I've been eating a ton of potato chips lately.
After a terrible lunch the other day at a supposedly fancy (albeit casual, albeit expensive) place (spongy skin and fat on a duck leg; salad dressed by pouring to much dressing over the top in the style of Prego spaghetti sauce commercials) I've been reflecting somewhat on the state of food in Spain, or at least in Granada.
It's pretty common for folks (especially in the food world) in the States to think that everyone in Europe has fabulous bread, fantastic cheese and wonderful, cheap wine all the time. Obviously these are available. I've had amazing ham and chorizo and morcilla. Fantastic raw milk goat and sheep's milk cheeses. That just doesn't seem to be what most people are eating. The culinary world almost seems mired in the 1970s.
I must say that it's nice to see middle class, middle aged women decked out in the fur coats they go shopping in enjoying a beer midafternoon. I like (read: love) corn nuts and they are a pretty popular snack here and I am pleased to be able to eat them with no shame. However . . .
It's very common to see pre-boiled potato or beets or corn vacu-sealed in plastic in the super market, even the ultra-fancy El Corte Inglés, but I have yet to see a fresh beet. Or maybe I saw one bunch, very sad and very old. How much effort does it take to boil a potato? Mayonnaise commands deep devotion, reaching its inexplicable heights in the ubiquitous "ensalada rusa," like american potato salad with three times the mayonnaise and often the addition of canned peas. I have a great fear of this salad, which even at its very best is . . . well, just not very pleasant to eat, IMO. Canned vegetables are very common still, even at nicer restaurants as are bad sauces covering badly cooked fish or coating decently cooked meat. I forgot the last time I ate (or saw) a slowly congealing white sauce with mushrooms. Don't get me started on what passes for Italian food. I've almost never been so revolted as watching a woman feed her child fettucine with graying pesto the other day at a pizzeria.
No one seems to mind bad food going out. The good restaurants are more packed than the bad ones which are still packed, but the nastier schwarma places seem just as busy as the better ones. Maybe it's a lack of knowing those foods? The way Italians feel about their restaurants just seems so different. I think there is still some of the ghost of Franco floating about. Maybe attitudes will change when the generations die off who lived under his rule understood eating as purely a means to feed themselves. You can get used to eating bad food, but it is soul crushing. It makes me very sad, anyway. A restaurant may have access to great products, but why bother when no one seems to know the difference. Or maybe, more correctly, care about the difference.
Cooking in house is going well. I have yet to cook brains.
And the chips are fried in 100% olive oil, at least.