Nobody likes being covered from head to toe in big red blotches, and I’m no exception. Unfortunately, that is what happened to me this month. Some kind of allergy maybe? I felt fine but looked like I’d been stung by a swarm of bees. And, of course, it had to happen when our village was holding its annual fiesta.
The fiesta always begins on the Friday, at midday, when Geronimo beats the church bells with a hammer for a full minute. He then clambers down the church tower and lets off loud fireworks in the village square. I didn’t need to show my spotty face in public to appreciate that these sounds signal the start of El Hoyo’s fiesta.
Our village is tiny, but at fiesta time hundreds of people arrive and cars jam every street.On Friday night even more people arrive and the band tunes up for the dancing in the square. Joe and I gave it a miss this time, knowing from past experience that this is mild compared with the festivities to come. Even so, music thumped until three o’clock in the morning, vibrating every wall of our house.
Lots of events happened on the Saturday. I didn’t take part in the pudding contest, or the wine tasting, being too self-conscious of my ugly mug. I didn’t watch the flamenco dancing in the square because I didn’t want to put the dancers off. I didn’t see the clown, or dinosaur on stilts, or watch the play, because I didn’t want to frighten small children.
However, from the vantage point of our roof terrace, we could see and hear everything so I didn’t feel cut off. The whole village throbbed with noise and activity. Kids screamed and let off firecrackers. Dogs barked and the village cats hid. Our neighbours, the Ufartes, spilled out into the street. Papa Ufarte and his cousins strummed on their guitars, singing wild gypsy songs, as his wife and relations clapped and whirled to the infectious rhythm.
When night fell, the band struck up again in the square. Under the cover of darkness, Joe and I joined the dancers for half an hour, then strolled the few steps home. As usual the music raged all night, but it didn’t keep us awake. At six o’clock in the morning I woke briefly to hear the party was still in full swing. Where do the Spanish get their energy from?
Sunday saw marching bands and processions pass our house, bearing the Virgin Mary and the village saint shoulder-high. More church bells, more fireworks and more dancing in the square. Finally, on Sunday night, the cars drove away, leaving the village silent, ankle deep in spent fireworks and litter.
The next week, Joe had to go away for a few days. As soon as he left, so did my blotches. I’m guessing it was just an allergy after all.
Perhaps I’m allergic to Joe?
(Pollo con tomates y aceitunas a la Andaluza)
Serves 4 to 6
~ 15 minutes preparation ~
~ 2hrs 20 minutes cooking ~
This is one of our favourite autumn/winter dishes, so easy it almost cooks itself! A lovely, rich, tomato sauce and juicy olives really finish off this dish. Use the chicken carcass to make chicken stock and freeze for another day. Serve with mashed potato or rice, and seasonal vegetables.
1 large whole chicken, separated into drummers, thighs, wings and breasts
1 large tin of whole plum tomatoes, about 480g (19.8 oz)
Tablespoon of thyme leaves
8 cloves of garlic
125g (4.4 oz) pitted green olives
125ml (41⁄4 US fl.oz) white wine
Teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
2. Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place into a large terracotta cazuela (or casserole dish) so they are all in one layer. Season with salt.
3. Roughly chop the tomatoes and peel and slice the garlic.
4. Add the tomatoes, garlic, olives, thyme and wine to the chicken.
5. With your hands, mix all ingredients together so the chicken is well coated.
6. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
7. Lower the heat to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2. Cook for another 2 hours.
by Victoria Twead.
Victoria is a New York Times bestselling author. In 2004 she nagged poor, long-suffering Joe into leaving Britain and relocating to a tiny, remote mountain village in Andalucía, where they became reluctant chicken farmers and owned the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. Village life inspired Victoria’s first book, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, and was quickly followed by two more in the Old Fools series, all of which fast became Amazon bestsellers.
Victoria and Joe continue to enjoy life keeping chickens, writing, sampling the local wine and living alongside their colourful neighbours.
Read Victoria's other Expat Focus articles here or click the button below to view her own blog…