(Marabunta – Army ants, also – spider wasp, also – a group of people who stir and make a lot of noise)
Not long after I'd moved to Rome I decided to make an old dream come true and participate to La Tomatina, the famous tomato battle which takes place every year on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, a small town located about 40 km west of Valencia. I'd had this dream since I first saw the clips of thousands of people shouting, laughing, dancing and mainly throwing tomatoes all around while covered with tomato juice. It might sound weird to have such an unexplainable dream, but who can explain dreams anyway?
On the way to some tomato throwing
So I went to Valencia for a couple of days, and after getting the instructions on how to get to Buñol the next morning I looked for something to eat. Still not knowing where I was exactly, I wandered around under the hot August noon's sun until I found myself in front of a bar that promised a collection of about 25 martini recipes and about that many varieties of tapas.
I really like a Martini – and gin generally (or maybe ginerally?), but it was very hot that day so I decided to go with a large beer and let's see what's on the board… oh. 'What is sobrassada?', I asked the bartender. Unfortunately he tried to explain to me in Spanish, which I don't know, but all I got is that it's something to do with meat. Back then I didn't know that it's the Balearic Islands' version of the Calabrian 'nduja: a spreadable pork sausage heavily flavored with hot peppers. I sat on a chair outside the place (which I don't recall the name and maybe it doesn't even exist anymore) and got two slices of toast covered with the thick'n'spicy meat.
Illustration, back then I didn't appreciate the importance of foodograhy
Wow! Or maybe Kaboom! I still don't know what happened at that moment, but that thing was one of the tastiest things I've ever tasted! Something about the piquant bite at the tip of the tongue together with the soft texture that covered and anesthetized the palette – such a confusing combination! Together with the beer, the sense of vacation and the excitement of what was going to happen the next day, the tomato-day, made this moment just perfect. I had nothing left to do but to lie back with the cold beer and smile at the sun and my good fortune.
But that's not the end of the story. After sitting there for some time I went in and before paying I asked the bartender where he got the sobrassada from. He rolled his eyes a little and leaned down to the fridge, just to take out from it a big white bucket with the transcript 'Crema de Sobrassada' to show me. 'I don't know, I just buy it like that', he added.
What I thought it might be... and what it really was
In that exact moment I got it – food is not just food: The guy could have told me that what I'd just eaten used to be made in his childhood's home by his grandmother, a long recipe which lasts some generations to the past and made each year in order to welcome the spring and summer. Or something. But instead he showed me the truth.
'Food' is never just food but the context, the environment and the subjective mental condition of those who eat. And above all – whether we gather it from the outside or we tell it to ourselves – 'Food' is the story which goes along with it.