Sunday, April 08, 2007

Andalucía V: I'll Have a Baked Potato

Late at night, when I’m hungry for a snack, there’s one thing I can say with certainty that I’ve never considered eating: a baked potato. Baked potatos just seem like dinner food, a side dish, not a snack. Yet in Granada, a city that is home to more gypsies than, it seems, any other city in Spain, gypsies were everywhere with large silver-painted barrels they’d rigged to bake potatos. “Patatas, patatas asadas,” they called. Along with the barrels and sacks of potatos, there were displayed numerous condiments for the potatos—olives, pickle slices, mustard, ketchup, other unidentifiable sauces, grated cheese, salt and pepper.

The first time I saw a group selling baked potatos, I was incredulous. Andrew and I were sitting in Plaza Nueva, having a coffee (incidentally, we’d managed to sit at a table in a sea of tables belonging to yet another Oh La La), when the gypsies set up their stand. “Are those…baked potatos?” I said, squinting. Smoke was coming out of the barrel. Sure enough, after some time had passed, a woman reached into the barrel and pulled out a few baked potatos. “Who’s going to buy a baked potato?” I said. It seemed absurd. Yet soon a man approached the stand and bought two baked potatos, which were steaming-hot. He ordered them with salt and pepper. We saw more people buy baked potatos. And later that night, and the next day, we saw more stands, and more people eating baked potatos. A child ate a baked potato on the steps of a church after a paso. I began to want a baked potato. If we’d stayed for another few days, I may have even bought a baked potato. Strange, strange, strange.

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