Pan Catalan

This is the second of three-part series that documents the two-week journey that Kate and I are embarking on. We’re going to a beach town in Spain for a week, then heading to Amsterdam for work.


“I Don’t Think It’s Ketchup”

Upon our arrival in the small Spanish beach town of Moraira, I was stressed.

After almost 24 hours of travel, which at one point included Kate and I literally running through the Schiphol airport (Our first flight was delayed, meaning we landed at 1:10, and our connecting flight to Alicante began boarding at 1:22), we were officially on vacation (vactiones).

Getting into “vacation” mode is harder than it sounds. And before you click the spam button on this email and throw your hands up in disgust as a straight white male talks about the difficulty of relaxing – well, I don’t have a serious point that I’m making. But shifting one’s mind from the stress of travel, projects left ongoing, emails unanswered, it’s tough.

In an attempt to cleanse our minds of the lives that we had consciously taken a break from for seven days, Kate suggested that we take a walk from our house in the hills down to the glimmering waters of the Mediterranean. The sun sets very late here, so even though it was almost 8:30, we enjoyed a pleasant (if steep) descent, and I was soon digging my toes into the wet sand with the Mediterranean lapping my ankles in a mellow roll.

Above the beach was a bar that served light food and drinks, so we timidly claimed a table and begin to practice our Spanish with our waiter, David. Our months of DuoLingo study paid off (not to mention my 5 years of Spanish) and within un minuto, I had a frosty mug of cerveza in front of me, and Kate had a dark and delicious glass of red wine begging to be sipped.

Libations imbibed, I began to feel my brain loosen a bit. Then we decided to order some tapas. Fried squid (chiparones) were a must-have, and Kate suggested we order pan catalan.

Returning with plates, the chiparones were salty and hot, the perfect pairing to the cold beer, but it was the basic delight of bread, Spanish ham, and a thin pastiche of tomatoes that have come to symbolize this vacation for me.

I’m not a huge fan of nightshades, and I rarely make an effort to order tomatoes. However, there’s a magical taste that is occurring in Moraira, the effortless combination of a mashed up tomato in some olive oil and salt and pepper spread over fresh bread that is a pure delicacy.

In an effort to not be one of those Americans who spends some time abroad and becomes insufferable (when I came back from Italy in my 20’s, I was one of them), I won’t waste words on why I think the food here is just better, but trust me it is.

Now I’m on vacation, and I’m assuming you, dear reader, are not. But I want to give your tastebuds a treat, and hopefully take your mind to the meditative Mediterranean, even if just for a few bites. Just go to the grocery store, buy a fresh baguette and a tomato. Go home, dice half the tomato up, put it in a mortar and pestle and add a healthy dose of olive oil (not enough to overwhelm the tomato though), a few wrist flicks of freshly cracked salt and pepper, and then get to pestling.

Take the mixture and spread it across a few halves of fresh bread, and then take a bite.

Fresh, simple, and savory – that’s the true taste of vacation.

Pan Catalan – 4 out of 5 Stars

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