Sunday, October 14, 2007

Roast suckling pig in Segovia

By the time we got to Segovia, our fourth full day in Spain, Anne and I were full of culture, and not in a happy way. Our first day, we arrived in Madrid at 7 a.m. (1 a.m. NY-time), felt a rush of energy from the thrill of being in Spain, and marched out at 9:30 a.m. to see the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace. We kept this up somehow for a couple of days, seeing museums and palaces and cathedrals, and by the third evening, when we had gotten home from a day-trip to Toledo, I said to Anne wanly from my bed, “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll sit in a café while you look at the Alcázar in Segovia tomorrow.”

But as we sat on the bus to Segovia, my spirits lifted as I read about Segovia’s specialty—roast suckling pig, or cochinillo. Segovia itself was beautiful, sunny and inviting, in a way that Toledo with its dark, cramped alleys just hadn’t been. I was moved by the 2000-year-old Roman aqueducts, and even enjoyed the Moorish Alcázar, with its Sleeping Beauty turrets and large picture windows, revealing views of rivers, minor castles, and enormous sky. And when it was time to eat lunch, I realized just how much I liked Segovia.

We chose Narizotas, more for its sunny patio than anything else, and ordered the “menu del dia turistico,” which includes a soup of judiones, or white beans, cochinillo, ice cream for dessert, and the glass of wine that is so obligatory, it’s almost always included in the prix-fixe lunches. We also added a plate of jamón ibérico, our first taste of Spain’s famed ham.

The jamón was as delicious as it looked, and we congratulated ourselves for eating vegetables, the ripe tomatoes and herby green sauce, sharp with mustard, that came with the jamón. It’s good that Anne is a doctor, as she was able to reassure me that despite the serious lack of vegetables in my life here, I would not get scurvy in 7 weeks.

The soup of judiones beans was simple, lots of tomatoes and chunks of meat. Good, but not exciting, and to be quite honest, I had a little bit of trouble eating meat that still seemed to have some hair stuck to it.

But the cochinillo was everything I had dreamed it would be. Cochinillo is always made from a 21-day-old piglet that has eaten nothing but its mother’s milk. I don’t know any more because I didn’t have time to do sufficient research on Spanish food before leaving, but luckily, I didn’t need to know more to eat with gusto. The skin didn’t merely crackle, it shattered, and the meat was incredibly tender, melting in its own fat.

We sat in the sun, drinking wine and sparkling water, eating roast pig and watching Segovia locals and tourists walk by. It’s what you imagine life in Spain to be like, no?

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