Of The Humble Potato
Eating adventures might seem like a curious choice of title for a post which was inspired by a plate of potatoes, and not even an exotically robed plate of potatoes. As my friends over at Magnificent Potato will attest, there are some extravagant and, well, adventurous ways to cook a spud, but this plate was draped merely with a coating of Mojo Verde, the traditional Canarian salsa, and had simply been boiled in their skins. The result, however, was ambrosial.
Perhaps it was the setting, halfway up a mountainside in Anaga, looking way down to the sparkling sands of Las Teresitas Beach that made them special. They certainly hadn’t been cooked to order, because they appeared on our lonely table at the Albergue Montes de Anaga terrace far too quickly, but showed no signs of microwave stodginess. They were quite simply delicious.
My friend, Colleen, and I had been tempted inside by a blackboard which mentioned tapas, and what we could see from the side of the building was a fabulous view from the terrace. It turned out that there was only cheese or potatoes, and both of us having surfeited a bit on cheese lately we opted for potatoes and beer to quell the hunger pangs which, you know, driving around and taking snaps, which is what we’d been doing since around 9.30, brings on. The Albergue is just that, a mountain hostel, and despite the sign isn’t really set up to do food, but it set the right note to our meanderings yesterday. Traditional, Canarian food in a magnificent setting – a typical Tenerife experience in fact.
Traditional, Canarian food isn’t exotic**. It owes nothing to the spicier cuisine of neighboring Morocco despite the aboriginal inhabitants having come from North Africa. The only thing which might burn your mouth is the hot, red version of the Mojo, made with peppers instead of the cilantro/parsley used in the green sauce. Basically, it’s hearty peasant fare, intended to sustain agricultural workers during their long days on the island’s hillsides. No visit to Anaga or Teno, or even the hillsides around the south, is complete without a remark about how difficult the lives of those early farmers were. Terraces creep up mountain sides to unbelievable heights, and zip lines are often seen, still used to convey stuff from the hillsides down into valleys. It wasn’t an easy life, and demanded nourishing, fuelling foods.
Of Fairs of Cheese….and Other Stuff
The animal most suited to these hilly, sometimes barren, landscapes is, of course, the goat, and a portion of almost any hike is accompanied by the bleating, if not from the hills around you, then from pens in the fincas you pass…..which takes me back to surfeiting on cheese.
Every Canary Island boasts its own special cheeses, and many win international awards. I was at the village of Pinolere in Orotava at weekend for their Cheese Fair, hence the overdoing it a tad – can you overdose on cheese I ask myself? It was very pleasant to observe this village, with its breathtaking mountain backdrop, without all the trappings of its Annual Artisan Fair, which attracts huge crowds from all over the islands. I’d never been when the Artisan Fair wasn’t in progress, and despite the hustle and bustle of the Cheese Fair it was much easier to imagine how tranquil the normal, daily pace of life must be. It’s very tempting to think I could live there, but my network had no 3G connection – shock, horror – or then again perhaps that’s a part of the tranquility.
Lest you think a Cheese Fair doesn’t sound very adventurous I have to point out that the accompaniment to cheese is wine, preferably red, and there it was, at 11am, doing a roaring trade, and who am I to not enjoy local cheese in the traditional manner? Mind you balancing cheese, wine and camera is a fine art, only try it if you are equally dedicated to every element of the puzzle!
There was every taste and texture imaginable on display, from soft, fresh cheeses with a texture like silk, to hard, strong flavors, not unlike Parmesan. There were cheeses mixed with the aforementioned mojo rojo into delicious pastes and spreads; there was yoghurt and there was requesón, something like cottage cheese. I spotted the name Orchilla on one stand, and was delighted to realize it was the same artisan queseria I’d discovered when out taking photos with Maria last year. Even better to realize how yummy their products are, because they sell them in the farmer’s market close to where I live, not my local one, but the next town along basically.
There were also goat dogs or was it hot goats? At any rate they were hotdog-looking rolls stuffed with, I guess, goat sausage. Now, I’m not a vegetarian, and I don’t want to wax all philosophical about why I am or am not, but, you see the museum grounds where the fairs take place is terraced (it’s on a hillside of course), and well, on the next terrace up there were goats. Not only were there goats, but there were baby goats. Now how can you walk around munching a hot goats with those cute little critters all huddled up together like that. Even mom was quite cute.
So it was that we left the goat milking demonstrations, and the folk music, the bread stall (well, they’d sold out of my favorite coconut bread by time we’d worked our way back to the beginning where it was sited), the dog show (it was a combined dog show and Cheese Fair – go figure), the artisan cakes and deserts and jams, and went in search of a guachinche.
Briefly, a guachinche is….hmmm, no that’s a whole other post!
**Before anyone fires off an angry comment that Canarian cuisine is as fine as any in the world these days let me emphasize that I said traditional there, the dishes which have been passed down through generations of families, and are still eaten every day, not the, yes, wonderful modern twists on these dishes now prepared in first class restaurants and hotels around the island!