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Spain…On the Road Again November 2, 2008

Posted by Emily in Andalucía, Spain, things that make me smile, Travel.
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I finally got around to checking out the new PBS show “Spain…On the Road Again” after having read about it in almost every single publication I know of, from The New York Times to Glamour to Food and Wine and People. It’s getting huge press, mainly because it involves Gwyneth Paltrow speaking Spanish–something she does quite well. Mario Batali of “Molto Mario” fame, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols, an actor from Barcelona, are also along for the ride. I recognize Bassols from some cheesy Spanish television but she’s been a good go-between for Bittman, the most monolingual of the quartet. She is apparently quite the communicator, as her English is nearly flawless, she was raised speaking Spanish and Catalan, and is also fluent in Swedish, Italian and French. Whoa.

They are driving to nearly every corner of the country, touring vineyards and sampling spas and doing lots and lots of eating along the way. Watching my first episode, I was a little put off by the occasionally slowish pace of the series, but it didn’t take me long to warm up to the format, one of the more laidback versions of reality TV that I have seen. They have good chemistry and seem to genuinely love the country–Gwyneth was an exchange student there in high school, Mario can’t stop raving about the food and culture, Bittman seems to be discovering a lot and surprising himself. It’s nice to see Spanish food getting some mainstream respect–so much that’s famous about the cuisine has yet to really come to the U.S. Jamón ibérico/serrano/de bellota, the famous Spanish ham that can best be called a more interesting version of prosciutto, is a key example, as it’s a cornerstone of Spanish food and yet is rarely imported and almost impossible to get your hands on in this country. When you can, it’s generally of a quality that would make Spanish mothers cluck and shake their heads.

The episode in two weeks will take us to Andalucía, with a stop in Córdoba and lunch at Sociedad de Plateros, a cordobés institution where I passed innumerable Sunday afternoons with friends. Apparently, they’ll be sampling the local specialties salmorejo, like a very tomato-y and smoother gazpacho, and flamenquín, jamón serrano rolled in pork, which is then breaded and fried…and often dipped in mayo. Check out their Andalusian itinerary, along with recipes and blogs from the show’s stars. I’m looking forward to hearing their take on the food and culture of the city where I spent the last year. As my sister pointed out tonight, Gwyneth uses the best adjectives–“exquisite” “increíble” “fantástico” and “luscious” in Barcelona tonight.

Sunday evenings on PBS. It’s a fun little departure from a sometimes drab afternoon.