Yesterday, as I said, I went for a walk around the center of town, just to see how things were going. It wasn’t an exhaustive investigation so I don’t have much new to report on what I saw other than that I am lucky to be alive. I had a potato salad at a bar near Alonso Martínez. It’s one of those tradtional 1970s cafeterias you pass by dozen times and never bother to go into, but something told me it was just what I was looking for. I came to the conclusion later one that my instincts were a bit obtuse at the time. It was one of those big bright cafeterias with staff dressed in those almost navy uniform outfits, and they refer to everyone as “usted” in a mildly officious manner. I ordered a half-portion of ensaladilla rusa, or russian salad, a classic in Spanish cuisine which. It’s apparently translated as “salade olivier” and really was invented in that country, but since I am sure most of my readers have never heard of it, let’s just call it a potato salad with mayonnaise, potatoes, peas, beans, peppers, boiled eggs and tuna fish…more or less. These dishes tend to vary in ingredients. In summertime, it can be kind of risqué to dive into a plate of ensaladilla because you just don’t know what state the mayo is in. On the other hand, it is served chilled, so the temperature goes well with the weather. Mine looked decent enough, no gelled mayo on the edges that warn of a night on the toilet, but the waitress could have put off sticking her bandaged finger in her ear until after she finished dumping the salad in the tray into my plate. In Madrid, it is still common for many of these dishes to be displayed in cool glass chambers for us to be enticed by. I guess I could have passed it up but I was so hungry I went for it…and it lived. It was all right, but nothing to write home about. Needed more tuna and salt. Mine’s better. What nearly killed me was the price. I mean this was a plate so small that in some places could have constituted an actual tapa. Let me remind you that in Madrid, a tapa is morsel that is served with your drink and is given for free. Anyway, this plate cost me 6 euros. If it had been four, I guess that would have been acceptable, three even better, but six was out of control. I won’t be going back there again, even if I get a hankering for earwax.
I walked over to San Bernado area and, in need of just your basic filler, moseyed into a Turkish kebab joint; the greasy spoon kind that have cropped up all over the city over the past ten years…all over Europe, come to think of it. They have become a kind of European fast food market. I don’t go to these places I care about my veins. I go because they are tasty and greasy and cheap. Plus, I have to admit, many of the guys who work at these places, and for some reason they always seem to be men, are generally very nice and funny. The one up the street from my home is a perfect example. I like to patronize when I can. The problem here was that it was about 100º inside and I could just hear the bacteria crackling in the background. Feeling foolhardy, I ordered salmonella sandwich on pita bread with tomato, lettuce and that yoghurt sauce they serve with it, said a big prayer and munched it down. I asked for a bottle of beer as an antidote.
Then I continued to wander the streets and wait for the first bolts of tremors, cold sweats and retching, but somehow they never came. Maybe I am just immune to this stuff after all these years.
I headed home (I already mentioned the Spanish lesson in the previous post) and went by Colón, which as some may already know by now, is not always one of my favorite squares. In any event, they seem to have made an improvement: the new cascade right in front of the Teatro Fernán Gómez underneath the square. It’s cool to look at when it’s night. All the words and images that you see are not formed by light projecting through a wall of water, but actually shots of water being dropped from some tube running along the top of the cascade in what seems to me to be a computer controlled system. It was the first time I had seen it. If you are in the neighborhood, give it a shot…and also check out whatever might be showing that evening in the theater, which might just have the most comfortable seats of any in Madrid.