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Pestiños al Anís
(Fried Aniseed Pastries)

Cakes and All

January 23 2001 (to Karen, on her Birthday)

The poster for Carnaval 2001 shows a band of revellers outside Cádiz central market, led by our two oldest residents, the Phoenician anthropoid sarcophagi. It also informs us that the Carnival of Cádiz is of "international tourist interest" and runs from February 22 to March 4.   Less than a month to go then.
So we've started already.

eriza poster About a week ago, the bars around la casucha sprouted a companion poster, showing a fetching couple sporting coordinated fig leaves. The snake entwining the pillar behind them enhances the Adam and Eve motif, while the sea and the lighthouse transport them from the Garden of Eden to the present-day Paradise of la Caleta beach. And, in place of an apple, Eve's hand is cradling a bizarre green spiky object.
This is the poster for the 21st "Eriza" Popular.
At first, this was a tad confusing. Looking up erizo in the trusty dick'n'harry, it seems to mean "hedgehog" and I'd never been clear why the street next to mine was home to the Hedgehog Club (Peña el Erizo).
But, on more careful reading, an erizo del mar, a "hedgehog of the sea", is what we Limeys would call a sea urchin. And probably push politely to the side of our plate.
So the party which "opens the doors to the most famous Carnival in Spain" was the sea urchin festival (and its oyster companion in Plaza San Antonio) on Sunday January 21st, when, according to ¿Que Hacer? ("What's On?"), "hundreds of dozens of oysters and urchins are given away free and washed down with the good local wine."

hedgehog club This fiesta supposedly "begins on the 20th with a cake party". Though the streets were filled with nascent bars and pregnant stages as I strolled round La Viña that night, there was no sign of cakes or ale but, having embarked on a compensatory sherry-crawl, I was informed by mine host, Jose that a party was taking place very soon, way over in San Francisco Square.
How right he was. By the church, which is all that remains of a once-extensive convent, was another of those stages that keep getting thrown up all over town. This stage was already graced by a coro, giving it large.
The cafés opposite the Hotel were fitted with external bars, festooned with bottles and beer taps, while, along Rosario, beginning at a counter outside O'Donnell's Irish Bar, there stretched a cola — literally a tail, obviously a queue.
I strolled along it - it ended somewhere in the next province. I stood at the back. A woman asked me if this was the queue for los pestiños?
"I don't know," I replied, adding, "I assume so," despite having no idea what she was talking about. "When we English see a queue, we join it. We don't ask what it's for."
The queue moved forward steadily, people chatting as they went, quite happy to spend half the evening crawling along a narrow street. Eventually we reached the counter, behind which women were wrapping napkins round twists of fried pastry soaked in honey and handing them to the revellers.
"Gracias," I said, taking one.
"Er ... Gracias." Someone else thrust another one into my hand.
This went on along the row until my refusals became firmer, my gestures indicating the number I already had and the size of my post-Yuletide stomach. But then the B-team swung into action, as a señora handed me a plastic shot glass of sweet (and powerful) anis liqueur. This left me struggling to accept the plastic cup of coffee and obligatory sachet of sugar, from the chicas dressed like airline cabin crew, which I was nonetheless obliged to do before I could leave the line in search of a window ledge or other surface for my booty.

I ate my pestiños, delicious with their delicate hint of aniseed, washing them down with my two small but powerful draughts. As it was now past midnight and but twelve hours to the ostreal orgy, it seemed sensible to head for home and an early night.
A wise move... click on an urchin to read about it.

sea uchins

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