When I think of Spain as only recently emerging from the shadow of (what the hegemony calls etc. etc.) “the developing world” I tend to feel more affectionate and indulgent towards it. The presence of two vegetarian restaurants near Las Ramblas—even if, as at the Reading Festival, you can only buy dolphin-friendly falafel on wholemeal whatever with fair-trade salad, and have to go elsewhere for chips as they’re somehow not in keeping with the ethos of the shop—should then be lauded, far more than the absence of more than a single decent vegetarian option on any given ordinary menu should be castigated.
At least it’s not as bad as America, where not only is there the stark division between “health food” and whatever the average American eats—you can put your own name to that—but also the latter is forever being honey-glazed or super-sized. “Etc. etc.” again, as we’ve been here before, but unless you visit the USA you can’t really imagine how lark’s-tongue-in-aspic the whole dreadful cuisine really is.
One of my parents’ friends has just discovered the Right Reverend Gillian McKeith BA MA DPhil FRCS MRSA HORSE and her “talking homespun wisdom to stupid fat working-class people” programme called, according to a non-English speaker and filtered through rather creative subtitling, “What you are is what you eat.” It was a revelation to her, or at any rate a good conversation topic to hold forth on, sat as we all were at the beach-side bar that day. One of Lady McKeith’s devices was to confront Mister or Missus Ffat-Fucke with a table laden with all the food they ate in an average week. The friend pointed out that one never realised the sheer quantity one was eating, and it was shameless, and you used to only have beef once a week, and make do, and have smaller portions, and and and.
Then she explained how, years ago, you’d never have had so much every week. My dad, five stone or so overweight, agreed vehemently, talked about how the meat he got on his plate was often what used to be fed to a whole family, and you never saw anyone fat in the ninteen-forties. We reminded him at this point about things like rationing and a big fucking war, that curtailed the worst (or indeed any) excesses of people’s diets. But everyone agreed that people, those mythical people, eat far too much these days. As K. and I bid the small crowd good-day, they polished off the last of the peanuts (roasted, oiled and salted generously by the proprietor), started chewing on their wines and beers, and wondered aloud when the tables would be ready for the three-course lunch (admittedly with pineapple—lots of pineapple—as one of the many dessert choices) they had planned.
Still, it’s good to talk.