Quantity and Quality

As they stroll around the streets of the Majorcan city of Palma, the tourists (mostly Germans, though with some from England and elsewhere) will see bars specialising in tapas – those tasty little snacks that are Spain’s great contribution to international fast food, for otherwise, barring the odd exception such as hamburgers and pizzas, we would be left with popcorn to munch at the show; and there in those tapas bars they will see signs up announcing such original offerings as a cured ham described as “Jamón Ibérico Mediterráneo”. Befuddled by Phoenician literature, we might for a moment have visions of a spicy sobrasada black-pig pork sausage hanging from the ceiling and whetting appetites, to the greater glory of Majorca, but no, that was not what it was at all: it was just a leg of ham cured somewhere in mainland Spain and that was supposed to be the bee’s knees for dieting. Which brings us to the fanciful usage encountered on the Balearic Islands, where a spade is called anything but a spade. So much so that you can let your tongue go without any fear of it going too far – all those local red morcilla sausages, made with paprika, pork meat and fat, are what they are, whatever anyone tells you.

Second lesson: what is really in, the hot news the world over, is fusion in food. And what is it? Generally speaking, confusion. A bit from Africa and a bit from Asia, a bit from Pepito and a bit from Wolfhard... and the result is neither here nor there. An example that leaves everyone scratching their heads: “Gazpacho de Vichyssoise”. The “à la” or “al estilo...” is missing. Just as further elaboration would be welcome in another list announcing “Croquetas Caseras de Pollo”: so the croquettes are home fare, but what about the chicken?

But for a real stunner to top them all, what about this magnificent sign, announcing both quantity and quality: “Can Ballester, Cantidad y Calidad”? There were queues at the door; it must be true. It made such an impact on us that it made us think: might that not indeed be true ‘fusion’ in cookery, the ideal fusion? That is of course the goal: lots and good is better than lots and bad, and it is also better than meagre but good. We can all agree on that, can’t we?

There is a restaurant in the outskirts of Palma, in Génova, a place called Can Pedro, that has two dining venues 100 metres apart (I recommend going to the one upstairs, 00.34.971 702162, rather than the one downstairs, 00.34.971402479). Between the two of them, they serve up over 1,000 meals every day, working straight through from 12:00 to 00:30. It’s the Balearic equivalent of a Paris brasserie. If you order snails, they’ll bring you forty a head. Order a typical Majorcan fry-up and they’ll bring you a dish that would keep two trenchermen quiet. Order tender rabbit and they give you a whole young rabbit with a bowl of alioli garlic mayonnaise to bring life and substance to the little creature. And whether you ask or not you will be brought olives, tomatoes … and heaps of bread. And if you wash it all down with two beers and then ask for the bill, hallelujah! 30 € the lot. Over 1,000 customers a day...

Where is the holy grail? Quantity and quality: fusion as it should be.