SAL DeTRAGLIA'S VIRTUAL TAPAS BAR
Observations on food, drink, sport, life and silliness in the US, Spain...and beyond! [Copyright © 2004-2016. All rights reserved.]
Friday, October 29, 2004
Thursday, October 28, 2004
VEGGING-OUT WITH A GOOD BOOK.
Congratulations to my brother-in-law, Pablo de Lora, whose book entitled Justicia para los Animales (pictured above) has won the 2004 Fundació Víctor Grífols i Lucas Investigation Award.
The book is a well-researched and well-argued manifesto in support of animal rights. It has been favorably reviewed in many media, including the Spanish daily El Pais.
The award ceremony takes place tonight in Barcelona, and will be followed by cocktails and an open-air pig roast.
Just kidding about the pig roast.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE THAT CIGARETTE.
You can learn a lot about a culture from its cigarette warning labels.
The politically-correct United States posts the following warning on its cigarette packs: “The Surgeon General has determined that smoking can be hazardous to your health.”
Prim and proper Great Britain posts the following warning on its packs: “I say, old chap…do use caution whilst enjoying that cigarette; for a most unpleasant health effect may result. Most unpleasant, indeed.”
But my favorite warning label is Spain’s. Anyone who is familiar with the bluntness and economy of the Spanish language will surely appreciate the photo above (which, by the way, is real). In English, it translates to...“SMOKING CAN KILL YOU!!!”
Doesn’t leave much room for interpretation, does it?
But if you think Spain’s cautionary message lack subtlety, just imagine the warning label on a pack of Russian cigarettes!
THE BLOG IS NOW OPEN FOR COMMENTS. ALWAYS HAS BEEN.
Well…I’m afraid that I must debunk – once and for all – this all-too-convenient excuse for the laziness of my readers.
Let it be known far and wide! My blog accepts comments from EVERYONE. That includes Blogger members, non-members and everything in between…including ex-business forms salesmen. In fact, my blog has been set up this way since Day 1. Here’s all you need to do:
1. Go to the bottom of a particularly brilliant post and click on “[#] Comments.”And when you post a message, please…please…please sign your name at the bottom. Otherwise, I won’t know which of you is offering me a publishing contract.
2. Go to the bottom of the next screen and click on “Post a Comment.”
3. You will arrive at a screen entitled “Comment Sign In.” If you are a Blogger member, then type in your Username and Password. But if you are NOT Blogger member (and have no desire to be), then...
4. Click on “Or Post Anonymously.” Do you see it? It is right beneath the big, blue “Sign In” button. This will allow you to post a Comment without a Username or Password.
BLUE TOOTH AND BLUE HAIR DON’T MIX.
My grandmother celebrated her 83rd birthday last week, and received a cellular phone as a gift from my uncle. Since then, I’ve tried to call her at least seven times…but to no avail. She’s hasn’t once answered the phone. So I called my father instead, and asked what’s the problem.
“Oh…your grandmother leaves the cell phone at home when she goes out.”
Leaves the cell phone at home? That seems a bit like buying a new car, but only using it to listen to the radio while sitting in the driveway.
Perhaps I’ll reconsider the Blackberry® that I was going to buy her for Christmas.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
LET’S GET SAUCY.
My uncle vacationed in Italy earlier this month, and was disappointed with the food. He felt that it was “bland” compared to the Italian food to which he is accustomed in the US.
I was not surprised by his conclusion. In fact, I think that the reasons behind it are pretty simple. My uncle is Italian-American, and he was eating in the land of Italian-Italians.
Contrary to what many in the US believe, Italian-Italians and Italian-Americans are two completely different beasts. And it's not just because members of the latter group have a propensity to scratch their crotches in public places, whereas those in the former group do not. The differences go right down to the food.
Italian-Italians like their sauces to have clean, fresh flavors. Italian-Americans like them to have intense, meaty (and especially, porky) flavors.
So it's a matter of apples and oranges. Personally, I'd be happy to eat a big bowl of either. But since not everyone is as flexible or open-minded as I am, I feel compelled to provide these folk with some sort of public service.
As such…I list below the recipe for my mother’s/grandmother’s classic, meat-based, Italian-American “macaroni sauce.” If you are Italian-American, planning a trip to Italy and fear that your palate might be repulsed by the taste of an unadorned tomato, then you should pack of tub of this sauce in dry ice and wedge it into your suitcase.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stand at a bus stop and scratch my crotch.
OLIVA FAMILY'S MACARONI SAUCE (UTICA, NY)
56 oz. Crushed Tomato
56 oz. Tomato Puree
24 oz. Tomato Paste
Salt & Pepper
Fresh Parsley (minced)
Fresh Basil (slivered or chopped)
Big handful of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese3-4 cloves of Garlic
Water (no more than 28 oz.)
Red wine for deglazing1 lbs. Italian Sausage
1 lbs. Pork “Country Ribs” (salted and peppered)
1 lbs. Beef Chuck (cut into cubes, salted and peppered)
Meatballs (see recipe below)
Bracciole (see recipe below) or, if I'm feeling lazy, a long slab of Skirt Steak (cut into pieces, salted and peppered)
*Note: My preference is to double this recipe. Seriously...if you're going to trash an entire weekend making sauce, you might as well make a ton and freeze it.
Step 1: Fry meats (each separately) in olive oil, and set aside.
Step 2: Fry garlic in the same oil in which the meats were fried. Add tomato paste and fry until darkened, but not burned (3-5 minutes on medium heat). Deglaze with red wine.
Step 3: Add tomato puree, crushed tomato, cheese, water, meat (except meatballs) and seasonings. Simmer on lowest heat for at least six hours. Stir frequently.
Step 4: Add meatballs and cook on low heat for another couple hours. Stir frequently yet gently, so as not to disintegrate the meatballs.
Note: This will make A LOT of sauce…but it freezes well. Divide the remaining sauce and meat into plastic containers and freeze. Also, I've simmered this sauce for as many as twelve hours. Your goal is for the meat to be tender and nearly falling apart.
MEATBALLS¾ lbs. Ground Beef
¾ lbs. Ground Pork
3-4 slices of Bread (soaked in water and squeezed)
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup Grated Cheese
Step 1: Mix ingredients.
Step 2: Roll into balls.
Step 3: Fry in olive oil until browned. Let cool on a paper towel-lined plate.
BRACCIOLE1-1.5 lbs. Round Steak (sliced thinly)
Salt & Pepper
Garlic (minced and sautéed) or Garlic Powder
Kitchen Twine or Toothpicks
Step 1: Pound steak with mallet.
Step 2: Slice steak into strips (i.e., wider/longer strips for big bracciole; narrower/shorter strips for small bracciole).
Step 3: Sprinkle steak strips with salt, pepper, garlic (or garlic powder), parsley and cheese.
Step 4: Roll strips like a jelly roll, so that the seasonings are inside the roll. Tie with twine or spear with toothpicks, so that they won’t unroll.
Step 5: Fry in olive oil until browned.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
READING IS FUN-DUH-MENTAL.
We were in a park in the city of Guadalajara (Spain) yesterday, when I noticed this woman reading on a bench. While I certainly applaud the intellectual way in which she spends her free time, it’s unfortunate that she didn’t read the sign taped to the park bench as intently as she read her book.
The sign says, “OJO MANCHA: RECIEN PINTADO.”
Which roughly translates to, “WET PAINT: DON’T SIT HERE, KNUCKLEHEAD!”
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
SKELETOR SIGHTING – OCTOBER 2004.
Much like the mythical creature Sasquatch, our friendly neighborhood Skeletor is often seen but rarely photographed.
With cat-like reflexes, however, I was able to snatch the above shot without him noticing. Of course, I could have dressed him in lederhosen and sat him atop a pony for a formal portrait without him noticing…but that’s beside the point.
Here we see Skeletor resting on the windowsill of Bar Alcazar after an especially grueling early-morning workout with a heavy glass of brandy. Moments after I shot this photo, a car stopped and asked him for directions. Call me a pessimist, but I’d wager that the driver never reached his destination.
Unless, of course, his destination was a bar or liquor store.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPLATE-TATION.
And hey…I’m not ashamed to admit it. I LOVE templates. Or put another way, I HATE to work inefficiently.
The rate at which I create and use templates in my job might be classified as “compulsive” by some psychologists. If this type of behavior is indeed a mental illness, then I would suspect that my boss and co-workers are happy that I suffer from it.
It should therefore come as no surprise that when friends of mine created their own blogs…yet failed to update them more than once per cicada cycle, I felt the need to intervene. And what better way to intervene than by creating…
THE ULTIMATE LAZY-ASS BLOGGER TEMPLATE!
Dear Blog readers:
Let me tell you about the day I’ve had.
When I woke up at ___ this morning, the weather was ___. I worked for a few hours and, in need of a midday break, decided to walk to my favorite bar, “_____.” But it was very crowded, so I turned around and went to “_____,” which was just a few doors down. I ordered a glass of ____ and a couple plates of _____. The ____ were fresh and crispy, although the ____ were a tad salty for my palate.
Suddenly I heard a rumble at the door. I turned my head to look. You'll never guess who walked in! It was ______, star of the hit TV series _____. I was so flustered that I nearly dropped my ____ on the floor.
Well, you can imagine my shock when he/she walked directly to me and asked for a ______. I rifled through my pockets, but couldn't find one. I started to panic. How could I possible fail a big star like ____ in such a simple request?!
Then I had an idea. Instead of giving him/her a ____ as he/she requested, I'll give him/her a _______. It was a brilliant display of thinking on my feet! So I confidently extended my hand and handed him/her the ____.
At first there was a look of intense surprize on his/her face. Then he/she reached over, put his/her hand on my shoulder, and whispered the following in my ear: "___________."
We both giggled and blushed. Suddenly, he/she handed me a folded note. "Don't read it until I've left," he/she said sternly. Then he/she turned on his/her heel, and walked toward the door. Pausing at the doorway, he/she turned his/her head and nodded.
I unfurled the note. My elbows jerked straight and my shorthairs stood on end. I couldn't believe what I was reading. It said "_____________________."
And that, my friends, was the day I had today. Check in tomorrow for a new post.
There you have it. From this day forward, neither busy-ness nor laziness shall be an acceptable excuse for blog neglect. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, yes. Shingles, perhaps. But busy-ness or laziness…no, no, no.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
ODE TO A LONELY BLOG.
It’s been brought to my attention, by various people on various continents, that I have not updated my blog during the past week. While I certainly appreciate such diligent monitoring and reporting of my creative shortfalls, I can assure you all that I am well aware of them.
The truth is…I haven’t had any worthwhile ideas this week. Perhaps it’s because the ol’ biorhythms have been on a low ebb recently. We are, after all, in the midst of a change of seasons. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been editing a book on the side, and that project has devoured much of my creative energy lately. Or maybe it’s because my previous Prawnography post was so bloody brilliant that I felt it earned me a week off.
Whatever the reason for my neglect, I resolved that I would not go to bed tonight until I’ve posted something – ANYTHING – on this…my wilting, decaying Virtual Tapas Bar. So I decided to do what other artists do when their reserve tank of creativity runs dry: Revert to cheesy poetry.
ODE TO A LONELY BLOG.Not this week, at least.
Oh lonely blog
Shoo’d away like a dog
In the fog
By its cruel master Sal.
No new posts in a week
Is like a slap on the cheek
Fresh ideas proved
Too hard to corral.
If only the master
Would publish posts faster
Then all parts of Spain
Therefore one point is clear
As we cry in our beer
Sal surely ain’t
Blogville’s James Joyce.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
I was browsing through a Japanese grocery store in Madrid yesterday, when I noticed these rather provocative boxes of fried snacks. Needless to say, I stopped dead in my tracks.
Just look at those shrimp! Frisky little buggers, aren’t they?! By the way, that pun was intended.
Either Japanese brand managers are incredibly naïve, or they’re masters of not-so-subliminal advertising. I can just imagine the marketing slogan:
“Shrimp Chips: As Effective As Viagra®…and They Go Great With Beer, Too!”
Friday, October 01, 2004
TUTTI PER LA FAMIGLIA.
Sure, my ancestors emigrated from Italy’s Trulli Region nearly 100 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that I’m without family there.
During our trip last month, we were thrilled to meet – for the first time – my cousin Leonardo and his family. Our family reunion is memorialized in the photo above.
The circumstances surrounding the reunion were fortuitous. During our first trip to the region in 2001, we were chatting with our then-new friend Domenico (he of Happy Pizza Point) at his bar. I mentioned that my maternal ancestors were from the area, and sketched my family tree on a bar napkin. Domenico asked if he could keep it.
Domenico noticed that my mother shares the same surname with Leonardo, and brought it to his attention. Leonardo did some research and discovered that his great grandfather was the brother of my great-great grandfather. We exchanged several e-mails over the years until – finally – we made a return visit to the region last month.
It just goes to show you…there are few things in life as useful as a good bartender.