On our gastro tour Shawn and I discussed men, children, food, illness, the internet. A couple of years ago, Shawn got cancer. Living in Spain without family or husband, this was tough: she survived with the help of friends on the internet who provided emotional support and even donated money while she couldn’t work. Now recovered, or NED (no evidence of disease), she lives in an up and coming quarter in Seville, near the mushroom architecture of the Plaza de la Encarnacion.
We visited an exquisite hat shop, while I resisted the persistent yearning to buy yet another flamenco dress complete with lacy fan and clickety heels. Everyone should possess a flamenco dress.
On the Saturday night I went to a Seville supper club, hosted by warm and fragrant Fourat El Achkar or @lebanicious. Of Lebanese origin, she and her family now live in a beautiful loft apartment in the centre of Seville. We sat on the roof terrace at first, drinking some great local wines and munching on freshly baked palmiers of z’atar and cheese.
We had an authentic Lebanese meal on this occasion as Fourat’s mum was there to help; silken Baba Ghanoush (her mum’s trick is always to leave a little of the charred aubergine skin to boost the smokiness), addictive hummus and made-from-scratch flat breads. In fact, I pigged out so much on the first course it left me unable to properly appreciate the rest of the elaborate meal.
I came to again when Fourat served a lovely ‘tea’: hot water with a little orange flower water and some sprigs of orange blossom. Southern Spanish streets are heaving with scented orange trees in spring and this refreshing drink acted as a cleansing digestive.
Fourat’s charming French-speaking daughter (lycée educated, reminded me so much of my own daughter as a child) danced flamenco for us with the intensity and expression ‘seriosa’ of a professional. Every child learns ‘Sevillanas’, the bastardised flamenco dance, full of exuberant parts, turns and swirls. Even if they cannot dance, everybody learns to clap ‘palmas’: complex rhythms, influenced by Moorish music and gypsy origins.
It was the weekend before the feria when prices double and Southern Spain hitches a ride on a horse-drawn wagon, accompanied by trussied up unmarried daughters and hidalgo sons, rattling with cases of manzanilla and fino sherry, through ochre dusty trails to the brightest, fanciest most musical fête on the planet. It’s a hierarchical affair nowadays; the richest families hold court in casetas or private marquees. You can only attend if invited. The feria in Jerez de la Frontera, on the other hand, held on a different week, is more democratic, open to the public.
Contact Shawn @sevillatapas for tapas tours.
Contact Fourat @lebanicious for supper clubs and cooking lessons (she also does typical Spanish food).