Friday, 29 January 2010

Week 18

Having broken our third coffee maker in as many months, I decided to improvise. It won’t be as good, I reasoned, but it’ll do until I buy another cafétiere. So, I heated some water in a saucepan, added a tablespoon of coffee, and poured it through the filter from our broken coffee machine, straight into the mug. And for this, I will probably be assassinated. Why?

Because all coffee makers are a scam!

Making your coffee as I’ve just described is quicker and easier than a cafétiere, not to mention an electric machine or one of those stove-top things. It also uses less ground coffee, and makes a nicer drink. The thing is, the coffee companies want you to waste ground coffee in their stupid contraptions. They want you to believe that coffee-making is a special, mysterious thing, that a barista is as profound a craftsman as a chef or perhaps a surgeon, and that only by spending all your money will you get the best flavour.

Coffee is a product with a proud history of oppression; the espresso everyone thinks is so lovely was designed by an Italian factory owner, who wanted to force his workers to take shorter coffee breaks (he should have called it opresso! Ha!) And the fact that some more expensive coffee is ‘Fair Trade’ (ie, you can spend more to buy coffee that is not morally wrong) says a lot about us. But the idea that I have for years been needlessly mucking about with different sorts of coffee apparatus – that just takes the cake.

Spanish coffee differs from other coffee in that two types are always available: regular coffee and mezcla, meaning mixed. Mezcla coffee uses the same beans, but some of the beans are roasted in sugar (and then mixed into the regular beans, hence the name). It mostly tastes like normal coffee but with a slight edge of burnt sugar and toffee.

So take it from me, a qualified freelance food journalist: if you’re buying cheap ground coffee in Spain, I think it’s better to go with mezcla, although it is important to note that buying a good-quality coffee maker will make absolutely no difference at all.

A head-on view of a wooden submarine.

Wandering off the beaten track is the ultimate ambition for the travelling type. You want to be able to say to others, “Oh god, I went to this AMAZING restaurant/shop/beauty spot. You’ll never find it in the guide books. You can try, but you won’t!”
               Lately, Will and I have been taking the paths less travelled in and around Barcelona and consequently, we have discovered there’s a reason for this. Because they’re a bit rubbish. A couple of Sundays ago we took the car to Vilanova i la Geltru, a seaside town about 40 km south of Barcelona. We packed a picnic and set off with visions of bracing walks along the sand before settling down to some nice food. As soon as we stepped out of the flat, it started raining and however nice Vilanova i la Geltru might be in the sunshine, it’s quite depressing when it’s bucketing down. Our day consisted of walking around for a bit, having coffee in a deserted café where we sat in silence watching a wildlife programme on the TV screen, eating our picnic in the car, playing I Spy (which was limiting because we couldn’t see much out of the rain-lashed car window) and observing a severed doll's arm that had been washed up on the beach, before Will turned to me and asked, “Can we go home now?”
           Last Saturday we went for a walk in the city and I picked Esquerra de l’Eixample as our destination. This is despite the guidebook describing it as “perhaps the least visited on any city sightseeing trip.” Again, the weather wasn’t great so perhaps it’s a little unfair to judge a place when it’s not bathed in a sunny glow. Anway, it wasn’t postcard material, that’s for sure. Among the sights we took in along Avinguda de Roma were high-rise buildings, plenty of concrete and a big train station. Oh, and a prison.
 The beach was also strewn with sanitary towels and fat, purple sea-slugs. If you can weep through a snorkel, Vilanova i la Geltru would be the place to do it


  1. Love reading your updates! Love the creepy doll arm too! Corinne x

  2. "If you can weep through a snorkel, Vilanova i la Geltru would be the place to do it"