Some years ago I took a train from Nice to Barcelona. As we crossed into Spain the whole mood in the carriage changed. Instead of petite French women nibbling on fruit, there were curvy, lively Spanish girls, talking and laughing. And out of their bags, wrapped up in shiny foil, they pulled bocadillas, big sandwiches, overflowing with ham, cheese, tomatoes and slices of tortilla.
This was my first experience of the Great Spanish Sandwich. In Valencia the Bocadilla can be as long as your arm and filled with everything from tuna to fried calamares to horsemeat. It’s typically eaten at eleven am as part of El Muerzo. But in these bizarre months it’s the ideal food to takeaway, less messy to carry than a Menu del Dia and perfect for eating on the beach.
With social life at a standstill, meeting a friend on a bench has become a way to connect with other humans. Sitting at either end of the seat with mask in place this is a safe and legal way to socialize. Even the Police helicopters circling overhead can’t fault us as we lower our masks for a bite of bread or a sip of coffee.
As well as enabling me to keep sane and to enjoy my life in Valencia, buying takeaways is helping to keep cafes afloat. Many places appear to be open today, March 1st, but the official date is tomorrow – outside service only.
Luckily Valencia has plenty of pavement space to put tables and chairs and of course the mild weather helps.
Sadly, there are now signs pinned up on cafe doors all over the neighbourhood saying Estamos En Quiebra, which means We are Going Bankrupt. Not everyone has had the resources to keep going and offer their customers a version of what they normally sell.
Hopefully the closed cafes will have been pulled back from the brink just in time.
I have enjoyed my month of takeaways.
A highlight has been breakfast or lunch from Mikengo – a bright and breezy cafe on JJ. Domine, facing the Marina. They do delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes, artfully concocted. Buy a plateful, served up in a cardboard box with a drink and they will chuck in a slice of homemade cake, such as almond and chocolate flavour or lemon and blueberry.
Then all you have to do is cross the road and perch on a seat by the waterside. Mikengo’s breakfast bocadillas are great too, tasting fresh and healthy especially with a glass of orange juice, straight from the tree.
I have had some very nice picnics over the last few weeks, sitting in the lush gardens of La Turia. Or even just on a wooden bench in the square.
Whether scoffing patatas bravas by the sea or stuffed squid
underneath a palm tree, outdoor takeaways have without a doubt got me through February and onto the next stage. I thank all the lovely women who have joined me in my pursuit of a social life no matter what. I hope that one day soon I can actually invite you into my flat to eat.