Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Calçotada Popular

Joining the castellers group has been a kick. Not only have I made a whole buncha' new friends, I've been able to get out of the house a lot and really get to know the neighborhood and its frequent events. The most recent neighborhood party was the Calçotada Popular that was hosted by our very own Castellers del Poble Sec.

But first, the castellers had a quick appearance at a local school that was celebrating Carnival (again). About 25 members of the group, including a couple of the musicians, did a quick five-level castle for the very appreciative kids and their parents. (By the way, this one looked even more like a Halloween party than the other Carnival events that I went to recently.)

After leaving the school, we walked the about four blocks or so to the Plaza del Sortidor where lots of activity was already under way. A calçotada is a type of barbecue that's a popular tradition in Cataluyna area of Spain and a calçot (kal-soat) is a type of green onion that looks sort of like a huge chive. So, a "calçotada popular" is a for-the-public-green-onion barbecue.

Here's one of the castellers arranging calçots in a metal frame...

...that gets placed directly onto the fiery coals to cook:

Some interesting things that I learned about calçots while writing this story is that they are originally from this area of Spain and, as they grow, dirt is added around the plant so that the white part grows extra long and with less greenery. This is what calçots look like once they're done cooking (a group of approximately six calçots is served in a piece of newspaper):

You eat them by peeling off the blackened outer layers of the calçot until you have the nice white and green part showing. Dip the white end of the calçot in sauce and start munching. You stop once you've finished pretty much all the white part and toss what ever is left of the green part.

I'm not that big on onions of any kind and generally avoid them if possible. If they're in the food I'm eating, I won't die but I'd prefer my meals to be onion-free. The idea of eating a giant barbecued onion for lunch/dinner didn't really sound that great to me until I had the chance to try some that Vladimir had made a few weeks ago. His were super so I was actually looking forward to eating them again during the calçotada popular. It is, after all, calçots season!

But first, there was work to be done. The event started with La Band Sambant, a local Brasil-style percussion band, performing for about 30 minutes or so. They were very entertaining and are good musicians and performers. The group was also interesting for the fact that it seemed to be made up of an assortment of people from all over the world.

Up next was the Castellers del Poble Sec. We did, if I remember correctly, four castles. It could have been one or two more. I can't remember...must be getting old. This is a five-level one that's still under construction:

Aside: The colle (koy-yay), or "gang", of castellers has several technicians that are responsible for the construction and safety of the different parts of the tower with one overall "head" that's in charge of the whole thing. When you're in the castle, you need to listen for the instructions of the people around you and the technician for your part of the castle. This is a photo of who's where (each little square has a name in it) in one of the castles that we built during the calçotada:

Once the "work" of building castles was done, an unknown-to-me tradition took place where various members were "baptised" in the plaza's fountain:

I even got to go up to the second level that day with Dan doing the honors. He's super strong and actually walked around for a couple of minutes with me up on his shoulders. It's fun and kinda' scary being up there but it makes you feel a bit like a kid again... (Thanks to Silvia, a fellow casteller, for this photo and the one up above of the castle layout.)

It was then time to start feeding all the folks who had gathered. Here I am with Diana, Gema, Vladimir, Bea, and Silvia (different from the Silvia of the photos above) ready to eat their calçot meal. Each person was served a bunch of calçots, a sausage, a baked potato, some bread, and a salvitxada sauce that the calçots are dipped in. For me, the magic's in the sauce. Calçots solo? Not too exciting. Calçots with the sauce? Winner! Oh yeah, and being that this is Spain, they served all the red wine you can drink as well. Bon profit!

Calçots were served for a couple of hours and then the plaza was cleaned up. It was time for the castellers to eat their lunch. Tables and chairs were set up inside the courtyard of a community center that's located on one side of the plaza. It was fun getting to eat with everyone involved with the event including the Sambant band, the folks who cooked the food, and the rest of the casteller clan.

I have to say that I've been sold on calçots. Thinking about them right now's making my mouth water. Argh...another food addiction!

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