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Food in Spain

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Offline Technopat

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« on: February 22, 2007, 12:12 PM »
Taking my cue from the interesting article on peppers written by Francis Barrett and published on the iberianature web site, http://www.iberianature.com/material/peppers.html, I thought it might be interesting to have a topic page here at the forum devoted to slightly less serious matters than climate change, the work of man (in its negative aspects), and so on, viz. food and wine. Holistically speaking, a food culture is directly related to a country's nature.

Spain still has a tremendously varied gastronomy, often based on locally-grown/farmed and/or seasonal produce and although things are rapidly changing (GM, frozen, imported foods - El Corte Inglés now sells pimientos (tipo) de Padrón imported from North Africa, never mind Murcia!) there's still time to take advantage of such stuff and encourage Spaniards to do the same.

I don't want to get Nick or anyone into trouble, and assume full responsibility (within reason!) for any negative reaction to this initiative, but I think it might be interesting to encourage a symbolic boycott of all those products which just don't seem to make sense - taking coal to Newcastle. With no offence to our friends from France, New Zealand, California, etc., Spain has excellent wines of its own which will not be around for much longer. Many of my Spanish friends boycott cava and are prepared to buy and drink vastly inferior stuff from any other place as long as it isn't Catalan!

Those of us old enough to remember life before Watney's Red and Big Macs owe it to the younger generations!

Any feedback, whether hostile or friendly, welcome.
Regards,
Technopat
« Last Edit: December 12, 2007, 23:26 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Dave

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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2007, 13:10 PM »
Well it is an interesting idea, but from my experience, here in Leon, the locals are fiercely proud of their local products, and consider them the best, my brother in law is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to aquire products, which he considers best, even travelling to outlying villages to buy from the locals, he would not look twice at a Californian walnut, only  the walnuts of El Bierzo are good enough. This is also true of Reineta apples, pimientos, chestnuts. He often buys in bulk and sells it among the family and friends. interestingly we have friends in Asturias, who drive to Leon to by Chorizo, Jamon and Morcilla (black pudding). The tradition of the Huerta (smallholding) is also strong here, with people growing their own fruit and veg, usually organically, and the taste is superb. We have a neighbour with a huerta outside Leon, and in season, she keeps us supplied with an endless supply of fresh vegetables, and we reciprocate in Autumn with our apples, pears and quinces from our orchard in Torre del Bierzo. so perhaps all is not lost. One other point, the local supermarkets always carefully label their fresh products, to show their origin, and of course with the varied climate of Spain, the season for fresh vegetables is extremely long, with produce like strawberries starting now from the far south and lasting well into June when the local varieties become available. Another good thing here are the thrice weekly markets, when the local villagers bring their produce into town, to sell. So as opposed to encouraging anyone to buy locally, it is I who am encouraged by my Spanish friends and family
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2007, 17:38 PM »
Lucky you!
It's precisely that kind of culinary, etc. culture I was referring to - do everything you can to enjoy it while it lasts and to ensure it lasts!
Envious regards from Madrid,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2007, 11:07 AM »
Greetings,
Forgot to mention (re: Francis Barrett's peppers article) what the aged grandmother of a Galician friend told us on a visit to her place years ago - totally self-sufficient food-wise. She said that the hottest pimientos de Padrón were the ones picked immediately after it had rained. We joked about the hotness being a defense mechanism to dry themselves off and she answered "Of course!" and just shook her head at the ignorance of city-folk (and guiris, at that!).

Which begs the question as to how hot they are when grown in Almeria or wherever.

Cheers!
Technopat
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 16:05 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2007, 10:50 AM »
Greetings All,
Just seen that this fledgling forum has just received its 333rd post (posting?). Congratulations!
That number necessarily brought to mind that at Km 333 on the A1 (some 12 km outside Vitoria) there's a filling station & caff. The restaurant there (Palacios, I seem to remember) is one of the best in Spain - totally unknown except locally - all local produce, etc. What you see is what you get.
The rationale behind its excellent quality is that the guy who runs El Portalón in Vitoria (that city's most exclusive eating house) used to be the chef at Palacios and when he went off to Vitoria, his brother took over and since then have had a long-standing duel as to who offers the best fare. And the price/quality ratio is clear!
Recommendation - next time you're up that way, pop in to Palacios, book the table, zap off to Vitoria, do your biz. and back 12 km for lunch.
Happy eating!
Regs.
Technopat
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 16:06 PM by Technopat »
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2007, 20:01 PM »
Hi Technopat,
Very interesting, this thing about competition improving food quality, here in Leon, as you may know, Tapas are free. There is constant competition between the various bar owners to outdo each other with Tapas, the best bar for Tapas is probably El Greco, for the price of a cana (sorry needs an  accent above the n) about 1.70 euros you get a piece of Tortilla, potatoes in mayonnaise, deep fried prawn in breadcrumbs and a piece of Empananda, I have had to limit myself to once a week, otherwise 5 feet wide and rising
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2007, 20:56 PM »
Greetings Dave,
Please don't do that!
That's the 3rd or 4th time you've done it - telling us all about the advantages of living (it) up in Leon, both food-wise and nature-wise.
Nowadays, down here in Madrid, if we're lucky, we get a couple of stale crisps or half a dozen peanuts as tapas - exaggerating a bit - but only a bit.
While we're on the subject, and to divert everyone's attention from Leon, for those of you lucky enough to live down south, there's an amazing no-frills place in Cádiz called El Gitano Rubio, which is worth visiting just for the name! Fresh seafood in amazing quantity (on yer plate) and ridiculously cheap - what you see is what you get and probably all off the back of a lorry.
Regards
Technopat
« Last Edit: August 06, 2007, 17:03 PM by Technopat »
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2007, 16:15 PM »
Greetings Dave,
We do have plenty of cars, sparrows, pigeons and and large numbers of terrapins (in one of the lakes in Parque Juan Carlos), and the occasional LARGE rat you see kerbside late at night (would that be kerb-crawling?), but those are all fauna that belong to other boards, not this smörgasbord.
Regs.
Technopat
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 16:06 PM by Technopat »
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2007, 16:55 PM »
Hi All esp. Technopat
Here is a recommendation, of somewhere to eat, not too far from Madrid, if you do not mind nepotism, as the owner is my Nephew, Luis Angel
The name of the place is Bar Restaurante   "El Portón de Sonsaz" at Tamajon north of Guadalajara Km. 24 carretera CM-1004 about 2 km.before  Tamajón
They specialise in Meat roasted in a Clay oven, and the food, thought not cheap is delicious. The setting is superb, the Restaurant is out of the village set on a hill just off the main road. It’s grounds cover about 2 Acres, and consists mainly of hillside, wildflower meadows and scores of wild herbs. after lunch a walk into Tamajon is recommended it is a well cared for village, Also close by is the (La Ciudad Encantada) Enchanted city, a series of strange rock formations. hope this is not considered advertising, but I only mention it because it is about an hour and a half from Madrid, and it sounds like you could do with some food with flavour, By the way he gets his embutidos form Leon, the rest of the food is sourced locally
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2007, 18:21 PM »
Greetings Dave,
I'll forgive you the below-the-belt reference to today's tapas and the nepotism in exchange for being able to use your name when introducing myself to your nephew: Tamajón and the surrounding area is precisely where we zap off every weekend to get away from the madding crowd in Madrid - usually with our own picnic stuff to eat halfway up the mountain while we look at various things fly past (and countless near misses of what would otherwise be roadkills). We do sometimes lunch at local eating houses, but can't remember if I've been to that specific joint. I knew from the very first moment that joining this forum would be eduacational. Just needs a few colour shots of mushrooms to be perfick! (Sorry, Nick!)
Happy eating, All!
Technopat
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 16:07 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2007, 18:27 PM »
Hi Technopat
Yes just tell Luis Angel, his Tio David from Leon is in contact with you, mind you he will probably charge you extra, by the way his partner/ wife is called Raquel, check the opening times as I think he is only open weekends
Regards
Dave Keyte

Offline fraba

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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2007, 13:55 PM »
An Australian  recently told me that wine producers in his country and others, even France, are very worried by the increasing quality of Spanish wine; as it becomes reliably good and remains inexpensive it presents an increasing challenge to competitors in e.g. the British market.

Offline Dave

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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2007, 14:05 PM »
dear All
Being a regular visitor to France, my daughter lives there, I find the quality of reasonably priced wines there absolutely appalling, whereas here, for 2 euros you can buy a very nice, quaffable wine, and for less than a euro, a wine that is perfectly acceptable with a meal, start paying more and the locals think you are a connoisseur. and yes Faba you are right, the reliability is much better than it used to be, and that is most important, by the way I always take a case of wine with me to France, this does not impress my Son in Law, as his family are long time producers of Champagne. It is good job, the have stopped border guards, otherwise I would be refused entry
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2007, 15:35 PM »
Greetings Fraba and dave (and All),
The Director of Communications for an international body once told me that his job was to keep things out of the press - so please, take a page from his book and don't let on about Spanish wine or cava to those living abroad. Let everyone else think that their Chateaux la whatever is really the bee's knees. Please!
regards,
Technopat
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 16:08 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2007, 00:41 AM »
Greetings Dave,
Don't think I hadn't noticed your subtle subterfuge to despistar - all that waffle abt walnuts, apples, pears and quinces from El Bierzo was just to keep all that extremely quaffable Beirzo wine to yourself! By the way, thanx for using that wonderful adjective quaffable - I hadn't seen it, used it or heard it for more than 25 years!
For those of you who do not yet know it, while not Spain's best wine, it's certainly worth trying - and Dave would probably insist on accompanying it with his botillo or cocido Maragato, or at the very least, deep-fried whatever-that-bicho-was.

And talking of Champagne, for petty political reasons, many, if not most locals here in Madrid have been boycotting the excellent Catalan cavas and wines for the last couple of years - even going to the ridiculous extent of drinking vastly inferior quality stuff from Valencia, Extremadura and other equally traditional cava-making regions of Spain - I would imagine folks up in Leon would be doing summat similar. (Lucky Nick up in Barcelona - it's getting harder to find shops and restaurants that stock Catalan cavas and wines here - I wish I were exaggerating.)

Happy quaffing!
Cheers!
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Dave

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« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2007, 12:38 PM »
Greetings Technopat
Sadly Collins tells me, that Quaff in Spanish translates as Beber - very boring. I agree the Bierzo wines are very good, strangely recently the local supermercado has been doing a promotion on Asturian and Galician Red wines which are quite good, not a zone that one readily associates with Red wines. Of course Galician whites are excellent similar to the Vinho verdes of Portugal, and Asturian cider is to die for (or of not sure which), we found a temporary bar near Candas last year which was selling it for 1 Euro a bottle, I don't remember the afternoon. Another excellent product are the whites of Rueda, just to the west of  Valladolid.
Not too up on the Cavas, as I am not a sparkling wine fan, let me know the Catalan brands and I will try one
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2007, 18:08 PM »
Greetings Dave and All,
Haven't quite given up yet on the mushroom angle - can wait till next autumn, coinciding with Spain's next general elections in October - remember you read it here first - to start my campaign (don't forget that when all flora have shrivelled up and fauna (and their spoors) have all been hunted down to the last, there'll still be fungi spores left!).

Be that as it m., it is evident that the wine angle is of more interest to all those heathens out there, and I'm sure that Nick will eventually have to open up a sub-board for Wines of the Iberian Peninsula (your mention of the Portuguese vinhos verdes fits in nicely there, Dave) to accompany other produce of the land, such as mushrooms.

I seem to recall that there are some 8,000 bodegas in Spain alone (each producing on average some 2-3 labels) so the range is enormous, given the different qualities depending on vintages, etc. So there is plenty of scope for all tastes, and I'm not prepared to bet on the number of forum members who will add to their own of what they would recommend as to to quaffing. As for this wonderful word, I don't want to rub this in too much, or to single Dave out, 'cos I'm pretty sure that most of you guys & gals out there also have/use the Collins, but MY dictionary gives the beaut. trasegar or more prosaically, ingerir a grandes tragos, which, while not as onomatoeic as quaff, does at least get the right idea across. If you are all prepared to work on Derek to give us his Gus the Griffon story, I'll consider telling you the name of my dictionary.

And finally reaching the bottom line, as to the cavas, my personal preference - nowhere near the top of the league quality/price-wise - is Juve y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature. I think the word nature on the label justifies its being included on this forum. Whether or not you'll be able to get hold of it in Leon is another matter, as I mention elsewhere, it's getting harder to find it in Madrid, which, as everyone knows, is the ombligo del mundo!

There are plenty of others which are even better, but their scarcity/availability and price increase considerably, at least for those of us living outside Catalunya. Take a line through the malt whiskies to see what I mean.

Happy hunting!
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Simon

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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2007, 15:29 PM »
I’ve only just picked up this foody trail so sorry if I wander back a bit topic wise, and perhaps steer the thread back a little bit towards comestibles rather than bebidibles (ouch!).

I agree that Spain is on the start of a slippery slope towards the global food catastrophe and the kind of non-experience shopping and eating has become in the UK. It’s up to us consumers to take the lead – if only something like the CAMRA* phenomenon in Britain could be repeated both here and abroad with food supplies as well as with beer! But the real change has to come from both the consumers and providers working together. For instance it’s up to us to use small shops and markets and to think more about seasonal and local produce (has anyone suggested a system of carbon footprint labelling as well as for place of origin, fair trade, etc.?), but it’s also up to the traders to buck up their ideas about standards like labelling and service; every time a customer leaves a market feeling, rightly or wrongly, that they’ve been swindled at the weighing scales, or fobbed off with cruddy veg. from behind the counter, and all the other tricks, they’ll go to the supermarket and not come back. It happened in Britain from the ‘seventies onward and it’s happening here now! This may sound like strong words, but I’m watching my local municipal market here in the city of Tarragona die as the traders, by squabbling and in-fighting, halt desperately needed renovation work to the building, guaranteeing poor quality and giving a strong message of contempt for the customers. Meanwhile a street market elsewhere in the city is flourishing thanks to the input of ‘Green’ trade groups and immigrants setting up new stalls – I’ve already voted with my feet!

OK, time to get off the high horse and on to the grub! Catalonia has a fabulous range of charcuterie, Dave, and is renowned for the mycology-mania, Technopat, and a whole load of other things that you won’t see anywhere else, everybody! I love morcilla, and buy it often from ‘foreign’ specialist shops but you’ve go to try some Catalan butifarra negra with or without onions, rice and/or que pica! Then move on to butifarra blanca, it’s not so blanca when it’s amb ous (eggs) and de llengua certainly puts hair on your chest! I don’t buy any of these here in Tarragona, however, as, like Technopat, we escape from the city most weekends and head for the hills, in this case the Pyrenees. As well as the pork the lamb up there is to die for. There’s even an embotit based on it; girella is a species of haggis but made with rice instead of barley. You can treat it like haggis (on Verdaguer night, perhaps!) but it’s best cut in slices and done a la planxa. You can only find girella in three comarcas in the Lleida Pyrenees, however, even most Catalan foodies have only heard mysterious rumours of it, but it’s all true I tell you!

Meanwhile, mycology mania has managed to mangle the mountains! Every weekend during the autumn tens of thousands of Quemacooooos (cat. maco = pretty) and pinxapins from Barcelona descend on the hillsides in flashy 4X4s, destroying everything in their paths like so many locusts. The real problem isn’t that they’re so indiscriminate about collecting every living fungus, edible or not, but that they rip up the leaf litter and delicate soil surface, foraging for mushrooms with garden forks rather than seeking them with skill. I’m compiling a list of names as most are charming. As well as being very onomatopoeic, many Catalan nouns share a certain ‘fitness-for-purpose’ that makes English such a rich language, and this is especially true for fungi. One day I’ll finish this and put it up on my web site, honest.

Moving on to uniquely Catalan foods. I return home to Tarragona, more specifically the rather boring town of Valls, which is the very type of Catalan poble. If you see a letter of the ‘Angry of Tunbridge Wells’ variety in the local paper, ten to one it’s from Valls. But the twin nature of the Catalan psyche, the famous seny and rauxa dichotomy, is exemplified to perfection by a real local mania – calçots!

Instructions for a calçotada: a) grow a few hundred spring onions in your horta, dig ‘em up and hide them all summer, then re-plant them in ridges so that they grow to the size of small leeks. b) make a spicy sauce with lots of garlic, hot peppers (the variety is the nyora) and thicken it to a sludgey constituency with ground almonds and/or hazelnuts. c) take and old bedstead and light a big fire under it and invite all your friends around. d) cover the bedstead/grill with calçots still in their skins and with bits of soil stuck to ‘em, when they’re charred enough and steam starts hissing out of them wrap batches of a dozen in newspapers stash them in old roof tiles near the fire to keep warm while you do the next batch e) when all the calçots are ready shout, “Go!”

Instructions for being a calçotador/a (my invention): a) wear your very best Sunday clothes. b) grab a calçot, take a grip of the outer leaves in your left hand, hold the central stalk in you right thumb and forefinger and gently pull apart. c) dunk the naked calçot into a big bowl of sauce, tip you head right back and drop the calçot down the gullet whole, burning you lips with heat and pepper and covering you face/make-up/attire in sticky, smelly debris. d) get stuck in to another couple of dozen before they all go – bets should be taken for champion. e) don’t be the guest who is ‘volunteered’ to buy half a sheep for the second course!

I was really shocked to learn that the ridiculous cava boycott is still in force in Madrid. Here in Catalonia itself we had a fabulous Christmas when it first happened, as the cava houses dumped the product on the local market at rock bottom prices – they had to shift the stuff out of storage for the next year’s vintage as well as ensure cash flow. A good quality/price/availability recommendation is any of the cavas, or indeed wines, from the Raimat bodega in Lleida (D.O. Costers de Segre). As they are away from the traditional Catalan wine growing regions - they even had to change the local soil chemistry by growing pine trees for twenty odd years before planting the first vineyard! – Raimat wines are very good at the price and are even available at Sainsburys!

Cheers - Simon

* For the les wrinkly among us: the CAMpaign for Real Ale came about when a bunch of fat blokes with grizzly beards reversed the trend for standardization and, literally, sterilization of our favourite tipple during the nineteen-seventies. They did this not just by concerted action: lobbying, demonstrations and consumer action like boycotts, etc., but also by becoming players in the industry itself by establishing micro-businesses. The parallels are strong between the tactics of the handful of brewery groups then and those of the supermarket chains now in forcing the consumers to follow their lead, rather than the other way round.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2007, 18:30 PM by Simon »

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2007, 19:36 PM »
Greetings Simon, et al,
Many thanx for your extremely interesting and knowledgeable post - yer obviously a man after me own heart!
You raise so many things that it's impossible to respond in just one post - me brain can't cope - but at least it'll keep me busy over what's left of the long cold winter months.

The fact that we personally are, and know many people in our immediate circle who also are, interested in nature [conservation] and all things related - which necessarily includes the produce of the land (and esp. mushrooms!) - does not mean that the general trend is not heading in a different direction. (Every time my old man came back from trips to the States in the early 60s he used to praise the British for their sensible attitude to food and natural raw materials and how we were far too smart to fall for the things he had seen on his travels, such as those awful hamburger joints, etc.)

On the cava/Catalan wines front, believe me, it's getting worse - and any future change in government might literally be fatal for the Catalan wine industry as far as nationwide consumption is concerned. (As well as what's left of Spain's litoral and undeveloped land!). People here are also boycotting La Caixa, etc. For those of you who might be new to Spain, it might sound weird, but you old 'uns know exactly what I mean! On a more cheerful note, have you ever tried the excellent oak-matured white priorat?

It upset me to read about the mountain mangling mycology mania 4x4ers - on a par with the hunter/nature-lovers of which Spain has so many (see contributions by our very own Devil's Advocate, and others, at http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php?board=22.0) - I had the notion that Catalan mushroom hunters were all little old ladies with baskets at their elbows - at one with nature. Look forward to that list of funny fungi names (catchy name for a board?) you promised.

Thanx again for the interesting read - this does not mean that other posts aren't also interesting - but this one does mention mushrooms in BIG way!

Regs.
Technopat

PS - I had originally meant to mention CAMRA as an example of what was needed, but a) they're not active on the Ib. Pen. and b) as I had no idea what they might have developed into after I left the UK, I thought it wiser to leave them out of it - do they still represent the ideals they had at the beginning or did they sell out (my old man was a very enthusiastic member at the very beginning, but I got the impression that something was going wrong and some years later he'd lost interest).

« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 16:09 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2007, 22:37 PM »
Greetings,
Forgot to mention the priorat that Joan Manuel Serrat has a stake in: Mas Perinet.
Regs.
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266