slice of dry, uninspiring tortilla, as recently endured in Plaza San Francisco, is a thing designed to banish all saliva and destroy all appetite for a week, whereas a slice of well-made tortilla is a gastronomic delight to rank alongside lobster thermidor or corned beef hash.
(Let’s make it plain right from the start that we’ll have no food snobbery here. Exquisite though caviar and truffles are, heaven for me could just as easily be eating fish, chips and mushy peas to t’sound o’t’Sally Army band as foie gras and trumpets. And this is Spain, not France. However there will, no doubt, be expeditions to the front line of Spanish cuisine, especially as the best restaurant in town is just round the corner. Watch this space.)
For fans of tortilla visiting Cádiz, there exists a subtle little trap. Order “tortilla” in
one of the many bars and restaurants around here and you may be surprised, as la frisada
and I once were, to receive a small disk of fried batter, embossed with small, whole shrimp.
This is the delicacy, unique to the province of Cádiz, known as tortillas de camarones.
My recipe book, written for the American market, translates these as “Shrimp Pancakes” but
anybody from the UK, especially north of Watford will immediately see them as fritters.
At best they can be delicious but, as at our first encounter, they can also be a little
too greasy — but that’s nothing a glass of ice-cold fino can’t deal with (if you want
the other sort, by the way, you need to specify tortillas de patatas).
Georgia was deeply unimpressed by my comment that she was always on my mind. Apparently,
despite her tender years, it was far from being the first time anyone had made that reference.
And yet my prediction made at the time has proved completely true: of the girls in the
photograph, hers is, for that corny reason, the only name I can recall. And it was Georgia,
coincidentally, who seemed most interested in helping me to find a name for a planned series
of vignettes, random jottings descriptive of my life here in this corner of Europe, to be
sent to various parties, willing or otherwise, over the Internet. “Letter from Cádiz,”
unoriginal and uninspiring though it may be, was, for a long time, the best either of us
could think of.
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[Background illustration courtesy of José
at Taberna al Albero, Virgen de la Palma, Cádiz:
and very nice they were too!]