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OPINION: How I found my foodie tribe in Galicia

OPINION: How I found my foodie tribe in Galicia
Percebes are a delicacy of Galcia. Photo: Fotero/Flickr
Here Heath Savage describes her journey of discovery through Galicia's culinary delights

In my articles for The Local I have covered a few topics centred on what it is like to move to a fascinating region like Galicia relatively late in life.

Language, home renovation, driving, health care, food…let’s get back to food.  I am not obsessed with food, but, OK, I am obsessed with food! I have come to live in the right place. I love the food here in Galicia.

I don’t just love the quality of our produce, and shopping for it in small markets where I can talk to the people who have grown or made what I have in my basket (which is also locally made by hand). I love the eating part of the story too. Galicians love to eat. I have found my tribe!

I love the simplicity of the classic Galician dishes. It would be easy to underestimate the level of skill and knowledge that is required to prepare food that looks so “ordinary”.

If you presented your average Aussie person (I nearly said “housewife”, sorry gals!) with a pig’s face and ask them to turn it into lunch, I cannot repeat what they would say to you, nor elucidate on where they would invite you to shove it. 

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Suffice to say it wouldn’t be in a heavy pan with chicken stock and a bouquet garni. Cacheira is not something that I have partaken of yet, but I daresay I will get around to it. Orejas are another matter. I don’t like ‘em. Not because they are ears, it’s just the texture. Same with the chicken feet that my Chinese pals devour. I tried. I couldn’t like them. They do make a great stock though.


A plate of orejas de cerdo isn't to everyone's taste!. Photo: Chiringuito de los Pirineos/Flickr

Galician Morcilla, blood sausage, is some of the finest I have ever tasted. I pan fry it and eat it with patatas fritas, fried eggs and bacon – what? Don’t judge me! Fried food is fine. Fat is good! That’s my mantra. Who wants to be skinny anyway?

In Jaen, about an hour away from Granada, they famously turn morcilla into a pate, which I am keen to sample next time I fly south. I have heard so may ex-pats say: “No way!”  to morcilla. Their loss. All the more for me.

But back to the glorious green north. Percebes – goose-neck barnacles – are a bit of a novelty that I could live without. You have to bite off a leathery “neck” (whence the name comes) to suck out the salty interior.

It’s an experience. I have experienced them now. I probably won’t again. As with many “delicacies”, I think that endowing something with this status is just a way to persuade people, in times of hardship, that gross things are good to eat, especially if you give them their own fiesta.

Navajas, razor clams, are another unusual menu item. One word: yum! Dressed with a little olive oil, and garlic, they are sublime. Weird, but sublime. And I like that I don’t have to visit a fancy-schmancy restaurant in order to eat them. They are everywhere in season. 

There are at least three people producing exquisite honey within twenty kilometres of our house. Yet, I know people who are happy to spend fifty or sixty euros ordering Manuka honey online! When everyone makes their own chorizo and criollas at home, in October, they throw a party. Get yourself invited!

One of our Spanish friends is a forager, who finds the most delicious mushrooms, greens and wild herbs everywhere. No expert I, a short walk along my lane, and I can pick enough nettles and wild garlic for a soup. There are bay leaves, elder flowers and berries, and dandelions for making tea. I am eager to go foraging with my expert pal soon, and to creatively prepare whatever we find.

It’s also important to forage in your local markets and shops for the best of local produce. I wince when I hear fellow migrants comparing supermarkets all the time. Get OUT of the supermarkets and into the markets! Meet your local farmers, butchers, fishermen and growers. Buy and eat the best of Galicia. You won’t be disappointed.

Photo: AFP

I always like to offer Galician friends and neighbours some of the dishes I prepare at home that they probably wouldn’t tackle otherwise: steak pies, sausage rolls, Lebanese flat breads, Greek keftedes and spanakopitas, Saltimboca (a wonderful way to celebrate Galician veal and jamon).

Desserts like Pavlova, and apple crumble are always well received. They love it. And I have a queue forming for my BBQ and chilli sauces!

There is a mistaken notion among the migrant communities that the Spanish, especially the Galicians, are not adventurous with food. That is such a misrepresentation.

As with everything else that is new: if you are not offered it, you may not have the confidence to try it. Go for it. Share your speciality dishes with your Spanish friends, and make sure that you explore theirs.

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