Spain and Costa Blanca are popular with its holiday destinations also among Finns. A close friend fled the cold and wet Finnish weather to Spain in the 90’s to work in the real estate business. He took his family over there too and they are today next to natives. We visit each other every now and then and the visits offer us a great viewpoints into life in Spain and especially the Spanish cuisine. It is there with our friends that I’ve tasted my first anguilas (baby eels), percebes (barnacles) and ox tail stew.
The coastal areas have been invaded by tourists and ‘immigrants’ and Torrevieja is a good example of that. The city expands every summer when the number of residents tenfolds from 100,000 to 1 million. The ‘immigrants’ of today are among others the ever growing group of pensioners and perhaps the nouveau riche of Russia. This made the real estate business boom, first in the late 80’s and then in the late 90’s after everyone had survived the depression of the early 90’s. Today Spain as many other countries is facing difficult times and an economical crisis. Literary to be frank as Spain has just pleaded for a bank bailout.
On one of our trips took us to visit Gines, a Spanish friend in the countryside in Redovan, Orihuela. The heartwarming welcome, the family, the tour at their jamon serrano factory and the lunch with paella conejo are all unforgettable.
We drove inland for about two hours starting from Torrevieja. First we visited the family and the ham production. The factory is small and a family business. We had the pleasure of meeting the grandfather who founded the business in 1930, and Gines runs the business today. Then we had a tour in the production facilities and saw the various phases of the ham from raw ham to delicious cured ham. The majority of the produce is jamón serrano which is also made of pata negra aka jamón ibérico, the famous black Iberian pig with black hooves that is fed with acorn (jamón ibérico de bellota) or other special diets. Other than that they make chorizo and embutido (different sausages and patés). The tour was splendid and I remember the smells and tastes of the tidbits. I’m afraid I cannot remember that much of the process.
In the afternoon, after the tour, we went out for lunch to a local bar and restaurant.
It was a remote place and the parking lot was half full of trucks, pick-ups and there were a couple of tractors too. It was definitely a place I would never ever enter by choice and my own free will if travelling on my own. It turned out that it really was the best restaurant in town and the friends had requested that a local specialty, paella with rabbit, be prepared for us. The paella de conejo was tasty and the meal very abundant in every way. My husband made a joke, as usually, of being a food journalist from our national paper. We did, in the end; set things right and told we were only tourists.