Estoy vegetarian. (I am a vegetarian - for those of you who know Espanol about as well as I do). And since the Spanish consider cured swine hindquarters an indispensible delicacy AND a decoration, the last time I was in Spain (five years back - Madrid, Seville, and Andalusia) I pretty much wasted away while simulaneously being traumatized by the site of weepy and dripping pig appendages, complete with their hooves, proudly displayed in every restaurant, coffe shop, bar, hotel, back alley, phone booth, nice little lady's lace shop, WHEREVER! (Seriously! Someone Spanish...what gives with the incessant pig leg parade?!?) It seemed waiters either had no understanding of the term "vegetarian" or, after hearing it, rolled their eyes in a way that made me think they were going to spit in my food as punishment for my sacrilege to the jamon god (and to meat in general).
Sorry. Short soap box. I'm finished.
Anyway, I was a touch worried about eating in Espana this go-round ... but fortunately, I needn't have been.
I just got back from Txakolin, a popular Basque tapas restaurant on Av. Marquès de l'Argentera, where you stand at a U-shaped bar while the staff come around with plates of small offerings on skewers. You pick whatever looks too good to turn down (pretty much everything looks that good - even to me), and when you're finished, they tally up your number of sticks.
Of course, the bulk of these little bites involve some sort beef, fish, and (really, it goes without saying) the infamous jamon. However, when I told the very-nice-guy at the bar, Eduardo (I walked into the placed and said "Busco Eduardo?" - I think that means "I'm looking for" - since Tash mentioned he was one person at the place who spoke near-perfect English) that I was a vegetarian, he smiled and nodded knowingly. He promptly scouted out the two platters sitting around the bar with veggie items and brought them my way... then told the kitchen (and the owner, Paco) that there was vegetarian in the house.
"Just wait five minutes," he told me, "some hot stuff will be coming out of the kitchen for you."
I almost couldn't believe it. Veggie tapas... custom-built for me... in Espana... But there's the proof!
Here's the back of Eduardo... offering customers some very tasty looking non-veggie morsels.
(One should also note the utter lack of slowly decaying pig flesh hanging from the ceiling - sorry, it's called a tie-back, I couldn't help myself)