Last year we decided to postpone our usual visit to a local restaurant until the New Year and instead to organise a buffet in the Carrington Room with a French theme. Most people seemed to like it so we did the same again this year, this time with a distinctly Spanish flavour.
An important difference this year was that we joined forces with two other groups – Music Appreciation and Spain & Spanish. Peter Willett kindly agreed to provide the background music and Pat Fricker’s group were able to give us some useful advice on the menu.
Such an event can only succeed with full commitment from our members and this year you excelled yourselves! Several of you had obviously worked really hard- not only to prepare or procure a wide variety of Spanish dishes for us to savour but also in dressing up to look the part.
Spanish Christmas Traditions
To get the ball rolling we all loaded our plates with a selection of appetisers (salted almonds, peppers, olives, cornichons, sliced ham etc) and listened to Pat Fricker and Mercè Phillips telling us about how Christmas is celebrated in Spain. Unlike in this country, where the retail sector dictates that Christmas starts earlier every year, the Spanish festive season doesn’t really get underway until 8 December. Another big difference in Spain is the importance of 6 January or the Feast of The Three Kings, this being the day when the children receive their Christmas presents.
Mercè who hails from the Catalan region in the north of Spain made us all smile with an explanation of some of the festive traditions of the region, especially the Caga Tió or poo log. This is a small log with a smiley face wearing a traditional red Catalan hat. Each day from 8 December the children feed him Turron, to ensure that he will be really full and poo out lots of sweets on Christmas Eve!
The Main Course
The selection of dishes, both hot and cold, was really impressive and a credit to the ingenuity and culinary skills of our members. Meatballs in tomato sauce, chickpea and chorizo stew, chicken with almond sauce and Russian salad with tuna were all served tapas-style along with a generous helping of Pan Gallego – a rustic, round bread from Galicia. There was no need to go thirsty either as both red and white Spanish wines were available as well as some soft drinks.
We now switched from recorded background music to live entertainment, with a few songs from our own Ken Brazier, accompanied by his twelve-string guitar. This also gave us a much-needed rest before moving on to desserts.
It’s hard to imagine that any of us could have still been hungry, but the desserts were impossible to resist. Crema Catalana, apple tarts and Tarte de Santiago and a wonderful display of fresh fruit, with cream as well if needed!