Madrid, Infinity08, Juan and something hideous!

I’ve just spent the last week in Madrid with my good friend Infinity08. We originally made friends on Experts Exchange have over the last few years we’ve become very good friends. Infinity08 lives in Brussels in Belgium. I, of course, live in the UK. Clearly, it isn’t always easy to maintain a friendship over a distance but we do ok. We make an effort to send each other e-mails, we talk on Skype and we try to hook up once or twice a year for a short break.

Generally, hooking up means I’ll either visit him in Brussels or he’ll come and visit me and on at least one occasion we’ve both taken a trip to visit our mutual friends, jkr. This time we decided to take a last minute trip to Madrid. It’s quite a nice mutual place for us to meet since the journey time (and effort) is about the same and for both of us getting to Spain is a relatively painless process (as painless as flying can be these days).

I’m not going to go into the details of our trip because, quite honestly, they’d probably bore you (we spent most of our time exploring, drinking beer and chatting about stuff); however, I wanted to convey a warning to British person who might be wanting to enjoy some Spanish meatballs (Albondigas). Let me first say there is nothing wrong with Spanish meatballs. They are yummy; hence my trying to track some down. Unfortunately, either it was the wrong time of year for meatballs (seasonal meatballs, eh?) or they are just too popular, because every place we tried (and we tried quite a few) were sold out.

On Sunday we decided to visit the La Latina area, which is famous for many reasons but least of all is the Sunday street market. It’s huge. By huge I mean, it is HUGE. I basically covers the whole of the La Latina area (well, quite a lot of it). After Infinity08 and I had walked around for a bit we decided we’d take a break for some beer and food. We found a really nice little taberna (a Spanish style tavern, selling Spanish style food). After drinking a couple of beers we decided to look at the menu and lo and behold, listed were the elusive meatballs I’d been craving.

I immediately place and order with Juan (the name of the guy who ran/owned the bar) and my order was accepted. At last, meatballs were in my grasp. I sat, drinking my beer and nibbling at my tapas (you get a little something to nibble with every beer you order) and waited patiently for my meatballs. About 10 minutes went by and Juan wandered over with a look on his face that I instantly recognised as one that was about to deliver bad news. Yep, you guessed it, no meatballs.

“lo siento, no albóndigas!”, exclaimed Jaun. The look on my face was clearly one of devastation because I could see the pity in his eyes. Suddenly his face brightened up. “un momento”, he said and promptly disappeared back to the kitchen. A moment later he reappeared holding a clay dish that contained a light brownish coloured content. He presented me the dish (the contents were frozen at this point) with the introduction, “esto es excelente”.

I looked at the dish but was unable to identify the contents as being anything I’d eaten before. “Cual es el nombre?” I asked in my best Spanish. “Callos a la Madrillena” came the reply. Now, I can speak some Spanish; I’m hardly conversational but I can speak enough to get by. This; however, was a dish I’d never heard of before. “Como se dice en Ingles?” I asked. “No sé”. Came reply.

I considered this for a moment. So here I have Juan offering me a plate of something excellent in place of meatballs, which has a name I’ve never heard of and which neither of us knew the English name for. I decided to go for it, after all I’m on holiday and just how bad could it be, right? As it turns out, pretty bad!

About 15 minutes goes by and Juan returns with the clay bowl. He puts it in front of me with a smile and says, “comer con gusto”. I look and so far it all looks ok. I can seem some chorizo in there and the sauce looks nice. The main constitution; however, is a white meat that I assume is chicken. I take a sniff and it smells fine. I pick up a spoon and taste the sauce; spicy.

So far so good. I decided to taste a little of the white meat. I put some on the spoon and put it in my mouth and chew. The texture is weird. Kinda stringy and I notice that it’s actually quite flat. One side is very smooth with a silky kind of feeling and the other feels really weird; the texture of what I can only describe as a shredded plastic bag.

I chew and swallow and decide that before I eat any more that it would probably be a good idea to identify exactly what I am eating. I guess I should have probably done this quiet a lot sooner (like, before even agreeing to the dish) but; meh, how bad can it be. Infinity08, at this point, is finding this all quite amusing. He’s just eaten a cheese roll and is now taking great pleasure in my obvious discomfort at the dish I’ve been served.

He suggests I just eat it rather than finding out what it is. His logic being that if it’s something nasty it’s probably too late for me to worry as I’ve already eaten some of it. Of course, he’s right but I just can’t help but feel eating any more without knowing what it is would be a mistake. As it happens, I was right!

First of all I try the Spanish to English dictionary I have on my phone. Nada! I then try Google Translate on my phone. Still, Nada! WTF? I sit there wondering what to do when Infinity08 suggests just doing a Google search for the exact wording of the item on the Menu. Bingo! I get a hit. Spanish Stew, Madrid Style (I kinda guessed the last part already). Ok, fine but that still didn’t tell me much. Fortunately, the top link was to Wikipedia. I open it and start to read. Suddenly, my heart sinks and my tummy starts to churn.

It turns out that the main ingredient in this dish is…. TRIPE!!! WTF! Tripe? OMG! NOOOOO!!!!!I’m sorry but I’m afraid in my book there are only 2 types of people who eat tripe. Those that are clinically insane and the Scottish (although they stuff it with other crap and call it haggis). I immediately started to feel very ill indeed. I had actually eaten tripe. Seriously, I suspect I’d have felt less ill if I’d discovered it was camel dung (according to Bear Griles this is quite nutritious).

sufficed to say, I did not eat any more of this dish from hell. I explained to Juan that I couldn’t eat tripe (as best I could) and apologised. He seemed to be more amused than anything. He took the bowl away and I made do with a “bocadillo de chorizo”. Darn, I wish I’d just had that in the first place.

So, let this be a lesson to you. Never, and I do mean never, agree to eat something in a foreign country from a menu in a foreign language when you are unable to translate the name into something you can understand. You never know, you might just be eating camel shit (or worse, tripe!).