Monday, April 28, 2008

How to Eat a Toasted Bread Product in Spain

Firstly, let me be very clear on this point. I do not hate forks ...

You step into a café, bar or restaurant and order tostada, a plate of toast. And because you are in Spain - a necessary part of this narrative - and it is breakfast time, you will probably order a coffee and/or a caña of beer and/or a glass of brandy as well. Because nothing - nothing - goes better with a slice of buttered toast than a crisp lager. And yes, Señor Gato Gringo and I speak from experience.

But because you are in Spain - a necessary part of this narrative - the waiter of the café, bar or restaurant where you have ordered your toast will bring to your table a plate with either 2 slices of toasted bread or 2 halves of a large, often hard toasted bread roll. Sometimes you will be asked if you want the former, pan de molde (or mouldy bread, as Señor G.G. rather puerilely calls it), a croissant, or tostada - a toasted bread roll or a baguette or whatever bread product is on hand. If you are not asked to specify your request - which is the norm - then that is a sign that you will get whatever bread product they have on hand. (And 99.9% of the time - if you have asked for jam, or mermelada - it will be peach. Do not bother asking for any other flavour. Hopefully, you like peach.) But whether your bread looks like Wonder Bread or a smallish football, it is always served with a knife and fork.

A fork?

Yes, a fork. The knife I get - there's that troublesomely ubiquitous peach jam to contend with or, if you've gone native, olive oil and puréed tomato. But a fork? Yes, for this is how to eat a toasted bread product in Spain.

Everyone agrees that some things - namely, prepared foods - are best eaten without forks. It is commonly accepted that you may eat barbecue chicken and pizza with your fingers and, of course, if you eat finger foods with utensils you'll look like a bit of a knob. Everything else, as they don't say - but imply - can be termed as knife-and-fork foods. Which would include toast. I confess that when my breakfast is nothing but a distant memory of crumbs and globs of oily tomato, my useless-as-tits-on-a-bull fork is still untouched.

It should not come as a surprise then that ...

"... Italy and Spain led the world in the adoption of forks. Initially, the French considered forks foppish, but later they co-opted the instrument and became quite vociferous about the varying flavors that different metals could lend to fish, fruit and salads. Thomas Doryat, an Englishman, adopted the fork in 1611, at least for carving, 'seeing all men's fingers are not alike cleane,' cleanliness and consideration of others being recurring themes in the drama of table manners."

But while I'll acknowledge that Spain comes by this fork-mania honestly, I still refuse to cut my toast into little pieces, spear a square with my fork and feed myself like an invalid. It's simply not going to happen.

Yesterday, Señor G.G and I spent the afternoon in the leisurely arduous pursuit of doing absolutely nothing, and we capped off our labours by indulging in a 5-star culinary feast of cheese sandwiches and cañas of beer at one of La Linéa's gazillion nine Okay pastelerias bakeries. Lo and behold! - we didn't receive a plain-jane bocadillo de queso (cheese on a baguette) but honest-to-goodness greasy grilled cheese sandwiches. Honest-to-goodness greasy grilled cheese sandwiches like Mom used to make (although I don't know if they used the bottom of the tea kettle to flatten them out like she did). And low and behold! - we were served them with a knife and fork (see photo above).

This is what we learned: sometimes a bocadillo is not a baguette with cheese but an honest-to-goodness greasy grilled cheese sandwich (- the corollary of which is that honest-to-goodness greasy grilled cheese sandwiches actually exist in Spain). Secondly, that lunch - at least at the nine Okay pastelerias in La Linéa - are no longer safe from fork-shunners like us. If there is a fork out there - and it is - it will find you.


Bluestreak said...

I´d kill for a grilled cheese around these parts. Tostadas here are so unpredictable. I simply cannot find a breakfast place I like because either the coffees no good, or the tostada is no good, I haven´t found the perfect combination of coffee and tostada. Maybe I should just switch to beer for breakfast and problem would be solved, but I don´t think my boss would agree.

When I get a fork with a toast, I short of shrug. When I get it with an apple or peice of fruit after lunch, I just can´t take it anymore. It´s just seems like too forced of an effort to say "see how civilized we are". The rest of the animal kingdom must think we are out of our minds eating fruit with a fork.

MOM said...

That is why while living in the Nerja region I always order cafe con leche y croissant. Reading about your grilled cheese has made me decide to make one for lunch. I have the tea kettle ready.

Pappy said...

Having finished my desayuno may I politely enquire as to how you achieve a struck-through word in Blogger?
Dying to know.

La Gatita Gringa said...

Bluestreak: I forgot to mention the fork and fruit. I'll save that for another blog: How to Eat a Fresh Fruit Product in Spain".

Mom: did you have a dill pickle with it? They haven't latched onto that yet.

Pappy: enclose what you want to strike through with s and finally /s but in pointy brackets.

Kaori said...

Great blog my dear, love it.