Now can you imagine 600 or so people turning out in England on a Sunday morning at the end of February for a communal outdoor breakfast of a sardine sarnie and red-wine? Nah! Me neither!
But that is exactly what we did this morning here in Catalonia, Spain. Throughout the year there are fiestas for various foods and today it was the Fiesta of the Clotxa. A Clotxa is a traditional meal that is specific to our county of Ribera d’Ebre. In days gone by it used to be eaten by the farmers working in the fields and consists of salted sardine, tomatoes, garlic and onion which are all roasted over hot coals and then stuffed in half a loaf making a very tasty, nutritious and filling ”meal in a sandwich”.
In recent years the county has introduced a fiesta to commemorate and keep alive this traditional meal. The fiesta is normally on the last Sunday in February and it marks the start of a “clotxa season” as from the fiesta date through the months of March and April the Clotxa appears on the menu at various restaurants in the area.
Each year a different village is chosen to host the fiesta and this morning (Feb 2011) it was in Asco – a village just 10 mins drive from us. We parked the car at the entrance of the village and then we followed our noses! The smell of racks and racks of onions, tomatoes and garlic being BBQ’d permeated the streets and our mouths were watering and tummies rumbling by the time we arrived at the square. (We don’t eat any breakfast at home before this!) Dozens of trestle tables lined the square, set out with dishes of olives, wine, water and olive oil. It was already teeming with people, and family groups and friends stood around chatting or wandered the stalls that had a variety of regional foods and crafts for sale.
Finally, the Mayor of Asco called everyone to order and gave his welcome and short speech about the Clotxa. Now we could eat! We lined up and colleced our plate and bib (yes a bib!) and then found ourselves a spot at the tables to assemble our clotxa. This was our 4th clotxa fiesta so we knew the procedure: Remove the dough from the centre of the loaf leaving a generous hollow. Next squish the tomatoes and garlic up in the bottom. Add the salted fish and onion. Pour a good glug of olive oil over everything and press the bread dough back over the top. Eat! Haha – this is when you realise why a bib is provided! Biting into a clotxa without rebellious tomatoes and onions slipping out is not that easy!
So, with the the sun shining and a band playing, we and 600 or so people ate our clotxa and had fun drinking from the porron. All in all it has to be my favourite breakfast of the year!
Check back here for the date and place of the next Clotxa Fiesta in 2013. As soon as I know I’ll post it!
… The 2013 “Festa de la Clotxa” will be held in Miravet on Sunday 10th March.
(later then usual)