‘Catalina, Catalina,’ shouted José. Which invariably means there is some free food in the offing. It was grapes from his daughter’s finca.
It took me by surprise the first time our Spanish neighbours started giving us food.
Not just fresh food – but even cooked meals, if the family didn’t eat it all – we got the leftovers. I felt like I was on the receiving line in a soup kitchen. OK so I haven’t done soup kitchens but I have had the free hand-outs at the Krishnas. Fortunately, unlike Krishna food, the Spanish food from next door wasn’t the same every day and eventually I got used to it and started to enjoy the novelty of someone providing me with free, fresh and tasty meals.
It’s not just our immediate neighbours either. Because we live in a small community people regard each other as neighbours when they live a few streets – or more – away. And when there is a glut of veg, the Spanish don’t want it to go to waste so huge bags of food are liberally handed out. Well, only to people they like I suppose. Artichokes, cucumbers, cabbages, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, aubergines, broad beans, runner beans – whatever is the crop at the time.
But like everywhere, the economy is on a downturn and people are struggling. So the freebies don’t happen too often these days.
What to do with a few kilos of grapes though? Partner doesn’t like fruit, and I eat it for breakfast sometimes – but not that many grapes. Even though they were Moscatel grapes. He came up with a bright idea. At New Year, Spaniards have a custom of trying to eat 12 grapes before the 12 midnight chimes have finished. They also drink the odd few glasses of cava but that part isn’t relevant for this.
So grapes matured in anis are a traditional Christmas/New Year thing. Our neighbours usually given us some every Christmas in a glass with the accompanying liquid. They invariably do it early in the morning so it basically blows our heads off for the rest of the day.
Off we went to buy the bottle of anis. Most makes of anis are sweet but there are a couple of dry ones. Anis de Mono is our poison of choice.
i washed the grapes, and filled the jar. A whole bottle of anis went into the grape jar!!!!!!!!
They plumped up in no time, swelling out with the anis. After a couple of days, I had to try one. Yummy. Of course. I decided to spoon a little liquid into my teacup which I was eating them in (run out of bowls – all in the dishwasher).
Wait!!!! Where is that potent incredibly strong grapey anisy liquid? Not there. Just some watery nothing in particular. All the anis had magically transferred itself to the grapes. How could it do that? More to the point, how come when my neighbour dished up grapes and liquid – it tasted like pure alcohol?
Got it. My crafty – and generous – neighbour wasn’t really giving us the left over dregs from the fermenting grapes. She had topped up our glasses from a brand new bottle. No wonder we always felt rat-arsed.
The jar got topped up with more grapes on our next visit :) and the left overs were given to the chickens who seemed very happy. No chickens were fed grapes with anis, I add hastily.