So the thing is, our WWOOF hosts at the finca in Spain are vegetarians.
I walked into this eyes wide open. I figured between the veggie diet and doing manual work in the sun for 5 hours a day, it would be my healthiest phase since...ever. I was also curious to see how much I would (or maybe wouldn't, who knows) miss meat.
And it was all good, for any 3-4 days running. Veggie home-cooking was varied, hearty and tasty. But then, on day 5, the inevitable gnawing, rumbling, acid-juices-in-my-mouth-seeping craving for a chunk of meat would descend like a slow madness. I would glance askance at our hosts' dogs Zumbar and Oliva with their scavenged goat bones from the nearby gypsy compound. While the finca chickens hatched eggs, Babs and I hatched embarrasingly evil plots (e.g. what would a wolf-chewed hole in the henhouse need to look like?).
So on our days off, we'd scuttle across the dry river bed and 20 minutes uphill into Orgiva town and beyond, on the hunt for meat. This being Spain, the locals were only too happy to oblige. Here are a few of the high points from our clandestine meatings if you're visiting.
Bar El Tinao, Capileira
Midway through our stint, we spent a weekend away in Capileira, an hour by bus up the Sierra Nevada from Orgiva. I had a good feeling about Bar El Tinao when I saw our hostel manager from Hostal Rural Atalaya walk in with his family for dinner.
Around here, in the old Spanish custom, tapas come free when you order a drink. We got served pork skewers, hot off the grill, marinated with (I think) salt, pepper, paprika and a flash of tumeric. I bit down on one, uttered a slightly embarrassing sound of pleasure, then put my head down on the bar counter to chew.
El Asador, Capileira
After walking a couple of rounds around Capileira (and walking away from any restaurant with a sizeable vegetarian section on their menu) we followed the smell of mea on hot charcoal to El Asador, which listed roasted kid (baby goat) as a house speciality. I'd had curried goat before, but never kid. It tastes uncannily like turkey. If it wasn't for the different bone structure I would have sworn they did a bait and switch.
We also tried the Plato Alpujarran, also known in these parts as "poor man's breakfast". It had spicy chorizo and morcillo (black pudding sausage), 2 eggs, and potatoes fried with onions, peppers and jamon. What on earth do the rich people eat for breakfast?
As an aside, the mountain Spaniards are evidently big fans of morcillo. While sipping expresso and watching the F1 back at Bar El Tinao the next day, I watched a family of 6 order a whole platter of the stuff as part of brunch. I thought 12 links for 6 people was pretty serious. Then the table of 4 next to them ordered the same.
Bar El Tilo, Capileira
A lot of chorizo and jamon is cured up here in the mountains (there are apparently a myriad of pig slaughtering festivals in mountain villages each January, which I will have to weasel my way into at some point in my life). So a sampling platter of the region's pride had to be done. We got this €10 platter below at Bar El Tilo.
Above: Yes, the stuff in the middle is pure fat, which I've heard some locals refer to as "white meat". (Gotta love the Spanish). The mid-July afternoon sun was so hot that the fat started rendering right there on the wooden board.
Pollos Manolo Fernandez, Orgiva
These are the only Manolos I would ever spend any time lining up for.
On Thursdays, when the entire town square in Orgiva becomes a makeshift market, Mr Manolo Fernendez -- with his magnificent smile and even more magnificent 'tache -- pulls up with his even more maginificent rotisserie truck. The wall of chickens going round and round and round is absolutely mesmerising, especially when he flicks ladles of drippings at the grill to get a WOOSH of flame. The smell that wafts down the street is maddening.
Somehow, the cluster (there is no actual line) squished around his little kiosk and spilling into the road managed to keep their civility, even while dodging passing cars. Everyone's honest about their place in the queue, and while waiting I saw a man give his place to a woman with kids and bags of shopping, and she in turn gave her place to an old biddy lady. Another woman in the line even gave the neighbourhood drunk €2 so that he could afford a full €8 box.
At closing time, when the crowd has been sated, a woman poked her head out from the apartment across the street, sauntered across, and picked up a few of his last chickens without any wait. Babs asks me if we should buy that apartment. I tell him not to tease.
Casa Robles, Orgiva
When we asked for a recommendation for a traditional Spanish restaurant in Orgiva, Anthony pointed us to Casa Robles, though he couldn't vouch for the meat. No fear, however. The house special leg of lamb was superb, its savouriness well-mixed with a honey coating. And I figure I can trust an eatery that proactively apologises for the smallness of their (normal looking) spring chicken.
Even though we were there for meat, credit must be given to Casa Robles's use of strawberries -- organic and straight from the garden of owner Mr Jesus Mesa Torres. We tried a very refreshing strawberry gazpacho with crumbled mountain jamon, and couldn't say no to Mr Torres's strawberry flambe recommendation for dessert. Just as well; the full-on performance by Mr Torres himself provided entertainment with dinner.
Above, right: "You must be careful when you flambe...I used to have hair!" quips Casa Robles's Mr Torres while preparing dessert.
When all is said and done (and eaten), perhaps there's something to this part-time vegetarianism thing. It can't hurt your health, and it's less taxing on the environment. It's how people of old use to eat, after all, living mostly on roots and leaves and fruits in between big but infrequent hunts.
But perhaps most persuasive of all is the sky-high spike in pleasure when hunkering down after a period of not meating up. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, eh.
Bar El Tinao
18413 Capileira, Spain
+34 657 626 736
Carretera Sierra Nevada
18413 Capileira, Spain
+34 958 763 109
Bar El Tilo
+34 958 763 181
Pollos Manolo Fernandez
Orgiva Market Day (Thursdays)
Next to Bar Augustin
Avda. Gonzalez Robles, 10
18400 Orgiva, Spain
+34 609 364 412