Percebes: the strangest looking thing you thought you'd never eat
Aquí se vive muy bien. Aquí se vive muy bien (People live very well here / Life is good here.) That's what was going round and round my head like a mantra as I sat down for breakfast/lunch with the bloke at our new favourite restaurant in town.
Why? It was a Tuesday, and one of Spain's brilliant fiesta days. Which meant that normally we would be at work but instead we were sat down, ready to have a glass of ice cold Rueda and tuck into a plate of my favourite dish of all time, percebes.
I remember the first time I clapped eyes on them, when the bloke took me to Santiago two Christmases ago. I was like, ‘I’m not eating that, they look like little alien penises!’
And indeed they do – little alien troll claws that come from the sea. But once you manage to get the fleshy bit out of the ugly trunk and into your mouth there’s no going back.
They taste like the sea, all salty chewy goodness. Much better than an oyster (which however much you dress it up with lime or chilli is like gargling with snot) and minimum chance of getting sick off them as they’re actually cooked.
There are only two potential problems. One: The probability of you squirting your dining partner in the eye with percebe juice whicle you’re trying to get them open is high. (I actually did this to the bloke's madre once.) Two: They’re bloody pricey, especially now as Christmas approaches.
The price at the place we ate had been hiked up from 25 Euros per quarto to 35. We had a medio. 70 smackers. Ouch!
The reason they’re so pricey though is that it’s quite dangerous to collect them. They only grow (live? What’s the correct term here?) on the rocks where the waves break. So the percebe fisherman has to scramble in in the space between waves and get battered around in the surf. Rather them than me.
In my opinion they’ve deffo worth shelling out for, though, and they’re probably top of my list of things I thought I’d never eat or like, but do, since moving to Spain.
When I first arrived in the country I hated olives, thought jamon looked horrible and would be really put off by the sight of blood oozing out of a steak. (I think for the first year I lived in Barcelona I only ate tuna salad.)
But now I like all of the above. Hell I even suck the gunk out of prawns’ heads and eat callos (tripe, basically).I now drink coffee (after insisting I hated it for the first 25 years of my life.) And I’ll even have the occasional glass of red wine (I said I’d never drink it.)
Thank you Spain. And the bloke for making me consume alien-looking things. When it comes to what I eat I am a changed woman.