There is nothing like the smell of freshly fried fish, especially if you’ve just emerged from a sea or river bath. It’s almost as if the aroma goes through your nostrils and awakens the part of your brain that says, “Feed me now!” According to this episode of From Spain With Love, the Spaniards feel the same way. They love their sea food and Annie Sibonney was going to show us just how much. The journey began in the North coast at the town of Cambados. Once again they went off the beaten path for a cooking/travel show, way off. Annie met and joined a group of female clam pickers called mariscadoras. These women work very hard to make a living and my admiration for them overflowed. Maria José Casavelo took Annie under her wing as they headed out in harsh weather, to dig Almeja Fina and Almeja Japónica clams out of the sand.
“This is not a job for the faint of heart.” – Annie Sibonney
After selling the clams at an auction house, the scene changed to Maria José’s own home. In her kitchen, she and Annie made Almejas a la Marinera (Sailor’s Clams). They had accomplished so much in one day. In every part of the world, women toil to provide for their families and look out for each other. This segment paid homage, not only to the mariscadoras but all women like them. There was a brief stop back at Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel, where Annie had Boquares, a kebab with white anchovies. This was to reacquaint the viewers with one of Annie’s all-time favourite foods (first established in Madrid: Dusk ‘til Dine): percebes (goose barnacles). They certainly look strange and bear a closer resemblance to something reptilian, than something edible or even delicious. What’s even more surprising about this tasty oddity is how they’re harvested.
If you think fishermen who risk their lives on Deadliest Catch is too much, then this part of the program was not for you. At Costa del Muerte (Coast of Death) Galician goose barnacle fishermen called percebeiros leap off their boats and onto rocks in high surf. They scrape the barnacles off the rocks, and then dive back into the water. If they dawdle, there is a risk of being crushed by the waves, against the rocks or even their own boats. This is their job and how it’s done every day. Annie endured the worst boat ride ever, as she accompanied them in the rough waters. Back on dry land, she enjoyed some percebes cooked in sea water along with the daredevil fishermen: Juan, Joaquim and Liche. So far, this episode’s taught us that in Spain, mariscadoras have guts, while percebeiros have ermm, cojones. I can’t imagine how the folks behind the scenes coped. This was not the sunny clime viewers stereotypically see. The rain in Spain was in full effect. However, their perseverance paid off and we were treated to excellent footage.
Still in Galicia, Annie went to Casa Marcelo in La Coruna where one of the country’s top chefs, Marcelo Tejedor, showed off his skills with two incredible dishes. First up was Arroz de Algas (Seaweed Risotto). As an island girl, I’ve seen a lot of seaweed in my time, but never considered it edible until my first sushi experience. Chef Marcelo however didn’t use the seaweed as a wrap or garnish, but made it an integral part of the cooking process. His methods were ingenious but not impossible to replicate. So I would dare say that it’s something that could be tried at home. His next jaw-dropping concoction was Capuccino de Bogavante (Lobster Cappuccino). Smooth, creamy and oh so dreamy, this cup of yumminess has taken lobster bisque to a whole other level. While I’d advocate any attempt to replicate this in your own kitchen, I’d much prefer to sip this cuppa in Galicia.
The episode concluded at the seaside of Taramancos, where Chef Marcelo took Annie on his motorcycle to a beach party. The special guest was boiled octopus, cooked by a jovial lady named Carmen. According to Annie, she’s the best pulpeira in all of Galicia. Indeed, the meal was simply and expertly prepared, both fundamental keys to good cooking. It was a fitting end to an episode that really showed us more about Spanish people. There is so much more to them than their food…and football (ahem, soccer). Annie’s had a good rapport with all the chefs featured so far in the series. Sometimes she uses her feminine wiles (bear hugs, giggles and casual hair tosses) and other times she’s downright silly. In this episode, her on-screen chemistry with Chef Marcelo was dazzling. He literally swept her off her feet, and probably a lot of viewers as well. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit, if some folks have booked a trip to Galicia based on this episode alone. This is a must-see for this series and definitely raised the bar for TV shows of its kind. The next episode is Crazy For Chocolate.