Santi Santamaria, one of Catalunya’s great chefs, died on Wednesday of a heart attack at the opening of his new restaurant in
. He was 53 years old and carried his love of food with him in the form of a beer belly that probably had more to do with foie gras than beer. Singapore
Santamaria was the first Catalan chef to earn three Michelin stars for his restaurant, Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, north of
. Unlike his younger and more famous colleague, Ferran Adria, who heads up El Bulli, rated best restaurant in the world for four years running, Santamaria didn’t dish up weird food. Adria is probably a genius, certainly an artist, and a self-proclaimed deconstructivist, engaging in what they call molecular gastronomy. Santamaria believed in cooking with the freshest natural ingredients, and was closer to slow food than to culinary physics. In fact, he recently embarked on a public dispute with the chefs who deconstruct food. I am quite proud of Adria, adopted Catalan that I am. I am proud of all the Catalans who do good and impressive things and help make Catalunya better known and respected throughout the world. But it is Santi Santamaria’s restaurant that I would prefer to dine in. Barcelona
Not on the same plane, and yet for me a monumental event was the death of my car, the infamous Citroen Xsara that ate its weight in oil. It wasn’t a violent death but rather a quiet passing, sort of like an elderly person who gets out of bed in the morning and collapses dead on the way to the bathroom. In fact, it was very much like that. I had started it up, made my U-turn at the corner (not legal, I don’t think, but now that I have my Spanish license, I can do whatever I want), drove two blocks towards the village when I heard a small noise after which the engine died and never would come back -- not for me, not for the tow truck driver, and not for Geroni, my mechanic. It seems to be inoperable -- not that it couldn’t be repaired, but it would be a very expensive repair costing more than the car is worth. I was told it was something to do with a broken belt that damaged parts of the engine – important parts such as valves or pistons. Whatever. My mastery of Catalan has not yet (nor will it ever) extend to all possible engine parts. I am only grateful that it happened here on a small street with virtually no traffic and not out there on the highway with lots of cars and trucks speeding by.
I have been looking for a replacement car, would love to get an even older Citroen 2CV, but I won’t. I will be more practical and simply get the cheapest thing I can find that runs. And in fact, I’ve closed in on a Nissan sedan, although sadly, it isn’t actually running. But it’s in the shop and hopefully will be any day now. Having no wheels of my own, I’ve hitched rides with Eve (sometimes she lets me drive, but I am using this unfortunate event as a means of getting over my riding-in-a-car-when-someone-else-drives phobia so I can rejoin the world of normal people) and have even endured a short ride with another friend, George, in order to see that same Nissan that a friend of his has for sale. I have also taken the local bus to the village and walked back, so that the unfortunate demise of my car has also provided me with a good excuse for incorporating more exercise in my life. However, since I can just as well get exercise if I have a running car, I hope they fix the Nissan soon so I can buy it because life out here in the middle of nowhere without a car is even less fun than life with one.