One of our guilty pleasures whenever we are in Spain is to have churros and hot chocolate for breakfast. I can barely contain my excitement as I watch the churros man at work as he pipes the dough into a long pale spiral from what looks like a giant icing nozzle into a vat of clear oil, whereupon he pokes at it occasionally with long metal tongs as it disappears under a creamy foam while frying. Eventually out emerges a long, elegant, golden coil which is then snipped briskly into sticks with a pair of scissors, weighed and wrapped up in paper.
Oh the anticipation as you open up your warm parcel and await your coffee and hot chocolate to arrive, so you can take the little sugar packets nestled on the saucers, unceremoniously rip them open and sprinkle generously over your churros, delighting in the tinkling sound of the sugar hitting the paper beneath. I like giving my churros a good frosting. There is a lot of regional variation in churros both in thickness and in sweetness and I have to say, that after having tried a few, my favourite ones are made here in Jerez. They are on the savoury rather than the sweet side with a slight saltiness to them, which makes them a good base for a dusting of sugar. Good churros is satisfyingly crunchy on the outside, melt in your mouth soft on the inside and doesn't lose it's crispiness when dipped in your coffee or hot chocolate.
The nice thing about some of the standalone churros stands near the fish market here is the rather civilised arrangement they have with the neighbouring cafes. You buy your churros from the stand and then you can enjoy them at the tables in the cafes where you can order your chocolate and coffee to go with it. Quite the refreshing opposite of that "you didn't buy that food at this institution so you can't eat it at our tables" sort of thing. The Spaniards have retained that strong sense of community in their townships that fosters these sorts of informal arrangements.
Years ago when I was living out here I used to buy churros from the oldest and poshest churros cafe in the town centre, the Cafeteria La Vega. There was a lovely man who used to make them there who took a shine to me and who I affectionately nicknamed Mr Churros Man. Whenever he served me Mr Churros Man would always tuck several extra churros sticks into my parcel with a conspiratory wink and a cheeky grin. In a brutal sign of these economic times we discovered that this age old institution which has been in Jerez for decades was recently sold off by the previous owner to new Chinese owners.
Spain is going through one of the worst recessions ever with Andalusia particularly hard hit and it is noticeable every time we are down when we see yet more empty shop fronts, shops closing down, tales of economic woe from friends based locally and protests about austerity cuts in the street. The Spanish people are struggling to keep their own traditional businesses afloat and it has become more and more common now to see Chinese owners of tapas bars where the Spanish owner has sold up or gone bankrupt. This is not to fault the industriousness of the Chinese - it is far better that a business in a depressed economy continues than shuts down altogether and that immigrants are allowed to bring new vigour to stagnant local economies, but I couldn't help but feel saddened about the Cafeteria La Vega and what the future holds for the Spanish people, especially the youth, who are now suffering an unemployment rate of close to fifty percent.
I was a little taken aback when having breakfast at said cafe on another day when the waiter gave us what could only be likened to a hard sell when we placed our order. When we ordered coffee and toast, before we could even qualify what we wanted with our toast, we were immediately asked if this would be with ham and tomato (the most expensive option) and whether we would be having freshly squeezed orange juice.
This is unheard of in this town where the only thing you are ever asked at the end of your order almost anywhere is a cursory "Algo mas?" (Anything else?). For a Jerezano waiter, having to make such suggestions would be the equivalent of that rather annoying tendency of big chain fast food stores and cafes forcing their staff to ask you if you want fries with that, to supersize everything or presuming you want the large size cup of coffee rather than alerting you to the option that there is a cheaper, smaller size. The sleepy, laid back nature of the Andalusian way of life has always been one of its charms, but it is now also its pitfall in the relentless march of global capitalism under which it is becoming crushed. I have a sense that Andalusia is on the cusp of losing its innocence in this respect if not already.
Mr V and I tried to do our bit to support the local economy by doing a bit of eating out and shopping while we were out there. Given that Euro to pound exchange rate was the best it has been for a while I couldn't resist a trip to Zara as I love their Spring/Summer collections. You'll be seeing a lot of this silky floral print bomber jacket over the next few posts. After seeing several UK High Street versions I was utterly unconvinced that a floral silk bomber was something I needed in my wardrobe. That was until I saw this one in Zara on my first day out shopping and tried it on. Something about the prints used in the UK High Street offerings in floral bomber jackets were just a little bit too Hawaiian for me. This one is less aloha and more chintzy with the edgier blurriness of a digital print. I totally love it! I didn't stop wearing it for the entire holiday!
Fa la la la la, la la la la! This is what I would be wearing if I was spending the festive season in freezing cold London. Except I'm...
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