Foods of the World

Happy 18th birthday, Guy!

Topsham, Devon November 2, 2005 Today is Guy's 18th birthday! It's hard to believe how quickly the years have gone by. First as a baby, then as a young boy, Guy travelled with us on our research trips, discovering and tasting new foods and, yes, perhaps just a bit of wine, too. Here's a little story I wrote many years ago about the year we spent in Spain when Guy was three years old. It is part of a series called “Chico y Yo — travels in España with a boy of the world”.

Foods of the World

When we lived in Italy a few years ago, and Chico was just a baby (and was then called ‘Guido’), how he loved the foods: great bowls of ragù, pasta of all types, marinated vegetables and fish for antipasti, and of course, gelati, especially his favourite, tartufo. In the Portuguese Algarve he has always enjoyed with us platters of the lovely, sweet small clams known as ameijôas, steamed simply in garlic, olive oil, and wine, and sprinkled with coentra— freshly chopped coriander.
But this summer in Spain, Chico has not particularly been enjoying the foods. Now that he is four he is more strong-minded, and will no longer eat whatever is put in front of him, simply because we want him to.
“But Dad, I don't like it,” he whined, when he tried the pruebas de morcilla, an exquisite cazuelita of spicy fried blood sausage from Extremadura. Or else, at the famous Casa Bigote in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, he sealed his lips together tightly and wouldn’t so much as even taste the guiso de pulpo. You would have thought we were trying to feed him poison instead of that exquisite seafood medley of tender octopus stewed in spices and wine.
Admittedly, it was my mistake that morning when he and I cycled into Puerto de Santa María for mid-morning tapas (Kim was in bed, struck down after a surfeit of mariscos), and I ordered menudo. The tripe and chickpeas were abit strong even for me, but delicious nonetheless.
Chico, though, is beginning to come good. At Romerijo’s, we purchased paperwrapped cones of fried puntillitas (the tiniest, sweetest baby squid you can imagine), pijotas (baby hake which you eat, bones and all), and chocos (small cuttlefish), and enjoyed them down by the waterfront, eating them with our fingers, me washing down that simple repast with a half bottle of Quinta fino, he with a freshly-squeezed zumo de naranja. By the Coto de Doñana, he ate with gusto the most delicious baked fish maccarones. And, on a balmy, late-spring evening, we sat at an outdoor table under the stars, the water virtually lapping at our feet, and tucked lustily into a platter of almejas a la marinera.
At first, he refused even to try one.
“Chico,” I said, frowning, “I thought you were a boy of the world.”
“I am a boy of the world,” he rejoined, and sucked the sweet clams noisily, one at a time, until he had a small mound of empty shells proudly in front of him.
On our return to England after five months on the road, his mother asked him what he would most like for tea.
The boy of the world held his chin in his hand, and considered deeply the myriad options.
“I think,” he said, after some moments of serious consideration and deliberation, “I think... a dippy egg.”

Copyright © Marc Millon 2005

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