you say pecan, they say pecan, i say pecan, let's call the whole thing off

We're sitting at dinner the other night, and the talk turned to pie, mostly because we were going to be eating some very soon. Two of us were going to eat pecan pie, and after we gabbed about it for a bit, my son called a halt to the discussion and said something to me I'd never heard before: "You can't add a third pronunciation."

I've been saying the word "pecan" the same way for as long as I can remember, which is many decades by now. My son didn't care for the way I said it, though, claiming that there were only two ways to pronounce the word, and that I was trying to invent a third. I wasn't trying anything, I was just saying it as I always did, but looking at various dictionaries, it appears he's right that I'm not pronouncing it "right."

The two "correct" ways to say the word are PEE-cann and puh-CAHN. Well, here's how I say it: PEE-cahn.

So Neal's right, I'm inventing a third way to say the word. Help, I'm drowning! Does anyone else out there say PEE-cahn?


juan

Neal and I had lunch at Juan's today, and El Jefe was there, up from Mexico. He usually seems to come around every year or two for a month or so, but this time, they told us he'd been mugged and had some health problems and he might stick around a bit ... well, he's also 84 years old. We went over and paid our respects after eating ... I told him we'd been coming pretty much as long as he'd been open back in the 70s, and pointed to Neal, saying we used to bring him when he was a baby in a stroller.

I act like I'm a hermit who doesn't care about his neighborhood, but there's a reason we've been going to Juan's for more than 30 years. Sure, the food is solid, but it's also the place we go where, to coin a phrase, everybody knows your name. As rarely as we actually cook at our house, Juan's is probably the closest we come to home cookin', pretty funny considering Robin's a Midwest gal and I'm half-suburban Cali, half-Spanish. Linguica's still #1 for comfort food, but chowing down at Juan's is a close second, and it's amazing and a little scary to realize I'm older now than Juan was when he opened his Place.


family restaurant

We went to Juan's, as we usually do on Fridays, which is carnitas night. Met a friend there ... she had a present for me, a photo from the late-60s, and that was going to be the topic of this post, but 1) it deserves its own post, and 2) the afternoon/evening was so delightful, IT deserved its own post.

It started out pretty much like it always does ... I had carnitas, Robin and our friend had a quesadilla. We were talking about how nice it is to have a restaurant of "our own," one we've gone to for so long, where everyone knows your name, as they say. We've been eating at Juan's for 30 years or so, and the friend who was with us was also along on some of those visits back in the 70s, so the whole feel of the meal was nostalgic in a good way. She marveled at the relationship we have with the folks at Juan's ... they have always been very kind to our family. She was just glad that such things still existed.

And then came the proof that those things do indeed exist. The wait staff kept asking us what else we wanted ... it was late in the afternoon, it was clear we were staying for a bit to chat with our friend, and certainly one nice thing about having "a place" is that you know you can always linger when you want to. They kept trying to break down our resistance to coffee, or flan, or tea, or whatever. Finally, the waitress suggested buñuelos, and that got my attention! I grew up on those ... they're usually eaten around Xmas time, but we ate them whenever. Every culture seems to have their own version ... my grandmother's were basically chewy fried bread with anise. She went off to get the buñuelos ... they were going to make them special, just for us. Robin figured out before they arrived what they would be ... they're the crispy tortillas with cinnamon and sugar that Juan's serves to birthday celebrants. They were very tasty when warm, and of course, the fact that they made them special for us just added to the tastiness. Then the waitress started insisting that we needed something to drink with our dessert. We said no thanks, but she could tell I wanted something, so she bugged me some more, and I thought maybe a nice Mexican chocolate would be yummy. Well, they don't have that, she said, but don't worry, she'd get some, anyway. And off she went to the kitchen.

About ten minutes later, Freddie, one of the two sons of Juan who run the restaurant, personally came out with our cups of chocolate, which he had made himself. It was cream-colored, and the taste was milkier than the usual hot chocolate ... and he went to great lengths to remove any harsh taste. It was smooth and delicious, and we all burned our mouths. After awhile, Freddie came out and refilled our mugs, and finally, our waitress came and joined us, her own cup of chocolate in her hands.

January 2 is one of my favorite days of the year, because it's the day when the holidays are over. Today our holiday was extended in the best possible way ... this January 2 was special indeed.

And I still haven't told you about the photo ...


the return of linguica

Ever since Moniz finally closed down after a gazillion years, Bay Area linguica lovers have had slim pickings on the Portuguese sausage front. But our prayers may have been answered.

Joe Barcelos is a Portuguese immigrant who ... well, I'll let his web site tell the story:

Since the day he was born, Joe Barcelos has always been surrounded by Portuguese cuisine. One of his hobbies was making linguica for friends and family from a small garage in San Jose, CA. The linguica was made using all natural ingredients and smoked over an open wood fire, the essentials for keeping his sausage authentic. He was encouraged by his family to expose it to the surrounding Portuguese communities. It was in the summer of 1993 that his traditional home-style linguica sausage began attracting public attention. He began receiving phone orders from individuals across the San Francisco Bay Area and central valley which prompted him to begin a door-to-door delivery service. It didn't take long for his orders and delivery routes to increase. Finally in 2008, a decision was made to commercialize the product. Barcelos Linguica was born!

Joe made an in-store appearance today at The Spanish Table, handing out samples and talking linguica. I don't suppose I have to tell you that we were there. I've been eating linguica my entire life ... heck, even Robin, who is as Midwestern White as they come, has been eating the stuff forever (her family had very good friends who were Portuguese and made their own linguica). She and I used to share linguica sandwiches when we first started going out back in high school.

Anyway, we go down to the store (it deserves a post all of its own), and there's Joe. I shake his hand and we start talking ... and, of course, sampling. He had mild and hot sausages for tasting, and they both were just fine, but you could tell they'd be even better made fresh. So we bought a few sticks, mild and spicy, and promised him we'd be eating linguica and eggs for dinner tonight. (We also bought some Kas limón ... they don't sell Fanta de limón at the Spanish Table, but you can buy cans of Kas for $1.99 each, and you know we did.)

Well, I just finished eating my linguica and eggs, and ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a new linguica supplier! Linguica is an interesting sausage ... well, interesting to me, I wrote a semi-famous essay on the subject many years ago that ended up on the wall of the offices at Moniz ... if you ask me, one piece of ground beef tastes pretty much the same as another, but sausages have actual recipes, which is one reason why, if you like a particular linguica, you stick with it. Moniz tasted different than Silva, which tasted different from Santos. And we were a Moniz family, going back to the 60s.

Barcelos has a distinct taste, which is a good thing. It's not Moniz, but it's pretty damn good, and there's no reason it should taste exactly like Moniz, anyway. The meat in the sausage looks pretty good ... linguica is not the prettiest thing you'll ever see, but these were almost ham-like in the pork department, which was impressive. Like most linguica in recent years, Barcelos isn't as greasy as the good old days. But it's tasty, it's available, and I have a feeling I'll be picking up the occasional stick for years to come.


top ten food items from our trip

The top ten food-related items from our trip to Europe … drum roll, please:

10. German beer gardens

9. "Taco Beef"

8. Ava eating camarones

7. Fanta Limón bajo en calorías

6. Robin eating white chocolate gelato at Albi

5. Desayuno in Ronda

Last_breakfast_in_ronda

4. The first solomillo de cerdo in Ronda

3. Robin having cream tea while Steven ate bocadillos at El Choque Ideal

2. Robin's salad on her last night in Ronda

And the #1 food-related item from our trip to Europe:

1. Two words: vodka lemonade


ayo's (yes, we went out to eat again)

Ayo's is apparently internationally famous for their paella. Our British neighbors highly recommended the place, so today we went there for lunch. Although this is our third trip to Nerja, we had actually never gone to this part of town, "this part" being the long stretch called Burriana Beach, which is the main beach in Nerja. Along this long beach is a string of establishments, most serving food of one kind or another. To get to Ayo's, we had to walk down a long hill ... no big deal, except of course after eating we had to walk back up the same long hill. The paella was as good as its reputation ... dozens of tables underneath overhangs for shade, and while there is more to eat there than paella, no one seems to order anything else, so the waiter comes, you order four paellas, and he yells across the way "four for table #20!" There's a guy down the end with a stand over a fire pit ... on the stand is the world's biggest pan, filled with paella (a picture of all of this can be found here). After our enjoyable repast, we walked along the beach walkway, stopping as always for the inevitable ice cream. Then back up the hill to our apartment, just in time for siesta.