Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Help Me Ronda (sic)

Ernest Hemingway is credited with saying - and I say credited because I cannot find the source - that the Andalucían town of Ronda is the best place 'to spend your honeymoon or to see a bullfight for the first time". And presumably, the 4-time wedded bullfighting aficionado would know.

It is widely believed that Ronda - the home of modern bullfighting (wheeeee!) and arguably one of Spain's most picturesque spots (wheeeee! without the sarcasm) - is the otherwise unnamed Castillian village in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which Nationalist sympathizers are tossed from the town's vertiginous cliffs. Whether or not Republican forces actually hurled Nationalists from the cliffs of the El Tajo canyon which Ronda teeters precipitously upon, is now immaterial; the damage has been done. Hemingway made reference to it and that is enough. I suspect that his honeymooning comment did little to undo the damage - hard to find the romance in bodies catapulting into the gorge below, unless you're Generalísimo Francisco Franco. Or his fiancée.

And although I could wax poetically about Ronda's natural beauty (a natural beauty less warmly appreciated by those hurling Nationalists) or about its neoclassical bullring (the oldest operating ring in Spain), its Roman roots, its Moorish past, the Sufi poets it gave birth to, or its winding warren of streets which yields mysteries at every turn, I won't. I'd rather discuss its cuisine. Or more accurately, my breakfast.

It is about 11:30. Señor Gato Gringo, La Madre Gatita, and I have just alighted from the bus in search of coffee. The three of us have unanimously agreed that Ronda's natural beauty (a natural beauty less warmly appreciated by those hurling Nationalists), its neoclassical bullring (the oldest operating ring in Spain), its Roman roots, its Moorish past, the Sufi poets it gave birth to, and its warren of winding streets which yields mysteries at every turn would just have to wait until caffeine was located.

It was located. Kitty-corner to the bus station, La Madre Gatita espied a small café with a churros sign. Coffee and breakfast! - huzzah! We hied ourselves to the café and as the owner, la Patrona, wiped the table crumbs into our collective laps, swiftly ordered 3 coffees, 2 plates of churros, and for me, toast with tomato and olive oil. La Patrona shook her head and said many things in Spanish, many things which included to my untrained ear: no tomato and olive oil. (No tomato and olive oil? Is this not Spain?). I suggested jam and butter and receive a nod of assent.

She returned with our coffee. And a jar of strawberry jam - or at least a jar whose label suggested that it once contained strawberry jam. A moment later, she plonked a much used tub of margarine on the table. Next she dropped off my toast and a knife and said many things in Spanish, many things which included to my untrained ear: Fill your boots. A few moments later the two orders of churros appeared. On one plate. In response to our look of confusion la Patrona looked at Señor G.G. and La Madre and said many things in Spanish, many things which included to our untrained ears: you two can share.

Dear reader, I am ashamed to admit that I experienced Order Envy. The margarine which refused to melt into my toast and the little jam that I could scrape from the jar paled - congealed - in comparison to those hot golden deep-fried donuty confections. Why did I order the toast? What was I thinking? This is Spain! - I could have had churros for Christ's sake! This is Spain! - the toast sucks here! (Actually it doesn't, I was just really cranky).


While Señor G.G. and La Madre licked the sugar off their churros, and in the hopes that my margarine would melt in my absence and the jam jar would spontaneously reproduce, I paid a visit to the loo. A loo without benefit of a lock. And a mirror. And soap. And paper towels. And toilet paper. And a toilet seat. But its flushing mechanism worked so who am I to play Princess and the Pee?

I returned to our table and was summarily commanded to give a full report of the state of the Ladies' Room. Amazingly - and this is a twist I bet you didn't see coming - La Madre elected to risk renal failure rather than experience the bathroom's hidden delights. During my report, we couldn't help but notice that la Patrona was turning off the café's lights. Closing the door. Shutting the windows. And omigod - this is serious! - she's turning off the slot machine that sits in the middle of the cafe. Apparently 11:45 is closing time in an establishment that specializes in breakfast. Of course, this is Spain and the lunch shift probably doesn't start until 3:00.

We paid our bill and tried not to let the door hit our asses on the way out.

By way of a peroration, I'd like to add that Hemingway later confessed to having fabricating the entire Nationalist human-vaulting scene but in reality, in 1936, some 500 'fascist sympathizers' were lobbed from a cliffside house in Ronda by a frenzied mob. No doubt the frenzied mob had just visited the same café kitty-corner to the bus station. And they had ordered the toast.


Cath said...

Hemingway wouldn't have needed any sissy toilet.

La Gatita Gringa said...

That, including a Nobel Prize in Literature, separates Papa and me.

Catherine Miehm said...

THAT and a bullet in the head.

La Gatita Gringa said...

Well ... yes ... there is that.

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