Literary Inspiration for A Traveller in Wines

"Here," cried Don Quixote, "here, brother Sancho Panza, we shall be able to dip our hands up to the elbows, in what is called adventure. . ." – Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes


"People talk of the glorious dreams of opium-smokers, the frenzied exhilaration that hashish can give, but I, who have studied both, assure you that neither can for a moment compare with the delirious joy of fifty or sixty Spaniards applauding a dancer in the upper room of a café in Seville!" – From Paris to Cádiz, Alexandre Dumas pere


"Of one thing the reader may be assured, – that dear will be to him, as is now to us, the remembrance of those wild and weary rides through tawny Spain. . ." – Gatherings From Spain, Richard Ford.


"The traveller in wines, finding these topics a little beyond his comprehension, remarked loudly that Sénécal was forgetting a lot of scandals." – Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert, whose work was greatly influenced by Cervantes's Don Quixote.


Gerry Dawes at Marisquería Rafa in Madrid.
Photo by John Sconzo, Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life



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Friday, December 31, 2021

Introduction to A Traveller in Wines

 * * * * *

From Cervantes's Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; the writings on Spain of Alexandre Dumas père; the marvelous English Murray Guides writer, Richard Ford; and the late Americans, James A. Michener, and Donn Pohren, a little-known, but important, American expert on things Spanish, I learned to approach Spain and its wines, food, history, and culture with an adventurous and inquisitive spirit.

 The late Donn Pohren.


In 1972, Pohren, who lived in Spain for decades and is one of the world’s greatest flamenco experts, published his idiosyncratic underground classic, Adventures in Taste: The Wines and Folk Food of Spain. Pohren wandered around the Iberian Peninsula exploring some of Spain's 4,000,000 acres of vineyard lands, the largest wine acreage of any country in the world, and tasting wines. He would pop into a village bar, ask for a glass of the local vino, then casually ask who made the best wine in town. On several occasions, Pohren would find himself being offered several samples as one vintner after another showed up at the bar with his wines to prove to this foreigner that his vino was the best in the village.

In Adventures in Taste, Pohren described encounter after encounter with artisan winemakers who were making good country wines, many of which were unknown to the outside world in those days. Although Pohren was relatively unsophisticated as a gourmet, he chronicled his food adventures as well, ferreting out great regional restaurants, back-country inns and taverns, and tapas bars all over the country. He wrote about the best places for great roast lamb in Castile; the superb mountain hams from acorn-fed, free-range Iberian pata negra pigs of southern and western Spain; great fish and shellfish along both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts; garlic chicken in Madrid; and such esoteric specialties as baby goat livers in lemon sauce in the mountains of Malaga, and. Pohren not only wrote about the food, wine, customs, and fiestas, each year he ran several specialized tours, in which he introduced a handful of privileged travellers to his secret places in back country Spain.

During the eight years I lived in Spain, I traveled with Pohren’s book and with James A. Michener’s Iberia (my copy of Iberia is signed by more than 20 of the characters about which Michener wrote). I often drove many kilometers out of my way to find Pohren’s culinary and wine treasures and to search out the people and places about which Michener had so persuasively written. While following in the footsteps of these predecessors, I naturally had my own adventures. I began to uncover exceptional wines, experience my own unique gastronomic epiphanies, meet unforgettable people, and discover places about which neither Michener nor Pohren had written.

The writings of Richard Ford, an Englishman, who covered much of Spain on horseback during the 1840s also inspired me. Ford wrote one of the most well-written and witty travel guides I have ever read, A Handbook for Travellers in Spain and Readers at Home (ironically republished by my home university’s Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois; ©Centaur Press, Ltd. 1966). Ford’s frontispiece further billed the book as “Describing the Country and Cities, the Natives and Their Manners; The Antiquities, Religion, Legends, Fine Arts, Literature, Sports, and Gastronomy with notices On Spanish History.”

Ford described his travels in Spain pithily, provided his readers with often humorous insights about Spaniards, many of which still hold true, and imbued his writing with a sense of adventure that has long inspired me to continue embarking on what he called, “those wild and weary rides through tawny Spain.”

Wine and food are the threads that will bind the tapestry of A Traveller in Wines: Fifty Years of Adventures on the Food & Wine Roads of Spain, but I intend for the book to have a much broader appeal. Although I plan to concentrate on wine and gastronomy adventures, like Ford, Michener, and Pohren, I will draw from the broader spectrum of Spain’s rich heritage, history, and culture to make A Traveller in Wines a great read about the country, its people (and, like Michener, sometimes the foreigners who love it), its vineyards and wineries, its tapas bars and restaurants, and its winemakers and chefs.

I am fond of quoting two passages about Spain—one from Richard Ford and the other from Alexandre Dumas père—which are in the spirit of the approach I want to bring to my book. Ford’s passage is about the philosophy of travel and life; Dumas’s is evocative description.

In A Handbook for Travellers in Spain, Ford wrote his philosophy on traveling in Spain: “The search for the excellent is the high road to excellence . . . The refining effort and habit teaches the mind to think; from long pondering the beautiful world without, snatches are caught of the beautiful world within, and a glimpse is granted to the chosen few, of glories hidden from the vulgar many. They indeed have eyes, but see not . . .”


It will be my task in A Traveller in Wines to share those glimpses with those who may not have been able to see Spain for themselves and provide deeper insights for those who have been to Spain.

Alexandre Dumas wrote some fine descriptive passages about his travels in Spain in From Paris to Cadiz, including this quote, which is one of my favorites, “People talk of the glorious dreams of opium-smokers, the frenzied exhilaration that hashish can give, but I, who have studied both, assure you that neither can for a moment compare with the delirious joy of fifty or sixty Spaniards applauding a dancer in the upper room of a café in Seville!” 


 Manolo Esquivias and his wife Mari Carmen Onrubia dancing at la Feria de Sevilla.

Dumas’s quote alludes to the duende that Lorca wrote about, a magical quality in the Spanish spirit that I have been lucky enough to encounter on numerous occasions in my travels.

 Gerry Dawes©2020 gerrydawes@aol.com


* * * * *
  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?



Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Gastronomy Blogs


In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019) 

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."  

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel


 
About Gerry Dawes


My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019


Gerry Dawes, last year, was the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 



". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Customized Culinary, Wine & Cultural Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain  

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@gmail.com
 
 * * * * *
If you enjoy these blog posts, please consider a contribution to help me continue the work of gathering all this information and photographs for Gerry Dawes's Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel. Contributions of $5 and up will be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $100 or more will be acknowledged on the blog.

* * * * To make your contribution, please click on this secure link to Paypal.* * * *


Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Traveller in Wines - Prologue: Monterey, California to Southern Spain: Memorable Wine-drinking Adventures with Spanish Soldiers on the Train


* * * * *


Roberto (l) from La Alameda de Hercules and his army buddies (and my wine drinking and flamenco buddies) on the train from Sevilla to El Puerto de Santa Maria (my stop) and San Fernando (their stop).  Photo by Gerry Dawes 1969.
 
Before I was stationed in Spain in the United States Navy, my experience with wine—except for plying girlfriends back in Southern Illinois with the occasional bottle of pink “Champagne”—came in California in the mid-1960s. On weekends on the mystical white beach at Carmel, with my buddies—all of us students at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey—and I shared the jugs of cheap California wines, along with bread and cheese from the Mediterranean Market in the village. 

One night under Monterey’s decaying old wharf, I helped two others polish off a gallon jug of Mountain Red—with miserable results. And once in a while on a payday weekend, I would splurge on abalone and a bottle of Almaden Emerald Riesling or some such at a restaurant on Monterey’s then-not-so-touristy Fisherman’s Wharf or have spaghetti and a wicker-wrapped, aptly-named fiasco of Chianti on Cannery Row, which at that time still had vestiges and whiffs of John Steinbeck’s time.

And, one August weekend in 1967, surrounded by a bristling, rifle-armed, weekend warriors of soon-to-be-sent-home National Guard Troop (for a rock concert?), we watched and listened in wine-soaked and pot-infused reverie at the Monterey Pop Festival as Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Canned Heat and Otis Redding became international stars right before our mesmerized eyes and passed into legend.

At Southern Illinois University I had sporadically pursued a journalism major until 1965, when the Lyndon Baines Johnson-led United States government—opting first, or course, for those “who had not worked continuously towards a degree”— decided that they needed even more carrion candidates for Vietnam. I volunteered for the Navy as soon as I felt the hot breath of my local draft board breathing down my neck. To avoid the possibility of two years of infantry duty and possible death (certain in my mind), I enlisted for four years of life in the Navy, astutely calculating that aircraft carriers didn’t normally invade Vietnamese rice paddies. 

Ironically, I damned near died from a bout with spinal meningitis that I contracted during basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station, where recruits were allowed some four hours sleep a night, which greatly contributed to a meningitis epidemic among them during that epoch. (In the middle of the night, we took turns guarding a laundry room, just in case, we surmised, the Viet Cong somehow managed to penetrate the heartland in the dead of a Lake Michigan winter to stage a surprise laundry raid). 
After a four-month stay in the hospital--during which I saw El Cid (ironically, my first important brush with Spain) at the base theater--on the telephone I pestered the Navy bureaucrats in Washington until they sent me to the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, where I miraculously graduated as a poor-to-mediocre linguist. I left Monterey barely conversant in pidgin military Russian, but did learn to sing a transliterated version of “Dixie.”  

After graduation, we were transferred for several months to Defense Department’s Top Secret Security School in San Angelo, Texas, a training assignment made memorable by a monumentally ignorant Chief Botswain’s Mate, who lined up a mostly college-educated crew of linguists and threatened to charge us for mutiny for failing to show up for a useless meeting after an all-night class. He punctuated his blustering by proclaiming the “ignorance in Botswain’s Mates went out with the sailing ships,” which caused the incredulous officers watching this absurd, worthy-of-a-M.A.S.H.- episode performance to stifle guffaws. The mutiny squelched, we survived to graduate. 

Just before we graduated, one day in class when my field assignment was announced as Spain, someone blurted, “You lucky bastard!” As it turned out, life’s lottery had handed me a winning ticket. As soon as class was over, I went straight to the base library and checked out the few books I could find on Spain. 



Rota, January, 1969.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.



 Rota in January 2018.


Because of the military’s infinite wisdom and logic-defying precision, I, as a Russian linguist, was assigned for two years to the Rota Naval Base in Andalucía, from which periodically I was sent out riding the plane captain’s seat of antiquated, 1950s’ vintage, un-armed airplanes, including the great swept-wing hog, the A-3 Skywarrior, a converted fighter-bomber. Staging out of Greece and West Germany, we flew on electronic eavesdropping missions off the coasts of Egypt, Libya, East Germany, Poland, and Russia. It was my job to listen on a radio receiver and tape Russian military conversations. The first time I heard a MIG on our tail pretending to lock on with a missile, which would have turned us to toast in just a few seconds, I momentarily longed even for a rice paddy. Nevertheless, during my two-year tour of duty in Rota, between flying missions, I had time to begin discovering Spain and I began to develop an afición, a passion, for the country that has continued to grow for more than 50 years. 


I was glad, deliriously glad, to be in Europe and not in Vietnam. By August of 1968, a year after that momentous Monterey Pop Festival, I found myself in a steamy second class train car rattling south through Andalucía towards El Puerto de Santa María with a group of Spanish conscripts, who would become my friends over the course of that summer as we traveled back-and-forth between our respective military assignments in Cádiz province and weekend R & R in their beautiful, mystical Sevilla, the quintessential city of southern Spain, which was rapidly becoming my adopted hometown. 


On that slow rocking train in southern Spain, Roberto, one of my new Spanish soldier friends—most of whom came from La Alameda de Hércules, a Sevilla working class barrio—taught me how to cut a V-shaped wedge out of either side of a cork pulled from the label-less bottles of coarse, ice-cold, red vino corriente that I would purchase at station when the train stopped in heat-baked Utrera, south of Sevilla. Roberto would shove the cork back in the bottle and pass the wine around for all to share bota-style, each in turn tilting up the bottle and allowing the wine to flow in a stream into the drinker’s mouth without allowing the bottle to touch his lips. 


During the summer of 1968, I nearly mastered the art of hitting my mouth with a stream of red wine while standing in the passageway at the end of the swaying train car, through whose open doors warm air gushed, considerably increasing the degree of difficulty.

 
Roberto


Wine-stained shirts and few bottles of wine were a small price to pay for many hours of the conviviality of these fun-loving Spanish soldiers. In addition to learning a modicum of unorthodox wine-drinking etiquette from Roberto and his friends, I picked up some Spanish by osmosis and was treated to impromptu flamenco singing accompanied by the staccato rhythms of my friends clapping palmas (which they also taught me). I was also given a share of Roberto's mother's superb tortillas españolas (Spain's classic potato omelettes that are sliced into wedges and eaten cold—then a traveller's staple in Spain). 


Each week, when we arrived in Sevilla, Roberto and his friends told me which train they would be taking back to their base in San Fernando. No matter what shape we were in after drinking multiple bottles of wine on the two-hour train ride, my new amigos always made sure I got off at El Puerto de Santa María, the great sherry town on the bay of Cádiz, where I would catch the shiny little local train to nearby Rota. There were big abrazos (embraces), waves, and good wishes from my new-found friends as I dis-embarked, then they were back to clapping and singing flamenco as their train creaked to life and rolled on to San Fernando, two stops down the line. 


The sharp, metallic, chilled wine--which tasted far better with the good tortilla, Spanish olives, and rough country bread--was never more than poor to mediocre, but it was the camaraderie and conviviality of Roberto and his Sevillano friends sharing their food, songs, jokes, and stories with me that made those train trips so memorable and the ordinary wine and food a feast. On those wonderful “wild and weary” train rides through tawny summertime Spain, I also learned an indispensable rule about drinking vino—the most important thing about any bottle of wine is the people surrounding it. And in the process I developed a passion for Spain, Spaniards, and Spanish wine and food that has endured to this day. 

My experiences with those Spanish soldiers set the tone for the stories that follow. 


Gerry Dawes©2018 / gerrydawes@aol.com


* * * * *
  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?



Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Gastronomy Blogs


In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019) 

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."  

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel


 
About Gerry Dawes

My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019


Gerry Dawes, last year, was the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Andalucian Journal: Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Home of Manzanilla Sherry: A repeat of the Five Dalí Melting Watch Adventure with Javier Hidalgo, Producer of La Gitana Manzanilla, in La Marisma, Lunch in a Very Secret Place

* * * * *
Updated with a new adventure with Javier Hidalgo and Paula de La Infiesta, Kay Balun, Michael Whiteman and Rozanne Gold, on Oct. 18, 2019


Javier Hidalgo drinking his Bodegas Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado.

* * * * *
Gerry Dawes's Geraldo-Dalí Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí)  Melting Watch Awards.

 To Javier Hidalgo, La Gitana Manzanilla and the incredible experience we had with Javier and his wife Paula at Riacheros out in the mashes of Las Marimas, north of my favorite Spanish town, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the place where God was born.

All photos and text by Gerry Dawes©2019.
Contact gerrydawes@aol.com for publication rights.

 Javier Hidalgo telling Michael Whiteman and Rozanne Gold the intricacies of the Sherry solera system at Bodegas La Gitana.  The bodega was closed for a local holiday, but Javier took us on a private tour. 


 Kay, who only likes the sweeter types of Sherry, listens to Javier explain his wines.


While Javier was on the telephone, his wife Paula wanted a glass of Sherry, so I took Javier's caña (made from a cane) venencia (wine "thief") for extracting Sherry samples from a cask.  I learned out to use a venencia back in the 1980s by repeatedly practicing using water from a swimming pool instead of wine.


Paula de La Infiesta loves flowers and asked me to photograph her by this one growing in the patio of Bodegas La Gitana.


At lunchtime, we headed out to the La Marisma marshes north of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, passing sea salt processing facilities along the still salty lower Guadalquivir River.


Las Compuertas, the sluice/canal gates, and la Virgen del Carmen, patrona of the fishermen.



 
José Manuel Gómez Rodríguez “El Manego” and his wife Juani Arellano with Paula de La Infiesta at Las Compuertas (The Canal Gates).


 Tomatoes with sea salt, dressed with Sherry vinegar and Spanish extra virgen olive oil at Las Compuertas.


Camarones, small estuary shrimp that can be eaten whole, heads, shell and all.


Whole plancha-grilled albor (grey mullet)--with the hueva (fish roe) in the center and reminiscent of shad roe--that Javier advised us should only be ordered here, because it is good when fished from plankton- and camarones-rich brackish salt waters of La Marisma, but is not a good fish when caught in the ocean.


Albor (grey mullet) hueva (fish roe), reminiscent of shad roe and as good as any shad roe I have had. 
 


 Paula de La Infiesta filets the grey mullet at Las Compuertas.


In early April 2012, after stays during Holy Week in Sevilla and Ronda, I took my spousal equivalent, Kay Balun, with me to Sanlúcar de Barrameda (See Sanlúcar Sunset in a Manzanilla Glass) to spend a couple of days with a long-time friend Javier Hidalgo, producer of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, and his wife, Paula de La Infiesta, at their finca, the charming, bucolic farm where they live between Sanlúcar and Chipiona.




Javier Hidalgo drinking his Bodegas Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado as an aperitif before our riacheros lunch at Las Compuertas out in the La Marisma marshes north of
Sanlúcar.

In just two days, we managed a number of wonderful adventures, including a foray into Las Marismas, the famous wetlands and bird sanctuary north of Sanlúcar (and west across the Río Guadalquíver), where Javier and Paula took us to have lunch at a riacheros (river fishermen) bar-restaurant located in a place in La Marisma, so isolated and secret that I am not going to tell you the name (Whoops, I did mention the name already!)
 
In deference to Kay, Javier spoke to us in his fluent, British-nuanced English. "My father spoke French and English, so I began to learn English at home. but I was taught French at school," he explained. "But by the time I went to university, I realised that English was going to be useful, so I started to study it. My parents' home was very international with many foreign visitors related to the wine and bird worlds, so I had many chances to practice English. During my military service at Rota Naval Station, I worked as an interpreter and then I further refined my English on frequent visits and hunting trips to the UK which is our best market outside Spain." (I coincidentally first came to Spain to do the last two years of my military service at Rota, a major American Navy base, which is how I first came to know and love Sanlúcar de Barrameda.)

We couldn't have been with a better guide for Kay's first introduction to Las Marismas.  Javier grew up going on repeated birding and hunting excursions into what he refers to as La Marisma.  When I told him that I had always heard these wetlands called 'Las Marismas,' Javier, who published his memoirs of the area, "Recuerdos de La Marisma" (Ediciones Geribel, 2005), clarified the term for me. "Both ways are correct. There are many marismas in the world but for me this is the most important one, that is why I refer to it as “La Marisma.” You can use either.

Javier Hidalgo (with co-author Christopher Fielden) also wrote La Manzanilla: El vino de Sanlúcar (Almuzara, 2009), for which, at Javier's request, I wrote the foreword.


As we bounced over a track that had been filled with stones that were bone-jarring, even in Javier's four-by-four, he told us, "The restaurant we are going to is nothing fancy. In fact, the place is bit raffish, but the food is quite good."

"Sounds like my kind of place," I replied, (If you do find out where this place is, you should rent a half-track or a tank to get there; the road is that rough.)
 
This art of La Marisma wetlands is not quite the same as the bayous of Louisiana, but La Marisma and Coto Doñana, the legendary bird sanctuary and major eco-system on the west bank of Río Guadalquíver have some similarities.



,

Riachero fishing boats in the La Marisma wetlands near Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

At the restaurant, Javier started me off with a copita of the finely nuanced, beautifully made Hidalgo Napoleon, one of the very best Amontillados made, while Paula poured Kay a copita of La Gitana Manzanilla, a delicious, dry, crisp, lovely sherry that is a great accompaniment to seafood. All of us would continue drinking La Gitana throughout the meal.

Paula de La Infiesta pouring La Gitana Manzanilla at the riacheros restaurant in Las Marismas.


Juan Manuel, the owner of this hidden riacheros bar, served us a lunch of that began with a loaf of freshly baked country bread, then a platter of same-day camarones (tiny shrimp), which can be eaten whole (and are used to make one of the great folk dishes of Andalucía, tortillitas de camarones, a tiny shrimp-filled fritter that we would have the following day at Bar Barbiana on the Plaza del Cabildo in Sanlúcar).


Camarones, small La Marisma shrimp, at the bar-restaurant that caters
to the riacheros, the men who fish the waters of La Marisma.


Next Juan Manuel brought out a large, beautifully browned, whole calamar (squid), which Paula cut up into smaller pieces, then we had a fish dish, a whole grilled albor (grey mullet) that Javier advised us should only be ordered here, because it is good when fished from plankton- and camarones-rich, brackish salt waters of La Marisma, but is not a good fish when caught in the ocean. All of this was accompanied with La Gitana Manzanilla, which we kept cold in a table side ice bucket.

 
Camarones, tiny shrimp caught in Las Marismas shrimp and La Gitana Manzanilla sherry at the bar-restaurant that caters to the riacheros, the men who fish the waters of La Marisma.


Besides the rugged, bouncy trip in a four-by-four over one of the roughest roads I have been on in years in Andalucía to get to the restaurant, Javier Hidaldo, a well-known bird expert as well as a Manzanilla bodeguero, brought us back on a rough dirt track through marshes where we saw large flocks of flamingos, slender-billed gaviotas (sea gulls), ducks, geese and other water birds; passed through herds of grazing cattle and saw Marisma cowboys on horseback herding cattle; and saw the amazing Marisma's cattle that graze on aqua-plants up to their bellies in salt water.


Flamingos, La Marisma.



Cattle grazing on aqua-plants in the water in La Marisma.
 

The bird show continued back at Javier’s and Paula’s finca south of Sanlúcar, where Javier keeps ducks, geese, turkeys, Guinea hens, chickens including fiesty bantam roosters and a peacock that likes to fly up to the highest point of the homestead and shriek, often in the middle of the night, as peacocks are wont to do (see my article on
Valladolid with photos of the semi-wild peacocks of the Campo Grande park in the center of town).





Ducks and ducklings at the Hidalgo finca outside Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Javier Hidalgo loves animals and also keep three horses, which he exercises on local beaches and, during the spectacular annual thoroughbred races on Bajo de Guía beach each August in Sanlúcar, Javier, who maintains, still in his fifties, jockey weight, races his thoroughbred against much younger competition and has won a number of races.




Sunset in a glass, Manzanilla sherry along the Guadalquivir River at Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Gerry Dawes 2008 / gerrydawes@aol.com




Langostinos de Sanlúcar with La Gitana manzanilla, in evening light, Bajo de Guía beach on the Guadalquívir River, Sanlúcar de Barrameda.



Other Articles of interest on Sherry:

Andalucian Journal: April in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Home of Manzanilla Sherry: Adventures with Javier Hidalgo, Producer of La Gitana Manzanilla, in Las Marismas, Lunch in a Very Secret Place

Sherry’s Image Gets a Makeover


* * * * *

  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?



Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Gastronomy Blogs


In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019) 

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."  

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

 



My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019


Until last year Gerry was the Producer and host of Gerry Dawes & Friends Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 



". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Mythical Feasts in the Historical Mists of the Pass of Roncesvalles in Navarra: Scenes from Homage to Iberia by Gerry Dawes


* * * * *
   Text & Photographs by by Gerry Dawes©2020

 Hostal Burguete, Burguete-Auritz (Navarra).

  
Roncesvalles.

My late former wife Diana Valenti Dawes and I spent many wonderful sanfermines, the annual fiestas at Pamplona with Alicia Hall, a spinster school teacher from Milledgeville, Georgia, who was a woman of great charm and character.  Some years we started before the Fiestas de San Fermín by driving up to Burguete in the Pyrenees mountains northeast of Pamplona for a few days. 


Alice "Alicia" Hall.

We stayed at the rustic Hostal Burguete, where Hemingway got the inspiration for the hotel  in The Sun Also Rises, where Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton stayed during their trout fishing expedition on the Irati River, which rushes down these green Navarrese-Basque mountains and offered great trout fishing. 


 Trout fishing in the Pyrenees of Navarra.

The hotel, with its heavy, dark wooden beams, big beds with warm covers, and plumbing from a by-gone era had changed little since Hemingway stayed there.  Diana, Alicia, and I loved to spend a couple of quiet relaxing days there - - reading, walking out on the road to Roncesvalles to pick wild strawberries to put on our ice cream, and having long discussions about Spain over dinner and plenty of Navarra’s country vino tinto.  

Florián, the prematurely middle-aged, but handsome daughter of the innkeeper, her mother, who often sat in the kitchen while Florián, on a big wood-fired, cast-iron cook stove prepared reasonably good Navarrese food (at these prices, a bargain): Stews of alubias (white beans) with chorizo, magras con tomate (pork slices in tomato sauce), pollo asado con patatas fritas (chicken with fried potatoes), trucha a la navarra (fried trout with a slice of ham tucked in its belly), and vainas (fresh green beans with boiled potatoes).   


 Pochas-alubias and Las Campanas Navarra Rosado.

After finishing a bottle or two of Navarra clarete (light young red wine) or rosado and, perhaps, a coffee, a Spanish brandy or Patxarán (sloe berry-infused anís) as we talked, we turned in early.  Diana and I would snuggle into the big wooden poster bed in a room that overlooked a green meadow behind the house, read a bit from The Sun Also Rises and other books on Spain and sleep next to one another soundly until morning.  Sometimes a rainstorm would come through at night, freshening the air and making it far cooler than the July calendar seemed to call for. 


 Hostal Burguete piano (photos from the internet).

In a side room, Florián showed us the upright piano that was supposedly the one that the Bill Gorton character played in The Sun Also Rises.  The piano was believable, but "E. Hemingway 25-7-1923" crudely scratched on the underside of the top of the piano was not so believable.  

 In the early 1970s, Diana Valenti Dawes during San Fermín dancing the riau-riau on the shoulders of Big Steve Lee, the "Gentle Giant," a very large friend of ours, in front of the Ayuntamiento, Pamplona.

On the morning of July 6, Alicia, Diana and I would pack up and head down the mountain roads to Pamplona, where, as Ernest Hemingway wrote about the beginning of the fiesta:  At noon of Sunday, the 6 of July, the fiesta exploded. There is no other way to describe it.”  Our tranquil days and nights in Burguete led to our surrendering to the wild, raucous days and nights of the nine-day, non-stop Fiestas de San Fermín that were to come. 

Always, during those years, about halfway through the fiesta, about the time everyone needed a break from the noise and jaleo of San Fermín, we formed a caravan of cars and headed back up into these same hills to the pass of Roncesvalles, just north of Burguete, where we had picnics that became legendary.  A couple of kilometers above the monastery of Ronscesvalles, along the road to France, I knew a splendid Brigadoon-like glade with an icy little stream that only the initiated can find. My friend John Fulton, the American Matador-and-artist, who had gone there with James Michener, who described it his Iberia:  Spanish Travels and Reflections,  and had introduced me to it during my first time at the Fiestas de San Fermín in 1970.  

 Matador John Fulton and Gerry Dawes in the plaza de toros de Pamplona 1970s.
Photo by the great Jim Hollander. 

   James Michener, Gerry Dawes and Diana Valenti Dawes at Michener's home in Austin, Texas.

In Iberia, Michener wrote about this very glade:  "I had spotted it on my pilgrimage to Santiago.  We were eight as we left Pamplona after the morning running of the bulls:  Patter (Ashcraft) and her husband; Bob Daley, long-time European sportswriter for The New York Times and his French wife, both with a sense of what makes a good picnic; Vavra ((Robert Vavra, photographer of Iberia) and Fulton; the Hemingway double (Kenneth Vanderford) and I.   We were headed north, toward the pass of Roncesvalles, that historic and mystery-laden route through the Pyrenees which Charlemagne had used in 778 for his retreat throught the mists and where he had failed to hear the battle horn of his dying Roland. . .and there in a glade so quiet, so softly green that it seemed as if defeated knights might have slept in it the evening before, we spread our blankets and prepared the meal."
    
With an odd collection of companions, each year we made the pilgrimage to this historic little valley in the pass that is haunted by the ghost of brave Roland and by the spirits of generations of pilgrims who passed this way over the centuries walking the Chemin de Saint Jacques, the great Camino de Santiago, a trek across northern Spain that from this point at Roncesvalles to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, where Saint James’s bones are said to reside, is over 600 miles. 


Gerry Dawes at San Fermín 1971.


Sometime around July 10, Diana and I would round up a crazy band of picnickers that included the thin, but sassy, seventy-something Alicia Hall, the doyenne of foreign bullfight aficionados; Kenneth Vanderford, Ernest Hemingway's "double," a curmudgeonly university professor with long-billed ball cap, a white beard, and portly girth; and Lindsay Daen, an internationally known New Zealand sculptor.  The goateed Daen lived in Puerto Rico and Madrid, wore bush jackets and a strange looking glass device around his neck, drove a red Kharmann Ghia and showed up each year at the Bar Txoko in Pamplona with a new lady (or ladies), usually a young, impressionable art student.  

Invariably Lindsay met these young women on his scouting forays into the Prado Museum in Madrid and just as invariably, when he showed up with one of them, we would slyly ask him, "Where did you meet Sally or Bev or Ronnie?"  I referred to these women as Lindsay's "recent acquisitions from the Prado."  One year, he arrived with a pretty young lady and claimed that he had met her when he saved her from a piece of cornice stone falling from a building in Madrid.
    
“Shocking that they have allowed the Prado to fall in such dis-repair!” was my comeback. 

In supsequent years, word of our band of Roncesvalles merry merienda makers got around and we were joined by an eclectic crew of adventurers and of the women of several nationalities who came to San Fermín with them each year.  Some of these regulars had been coming without fail for decades to the fiestas.  Many of them could best be described as the spiritual descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s Jake Barnes and other members of the Lost Generation.
    
Arriving at the hard to find spot on the eastern side of the steep road that climbed up to a pilgrim's sanctuary at the top of the pass, we unloaded the luncheon bounty from our cars.  The men helped Alicia down the steep, grassy slope to the green, mossy banks of the stream, where Diana, who had recruited some of the women to collect the food at the Pamplona mercado municipal that morning, laid out our splendid repast: Anchoas, salty anchovies cured in oil; roasted red pimientos; streaky pink slices of jamón;  garlicky red-orange chorizo; white Parmesan-like Roncal from the Pyrenees east of Roncesvalles and smoky Idiazábal ewes’ milk cheeses from a town south of San Sebastián; aceitunas, olives cured with rosemary, thyme and garlic; crusty, country bread; and fruits—blushing ripe peaches, big black picota cherries, and honeydew melons.  I put a dozen bottles of Las Campanas Navarra rosados (the same wines Hemingway carried in his car around Spain with him) and claretes (rosés and lighter red wines) and melons in the cold rushing little rivulet to cool, then dispatched a detail of volunteers for dry firewood to build a little fire.
    
The country food of Navarra is delicious, even more so in the mountain air, the wine flowed freelyand laughter came easily. Every now and then someone would step away from the group and stare out across the splendid green woods and watch the rivulet run down the valley.  They knew that back in the  frantic hustle of modern city life, these hours spent in the Garden  of Eden would ripen with age and retelling.
    
Until some newcomers not present during the early years of these outings, decided one year by popular decree that the should move the show down out of the historical mists to an easier-to-get-to spot, thus destroying the magic, our picnic had a formula that didn't vary from the first year until the year we stopped having our picnics,   : Drink some wine, eat wonderful Navarrese food, drink some more wine, get mellow, lay down on the mossy slopes and tell jokes to a well-primed audience until the mystical fog drifts in, as it often does by mid-afternoon. The joke session began that first year, when Hemingway’s double Kenneth Vanderford, a man then in his sixties, who was sitting in a folding chair he carried in his car, began to hold court with the group sitting on the ground around him.  While stroking the arm of a attractive, flaxen-haired young model, who had worked for a Senator from California (and, with whom, I had had a mercifully short liason), Vanderford had drifted quite naturally onto the subject of sex and how, in our society, it was not easily accessible to men of his age.
    
“The only thing available to men like me,” he said, “is loneliness and masturbation.  In this society, sex seems to be forbidden to the very old and very young. ”
    
“That's not the case in all societies” the sculptor Lindsay Daen, himself obviously no stranger to the randy arts, said.  Then he told a tale of how he had once watched a five-year old girl openly masturbate on the veranda of a house in Polynesia, while he and her parents were carrying on a conversation.
    
“Her parents didn’t seem to find anything wrong with what she was doing,” Lindsay said, “and when I thought about it, I didn’t either.”
    
“Well,” I chimed in, “there’s plenty I find wrong with it.”
    
“Like what?” Daen asked.
    
“The kid could go blind, get pimples, and, if she continues masturbating, she will undoubtedly go crazy.  Look what it’s done to you and Vanderford.”
    
Any serious drift the conversation may have had disintegrated with the peals of laughter, then the jokes started.  After a few risque jokes in English got the group warmed up, a Swede had us rolling on the ground in fits by telling a particularly dirty joke in Swedish, which only the three other Swedes at the picnic, including my friend Birney Adam's wife Lotta understood.  No interpretation was necessary.  It didn’t matter, the food, the wine, the camaraderie, and the reverie of the country afternoon made these picnics the stuff of vintage nostalgia. 
The most incredible thing that ever happened during the five years we gathered for these picnics, was the near conversion of the Hemingway look-a-like, Kenneth Vanderford, a died-in-the-wool atheist and a friend of Madeleine Murray O’Hair, America’s most vociferous non-believer.


Kenneth Vanderford, "Hemingway's Double," at a picnic in Roncesvalles.
    
One year, early in the proceedings, a mist of metaphysical caliber had drifted into the upper tier of our little valley.  Things were getting spooky and we were worried about Lindsay Daen, who had still not arrived.  We had already had some food and wine, when I coaxed Vanderford, a history professor, into telling us about the legend of Roland blowing his horn to summon his uncle Charlemagne's army as he fought for his life in this pass.  Vanderford ended his tale of the famous Chanson de Roland and remarked that, like lots of other religion-based legends, the popular accounts of the retreat of Roland and his death were mostly nonsense.  At that precise moment, several notes that sounded like a bugle call from Roland himself came from high in the woods.  Vanderford looked heavenward and seemed momentarily shaken by what he must have thought was a call to reckoning.  It was Lindsay blowing his bugle as he tried to locate us.  We never let Kenneth Vanderford live that day down. 

 Lindsay Daen blowing his bugle in Roncesvalles.
    
If it were not for the bullfights, for which most of us had tickets, we would have passed the whole afternoon here, immersed in the camaraderie we shared and in the reverie of this magical place.  Reluctantly, for the fight was to begin at six and Pamplona was at least an hour away, we packed up and wound our way back down the curvy mountain roads to the fiesta with another tale to add to the legends of the pass of Roncesvalles. 

- - The End - -


 

* * * * *
 

Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring   
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?
 
Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington, in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th
Street, New York City.
 ____________________________________________________________________________________

 Gastronomy Blogs


In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019) 

"The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science blogs in our index using search and social metrics. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information."  

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

 
About Gerry Dawes



"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019




Gerry Dawes was the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)



Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 






". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 




Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Customized Culinary, Wine & Cultural Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain  

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@gmail.com


 * * * * *
If you enjoy these blog posts, please consider a contribution to help me continue the work of gathering all this information and photographs for Gerry Dawes's Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel. Contributions of $5 and up will be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $100 or more will be acknowledged on the blog.

* * * * To make your contribution, please click on this secure link to Paypal.* * * *


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