Part 2: A Paella By Any Other Name...
Part 3: Scoring Some Coca
As in many Mediterranean cultures, Catalan families enjoy the tradition of a Sunday drive in the country, highlighted by a simple, rustic meal. But Barcelona has sprawled so heavily that much of what was previously "country" now lies within city limits. So if you simply drive over Tibidabo mountain, which hovers over the north end of town, you can feel as if you're a hundred miles away.
The far side of Tibidabo boasts a number of eateries. All are filled to capacity on Sundays, though otherwise sleepy. And they make urbanites pay dearly for their laziness. If you drive an hour or two into actual countryside (e.g. the place where I had calçots a few years ago), you'll pay a fraction of the price.
But drummer Pablo Posa has made a rare score, discovering the one Tibidabo place with reasonable prices. We enjoyed a very typical Catalan Sunday dinner at Can Jané, which, for extra bucolic-ness, boasts a small menagerie of animals such as emus and ponys.
So simple but so delicious.
I didn't get photos of the grilled meats. They were very good, though not up the level of La Llar De L'all I Oli.
I need to explain why I'm showing you this rather unflashy meal.
The term "Catalan Cuisine" has become associated with sexy shiny high-end cooking, but that's all made up. It's artificial. It's a contrived, stylized fashion plate for selling food magazines and cookbooks, and it has as much to do with real Catalan food as "jazz dance" has to do with jazz.
To be sure, at this point you'll find shiny places here trying to sing that tune. But they're merely copping the style; cashing in on a foreign trend that is Catalan in name only.
Dowdy cabins like this - where kids meander around the floor and moms and dads slump at tables nibbling distractedly on great big loaves of toast with tomato - are where you taste actual Catalan cuisine. The House of Garlic Mayonnaise...that's Catalan cuisine. The calçots I had last time in a similar rustic venue...that's Catalan cuisine. David's arroz...that's Catalan cuisine. Forget the contrived lacquered nibbles you see on TV and in the high-end food porn magazines. If you take away one thing from everything I've shown you, make it this: Catalan food is not sexy. It's soulful.
Martina (see final photo) may one day grow up to wear slinky cocktail dresses and flirt poutily with Eurotrash socialites in shiny trendy Barcelona cafes. She may run into that alien trend. But in her heart of hearts, the phrase "catalan cuisine" will always evoke meals like this. This is ground zero, though it's nothing you'd ever see on the Food Network.