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Barcelona, the Land of Luscious

Brekkie On The Terrace
Fresh strawberries and yogurt for breakfast

mangosteens
Wow! Mangosteens! Those aren't allowed in the U.S.! Now available in the US... irradiated, of course.

FreshTomatoes
Bumpy, savory little garden tomatoes at the Boqueria

I believe that in my native tongue (Hedonistese? Hedonistish?), I will make "Barcelona" synonymous with succulent fresh fruit. I've just finished my week there, and have been consistently agog with the flavor power in the ubiquitous glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice, the sweet perfume floating up off the flats of strawberries in the Market de Boqueria and the luscious tropical gush in the local peaches.

The oranges, of course, are well-known here. Valencia, just down the road, lends its name and reputation to them. In Barcelona, it seems every little cafe contains the same mesmorizing juice press: the Zummo.

Looking like a Rube Goldberg device for citrus, the push of a button drops oranges down a wire gutter to the waiting slicer, turns the halves to face the reamer, and presses out tangy-sweet rivulets of nectar into a pitcher or glass below. Ahhh... bliss. I want one, but it costs thousands of dollars and my kitchen is too tiny... even for the far-more diminutive Zummito. I'd have to choose between my beloved Kitchenaid mixer and the Zummito. It's too painful even to contemplate.

Barcelona's streets are filled with shops displaying tasty little pastries, but they're generally a bit too cloying for me. When we had the menu for lunch last week at the terribly tasty and satisfyingly sustainable cafe Origen 99.9%, J chose the seasonal fruit for dessert, and received one perfect golden apple presented on a napkin-covered plate.

We were a little shocked at first. Dessert is generally so dainty and fussy that the presentation of one single fruit seems like underachievement. But after our richly braised entrées, a large, crisp and honeyed local apple was actually quite welcome.

I forget, sometimes, how treasured fruit once was. The apple in particular has had a rich history full of status and prestige.

When mated slices of his perfect apple with my adorable glass pot of creamy yogurt, the flavors loved each other very much. It turned out to be so much more satisfying than the usual parade of saccharine-sweet pastries and brownies done up with sparklers for additional dining drama. I could picture thousands of years of happy diners enjoying the simple, fresh flavors of fresh fruit and tangy sheep's milk yogurt, and that, too, added satisfaction to the experience.

Fruit is the plant's demonstration of affection for us. (Well, that and the natural inclination to propagate more plants.) I'll need to wait a few weeks for the local berries to arrive and another month or so before the stone fruits. It's gustatory affection on pause.

Meanwhile, Barcelona, rich in fruit, echoes across the ocean with its sonorous song of sweetness. I can hear it now... Barcelona! Barcelona! Barcelona!

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5.28.2006

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