On Saturday my Catalan friend invited me to come along to a Calçotada. Being from the UK I had no idea what this would entail, but he promised me it was a fun Catalan tradition, and so I agreed to go. I wasn’t disappointed!
First off, we took a train out to a small town near Tarragona, about an hour away from Barcelona centre. I was already amazed by how different everything looked from the city as the train rushed through small towns, all sitting on the coastline.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the sight of a small wind instrument band and about a dozen people dancing in a circle. While my friend later told me that it is a traditional Catalan dance called La Sardana, at the time I was totally bemused at what I was seeing! It seemed so strange but yet so lovely that they were doing this dance completely for themselves. In fact, they were so into it they didn’t even seem to notice our group of about thirty tourists standing and watching them.
Once we had been fully entertained by the dancers, we finally went inside for the Calçotada and it was soon revealed to me what it actually was. We sat down at the table and a huge plate of charcoal-blackened leeks was placed in front of us. It was explained to us that you have to peel the leeks with your fingers, dip them in a (delicious!) sauce and then dangle them over your mouth in an attempt to try and eat them. This sounds easier than it was; there was a very special method of peeling the leeks, by squeezing from the bottom and trying to pull the inside of the leek out in one go. By the end of the meal we were all absolutely covered in sticky black charcoal, on our hands, arms and even our faces! Luckily they had provided us with bibs, otherwise I know I would have come home with a completely black wardrobe that day!
My friend had been right in the end, it had been an extremely fun day and it felt great to get involved in a local tradition of a place I am temporarily calling home. It really inspired me to learn more about the Catalan culture, although hopefully next time it will be something less messy!
Have you ever taken part in a tradition from another part of the world?