I ate so well in Seville. A succession of tapas, each formed as a work of art in miniature, discovered with the aid of Shawn, of @sevillatapas, in backstreet shops, cafés, bars, restaurants. We dribbled over dollhouse platters while roosting on stools tucked under shelves, over crates, next to zinc or marble bars. In each place, no matter how cutting edge or trendy, you'd see old couples disembarked from the countryside, dressed in their town best - hair set, lipstick on, suit and waistcoat brushed, perched along counters, eyes narrowed knowledgeably, lips pursed, little nods of acknowledgement - shrewdly tasting. Food isn't a class, wealth or hipster trend in the same way it is here in Britain. It's good... or it's bad. Simple as that.
My favourite tapa was the cumin infused spinach.
I love Spanish packaging; I saw the pink crisps at the Waitrose christmas fair and thought they were superb, unfortunately they didn't stock them. Baby clams and garlicky mini artichoke hearts, washed down with La Gitana, Manzanilla and sherry.
On our gastro tour Shawn and I discussed men, children, food, illness, the internet. A couple of years ago, Shawn got cancer. Living in Spain without family or husband, this was tough: she survived with the help of friends on the internet who provided emotional support and even donated money while she couldn't work. Now recovered, or NED (no evidence of disease), she lives in an up and coming quarter in Seville, near the mushroom architecture of the Plaza de la Encarnacion.
We visited an exquisite hat shop, while I resisted the persistent yearning to buy yet another flamenco dress complete with lacy fan and clickety heels. Everyone should possess a flamenco dress.
Scenes from Seville: teenage lovers, kids in the street, an ancient cookbook, babies dressed expensively and identically.
Weirdy wooden architecture in La Plaza de la Encarnacion. The last mayor had a big spend up, wanted to leave his mark.
Fourat's supper club 'Lebanicious'On the Saturday night I went to a Seville supper club, hosted by warm and fragrant Fourat El Achkar or @lebanicious. Of Lebanese origin, she and her family now live in a beautiful loft apartment in the centre of Seville. We sat on the roof terrace at first, drinking some great local wines and munching on freshly baked palmiers of z'atar and cheese.
We had an authentic Lebanese meal on this occasion as Fourat's mum was there to help; silken Baba Ghanoush (her mum's trick is always to leave a little of the charred aubergine skin to boost the smokiness), addictive hummus and made-from-scratch flat breads. In fact, I pigged out so much on the first course it left me unable to properly appreciate the rest of the elaborate meal.
I came to again when Fourat served a lovely 'tea': hot water with a little orange flower water and some sprigs of orange blossom. Southern Spanish streets are heaving with scented orange trees in spring and this refreshing drink acted as a cleansing digestive.
Fourat's charming French-speaking daughter (lycée educated, reminded me so much of my own daughter as a child) danced flamenco for us with the intensity and expression 'seriosa' of a professional. Every child learns 'Sevillanas', the bastardised flamenco dance, full of exuberant parts, turns and swirls. Even if they cannot dance, everybody learns to clap 'palmas': complex rhythms, influenced by Moorish music and gypsy origins.
It was the weekend before the feria when prices double and Southern Spain hitches a ride on a horse-drawn wagon, accompanied by trussied up unmarried daughters and hidalgo sons, rattling with cases of manzanilla and fino sherry, through ochre dusty trails to the brightest, fanciest most musical fête on the planet. It's a hierarchical affair nowadays; the richest families hold court in casetas or private marquees. You can only attend if invited. The feria in Jerez de la Frontera, on the other hand, held on a different week, is more democratic, open to the public.
Contact Shawn @sevillatapas for tapas tours.
Contact Fourat @lebanicious for supper clubs and cooking lessons (she also does typical Spanish food).
This clip is the moment when the creator of the dance blends the original opera by Bizet with Flamenco. This has to be one of the best films about dance ever created.
More clips from this marvellous film. Love the guitarist's comb-over (sooo Spanish), the fact that the dancers smoke, the syncopated cacophony of castanets and heels, the proud stance, chin up/chest out, of the dancers, the bitter, sad, angry music. This clip is in French, it's when the choreographer discovers his 'Carmen' in a flamenco class.