Octopus to the Party

Last night we went to the festival in Padron, where this week they're still celebrating Easter. It was a hodge-podge of color, lights, sounds, and people. At one end was the travelling orquestra, giving a music, dance, and light show from their travelling stage, a trailer truck that opens up into a 21st century stage that envies no professional stage. At the other end were the carnival rides, each blaring out their own sound track, shaking grown-ups and children in different ways, sending out shrieks of laughter into the night. In a corner were the pulperías, the travelling restaurants that set up a tent and benches and cook octopus and barbecue ribs and sausages. Just before eleven o'clock, midway through dinner time here in Spain, the lines for seating were greater than the crowds watching the orquestra. In part, because eating octopus at the Easter festival in Padron is almost culturally obligatory. It's become an intrinsical part of the festival.

Eating octopus is something common to Mediterranean peoples. While here in the northwest corner of Spain we belong to the Atlantic, some of the best octopus is caught in these colder waters. And we've learned to prepare it in a distinct form: pulpo á feira. A literal translation (which someone once actually saw in a restaurant window and later satirized on t-shirts) is octopus to the party. Google translator would be proud. But pulpo á feira is a direct descendant of a simple way to prepare octopus by specialized cooks who travel from fair to market day to fair. You simply cook the octopus in a large cauldron, cut it with scissors onto a wooden plate, pour some olive oil over it, and sprinkle with hot paprika and coarse salt. While you can find good octopus in many seaside towns, the best is made in Carballiño, way inland, near Ourense. For hundreds of years the cooks of Carballiño have been famous for making the best pulpo á feira in all of Galicia, and most of Spain. Those cooks are in constant demand throughout the summer, as they travel from festival to festival, setting up their tents and cauldrons. Those are the tents with the most people waiting to be seated.

So, last night we complied with the tradition of going to the Easter festival in Padron and eating the octopus. One of the many culinary pleasures in life we can enjoy here.

Image result for pulpo a feira


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