Thursday, August 4, 2016

35 years of Paella tradition celebrated

      Doing a traditional paella makes the meal an all day affair, but one that the entire family pitches in to help out with. Some go shopping for the produce and seafood, others set to chopping wood for the fire. This year I was given one of the most crucial tasks: supplying the wine. The actual cooking is all done on an open fire started several hours beforehand to get a bed of coals laid to ensure a proper cooking temperature.

    Creation of the paella itself has always been the responsibility of my uncle. When following his method, there are absolutely no cut corners. He even makes the broth from scratch that same morning! Two copper pans were placed on metal tripods (specifically built for my uncle for this purpose), and rice and stock were added. As the rice begins to cook, two people circle around the pans gently placing clams, mussels, lobster, shrimp, chorizo and chicken into the pans. Before long the pans begin to look like a mosaic of shellfish, with everything arranged to not only taste good, but look good as well. In a family where everyone thinks themselves a great cook, no party is complete without lighthearted teasing, and calls ring out from the deck to the firepit, reminding the cooks that the family would like to eat sometime before midnight.

    Ordinarily Italian wine takes precedence at a family meal, but in keeping with the theme of the day, Spanish rosés covered the table, and before the paella even came together in the pan, wine began to flow freely. On a sunny day with the temperature reaching the 90s, some cold rosé was needed, especially to those of us manning the fire!  

    By the time the cooking is done, darkness has begun to fall and rosé is flowing. With great ceremony, the two massive pans are set on the table, columns of steam wafting up from the rice. We open bottles of txakolina, the crisp, wonderfully effervescent Basque wine that goes down perfectly on a hot night and toast to my uncle, to each other, and to the day. Plates are loaded up and everyone digs in. It is, as it has been every year since i can remember, a delicious success.

  No one is quite sure of how the tradition of the annual paella party came into being, but for the past 35 years it has been a highlight of my family's summer.

- John Maggi
Harry's wine staff
(He's the tall good looking kid with the glasses)

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