An account of real life rural Spain, as witnessed at my wife’s village in NW Spain.
The whole village was invited to the barbecue. It was August, and with one day left for the fiesta the population had increased tenfold.
Children were running around, darting in and out of the crowd, whilst their parents chatted away, trying to keep up with the village gossip: had they noticed how such-and-such’s child had grown; was it true that she was really pregnant, you’d never believe who the father was; did they know that the old man had died, cancer it was rumoured; and what about the new house they’ve built, just an excuse to show off the all the money they’ve earned all these years driving buses in Germany.
The teenagers gathered together eating dried, roasted sunflower seeds (called ‘pipas’), and spitting the empty shells on the ground. Excited voices, many welcomed their visit to the village for now, for it gave them a freedom they did not enjoy at home. Freedom to go wherever they pleased, freedom to come home in the early hours of the morning, such was the safety and tranquillity of this remote village.
Many teenagers had set up their own ‘peñas’, sort of youth cliques, normally in the garage of a neighbour or an old barn. Nothing too elaborate, it was a place to meet, to listen to music, to drink and smoke when the adults weren’t around, and to shyly begin courting the opposite sex.
For now village life was liberty for these adolescents, in a few years it would be boredom.
The cooking was going well. A huge fire had been burning for some time, reduced now to its embers, upon which an enormous grill was placed covered with pork cutlets, beef and Spanish chorizo. One of the young men had worked in a restaurant, so he was the official chef — quite what experience he had was unknown, but it hardly mattered in a village where everyone had an expert opinion about everything, including how best to cook.
His friends had also volunteered to help, doing little more than placing and removing the grill — but they went into their roles wholeheartedly. Chef’s whites came from nowhere, or at least the tops did, for it was summer so shorts and flip-flops were not going to be sacrificed.