April 9, 2008

Malaga es grande

Its hard to believe sometimes that just two and a half hours on a gently rocking train hurtling through the olive grove scattered countryside is enough to transport you to another time frame, or rather another brain frame altogether. This train, with its duckish beak and generous amount of leg room is like a portal to the tropics, a ticket to a better life consisting of sardines roasted on spits in bonfires set in hollowed out old boats and tended to by old men that in other countries might have anchors tattooed on their biceps. And so I found myself perched on a rock coming out of a jetty, nose newly freckled, surf swirling around my toes, wearing a bathing suit from the year before, and wondering why oh why it had taken me such a long time to make such a quick trip on the new high speed train to Malaga, and how being so close to Madrid, one could feel so absolutely and delightfully far far away.
The excuse was the Malaga Film Festival and an overdue visit to a friendly cousin. Once there, I was happy to see only a third of a film and a lot of the cousin. We rented bikes from a pleasant Dutchman that took us on the wide promenade along the length of the beach to the Port where the great cruise ships are docked, boarded by people who are dressed mysteriously for much colder weather, and back again to our little community (ours now for almost 48 hours) buzzing with fisherman unloading shellfish from the trunks of their cars in styrafoam boxes, beachfront restaurants, and Sunday afternoon strollers crowding the sidewalks of our lazy haven.
Apart from the smoky sardines, the restaurants in the area serve specialties that include pescado en adobo, made from deep fried spiced (sometimes) dogfish, white and hot on the inside with an almost vinegary fresh and light coating of golden batter; also battered are the thin slices of eggplant, fried and drizzled with honey; baby octopus, tiny smoked cockles, and tiny squid called chopitos. Grilled fish is fresh and smoky as well – frequently cooked whole, side by side next to the sardines over a wood fire, and tomatoes are flavourful and deeply coloured, swimming in olive oil with enough fresh smashed garlic and rock salt to make a girl blush.
In Malaga, if the food is revival then the sea is rebirth, and the return to the real world is just a bit more bearable because of it.
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