Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Guilty Pleasure part II, strictly no vegetarians.

I never really got to the best bit of Guilty Pleasure (below), because it was written for Monica's Great Experiment competition and it was limited to 300 words. So for those 4 of you who voted for me here's where that story was going....

Not only did my Dad put my mortally wounded little patients out of their misery, so I just found 'sleeping beauties' (hope he didn't do the same to his patients!), he and my mum took us on amazing holidays through the interior of France and Spain every summer. He'd pack all five of us and luggage into our very swish Hillman Minx convertible

 (it's the only car I remember from my childhood, apart from my mum's Bubble Car (we once got 7 in it (albeit 1 adult, 6 kids),

And off we'd go. Right through rural France, across the Pyrenees and then we'd take about 5 days to drive right through Spain, stopping in little off-the-beaten-track villages and staying in pensions or paradors that had never had foreign guests before.
But then came the exciting bit.....
We'd get all dressed up for dinner and then head off, exploring the local streets and history. But always with one thing in mind. Dinner! My mum and dad would stop at every restaurant. Firstly they'd take large deep sniffs and if those met with their approval, my mum would peer through the window or door to see you many people were eating there. If it was packed with locals and smelled good, in we'd all troop.
That's how you did it in the 60's. No internet, Fay Machler or iPhone to tell you where to eat, how much it'll cost and who's eaten there before you.
No, us intrepid food explorers used our senses, we literally smelled out the good grub, and if the local tribesmen were eating there, we knew it was good food at a fair price.

So, it was Spain where I got the taste for my 'Guilty Pleasure'.
Because in Spain, they have no ethical guidelines about serving suckling pig, lamb, kid. And awful as it is, those milk fed babies tasted just delicious. Sweet, melt in the mouth, delicate flavour, full on delicious. If you've never tasted one, I really don't think it is fair for you to comment or condemn me.
I didn't know I was eating a lamb that had been killed before being weaned from his/her mother. All I knew was that it tasted so much better than roast lamb in England. I thought it was because they lived in the sunshine and were happier than English baby animals who lived in the rain.
So it was suckling lamb in Zaragoza, suckling pig in Seville and sweet roast kid in Santanyi.
My parents sniffed them out, I only ate what was on my plate. Like any good child in 1964.

Sadly, but not for the baby animals, as Spain succumbed to the tourist trade, the demand grew for sausage, chips and beans, fish and chips and for the brave few Paella  (always pronounced incorrectly). Suckling babies were in decline and definitely off the menu anywhere that a Brit or German might holiday.

You know, I do have amazingly fond memories of these fabulous holiday and many old dog-eared photos taken on my trusted Brownie camera (8 photos per roll of film and 2 films for the whole 6 week holiday, mind you), still survive to tell the tale.
We did eat fabulous food, stay in amazing places and have very unusual holidays for that era, but if my dear old dad were still alive, maybe he'd tell a different story. Considering a fair amount of the holiday consisted of long boring hours driving hundreds of miles (no in-car entertainment the likes of Nintendo Lite, iPod or DVD player), it was good old 'I spy, with my little eye...' for us.

I suspect Dad may remember it more like this.....

'Daddy, I feel sick, no really I feel sick. Please can you put both your cigarettes out'
'Are we nearly there yet?'
'Chris keeps kicking me'
'Mummy, I'm thirsty'
'Daddy, Chris keeps elbowing me'
'Are we nearly there yet?'
'You know I don't like water'
'I'm hungry'
'Chris says I'm stupid Mummy, tell him I'm not'
'I need a poo'
'Billie's leaning on me and I can't feel my arm. Tell her to move'
'Stop Daddy, stop, there's a gorgeous donkey/baby lamb/pony/baby kid'
'I hate you, you never stop'
'Are we nearly there yet?'

Where exactly is there?  - that's what I'd like to know

My little story has recently come full circle. I haven't eaten or even had a whiff of a suckling anything for several decades. They just disappeared off the menu.

But when we went to Zaragoza a couple weeks ago to photograph these guys...

I ended up photographing these guys.... What'da you know - the suckler is the 'comeback kid'

Did I eat it? - did I heck.
Well, actually, no I didn't, but not for want of trying. We took a bus to the far side of town for me (I must stress Paul had no part in this mission) to eat suckling lamb (or pig, I wasn't fussy) in the most famous restaurant for this speciality.
And guess what Manuel said?
Qué?  Lo siento, Cordero lechal no estå en el menu de hoy'

He's kidding me, no? I fly all the way from London, get pulled for a body search at Customs and nearly miss the plane, the only bad weather we have is the 2 hours that the band were supposed to be playing, AND there's no bleedin' suckling lamb on the menu today in a restaurant that specialises in suckling lamb. When's it back on the menu - a week on Monday?

I want to go home. 
'Paul, I feel sick, are we nearly home yet?'


  1. Something tells me, now you have the writing bug that it's going to be a huge fight over which of us gets their (new) writing published first. I'm always too busy in the pub to write these days!

  2. So I'm reading your blog, you know, trucking along, and then I come to the Marah photo and suddenly it hits me - you're AMANDA!!!!

    Hi, I'm Liz. I'm EDW on the web - the old Marah boards and all. I met Paul, oh, ages ago - at the Stone Pony...January 2007, I think. Nice to meet you!

    The poor baby pigs! So yummy!