I think one of things I was most looking forward to about Spain, was the food.
I had sugar plum day dreams of rolling in tapas and swimming in Sangria.
I could taste the the Paella from all 30-something feet of altitude.
I could feel the sweet sting of Mojitos on the inside of my cheeks and the deep warming sensation of Patatas Bravas’ spicy tomato sauce.
I’ll admit, that I didn’t foresee La Belle Province, 7-11, circle K or Harveys disguised as Tapas bars situated on each and every corner in the city, with the exact same laminated signs decorated in faded yellowing photographs of food remnants drowning in olive oil.
These Tapas bars are also cafés, where tourists enjoy croissants and Café con leche in the mornings, while locals chain smoke and eat potato omelets with beer and bottles of wine. If booze is served at 7:00 am it’s no wonder they all need a nap by 2!
I was tempted to order a proper breakfast but I couldn’t see the menu properly through all the cigarette smoke and was, quite honestly afraid that the vegetarian omelet would be stuffed with tuna and boiled eggs. You’ll understand in a minute.
After two days of eating croissants and ice burg lettuce I googled ‘Vegetarian in Barcelona’ and found a long list of restaurants, health food stores and markets.
I started out proud and eager but despite the assurance of a world traveling vegetarian blogger that my desires would be understood and met with a few simple Spanish or Catalan phrases, I soon came to realize that
‘Soy vegetariana’ must actually be Spanish for ‘please cover it in cheese and as much tuna as you can possibly get your hands on’ and
‘Solo vegetal’ for ‘I LOVE eggs so much I wish I could have six of them on a sandwich RIGHT NOW. In fact make it ten and I’ll come back and satiate your every desire at naptime’.
On day three something magical happened, we discovered Juicy Jones. It’s an adorable place run by an incredibly sweet Danish guy who has been living in Spain for the last 15 years. The walls are painted in colorful murals and the furniture is funky and fun. The food was fantastic and came with desert and a half liter of organic local wine.
We also found Organic, a restaurant where the servers, while very kind, all have this kind of constant look of humiliation about them on account of having a boss mean enough to make them wear T-Shirts that read
‘Organic is Orgasmic’.
The plane fare back to Barcelona is worth it, just for one glass of their fresh squeezed orange juice though and the tortilla wraps aren’t too shabby either.
We found a little fast food Indian restaurant not far from La Rambla that had the best Paneer I have ever had in my whole and entire life. It tasted like pureed heaven on Naan.
Best of all was the Market of la Boqueria. The mountains of fresh herbs, spices, candies, mushrooms, chilies, fruits and vegetables, the fresh breads, chocolate and deserts are almost enough to distract you from the skinned goats and whole pig heads and what have you.
You can buy Half a fresh coconut, a quart of strawberries so sweet you want to make love to them, or a quarter of a watermelon all for under a Euro each and the cheeses are fresh and remarkably inexpensive.
On our last day in Spain we ate at an ocean front restaurant where I made the mistake of ordering the long anticipated House Paella and François, a Spaghetti that would have been more flavorful if it had come out of a can.
My dinner had as many squid legs as it did grains of rice, smelled like moist, aged seaweed and was covered in bulgy eyed crustaceans with a look so sad and accusing on their cooked little faces that I had to cover them in Mussel shells to ease my pain. This and the woman two tables away screaming at the host
“Have you ever eaten at another restaurant EVER? Yes? Great, then you know this food is BAD!”
made it a little difficult to eat even the bread in the basket.
Fortunately, later that evening, we found an ice cream/gelato stand that served a chocolate frozen desert that tasted like baby Jesus himself melting in your mouth.
Dear Juicy Jones, I miss you. Love Jen.