A Cure For Jamon Blindness

We just got back from Madrid and I think I have Jamon blindness - you know, like snow blindness, but caused by too much exposure to cured meats. We had forgotten what a city was like and were unprepared for the Madrillenos frankly untenable schedule of eating as close to midnight as possible and attempting to smoke a pack of twenty between each course. And that was just the children.

Nick's Spanish language classes were much appreciated as he did all the talking and I hung back demurely silent as an Austen heroine. They saw the ring on my finger, observed my quiet acquiescence to anything Nick said and nodded approvingly at him. Little did they know that it is I who wears the 'pantalones' in Angleterra. We had a similar experience when we visited Las Alpujarras in southern Spain. Fin was a toddler then and when walking we would carry him on our backs in a sling. However, all I had bought to Spain was a sarong and it just wouldn't go around Nick, so the task of carrying Fin on our hill walks fell to me. Nick would stride on ahead on the narrow paths holding back branches and the like. As we passed the rural farmers with Nick five paces ahead and me labouring behind with a small child on my back, they smiled and clicked their tongues approvingly; 'ah this one's got things right, his woman follows behind'. Nick may be a new man, but I swear he had a few more hairs on his chest when we returned from that trip.

So back to Madrid where we ate plates of salty Jamon and pimenton scented lomo, anchoas, tortilla and creamy fresh gambas a la plancha. Nick downed strong coffee with the UHT milk that is so redolent of Spain and small glasses of weak beer that even ladies who lunch aren't averse to. After a few days, all we wanted was salad. Staying in a hotel, we had no way to prepare food; beyond the succulent clemetines I bought by the bagful. We saw the vegetables piled high in markets, but couldn't find anywhere to eat them! In the end after a hypoglycaemic wander through the las Huertas district we came upon a packed tapas bar and sat down. The couple at the next table were eating something that looked surprisingly like vegetables, so we leaned over and asked them what it was. They pointed to 'salad de casa', which we ordered with relief. To our disorientated and growling stomachs this salad was like manna. Fresh tomatoes and preserved peppers, topped with marinated sardines, tuna and those amazing seasonal blue green olives.

In that throbbing, exciting party city I missed the simplicity of what we eat at home and the ability to eat what I wanted when I wanted. We decided that next time we would get an apartment with a kitchen and gorge ourselves at a reasonable hour on fresh seafood and market produce so that we were full of life and vitamins when it came to party time.