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Posts Tagged ‘sardines’

To queue or not to queue, that is the question.

It was around the hour of 9pm and a few dozen bodies had already begun to form a line from the ticket man at the top of the steps on San Telmo to the long bar backed by rows of red hot barbecues laden with smoking sardines.
“Let’s go for it,” said Jack
And by the time we’d made our way to the back of what was a small queue, people were attaching themselves to its rear like iron filings to a magnet.

4 juicy sardines, bread and a beer, not bad for €3.50

4 juicy sardines, bread and a beer, not bad for €3.50

It’s the night before Embarkation Tuesday and the traditional ‘Sardinada’ on the San Telmo in Puerto de la Cruz. It’s a sultry night and the fragrant smoke from the barbecues is adding to the ambient heat. The whole town is teeming with people and San Telmo itself is a swarming mass of people, most of them under the age of 25 years and the girls are looking stunning in their sun dresses and strappy sandals.

As usual the Tinerfeños have opted for the chaos system of organisation and as usual, it seems to result in everyone eventually getting 4 grilled sardines, a chunk of anis bread and a plastic beaker of beer for the princely sum of €3.50, with not a cross word, a shove or a push in sight.

We eat the fish with our fingers, the tender flesh falling easily from the bones, leaving cartoon-style fish heads on skeletons. Suitably salty and greasy, we dump our plates and head with parched throats and sardine smelling fingers to the bar and the dance floor.

This year there’s been a slight deviation from the usual agenda (no doubt questions will be asked in the Ayuntamiento) and there’s a DJ to warm the sweating crowd up. The music is dreadful; 70s and 80s pop and for a moment, I wonder if we’re lying in a coma somewhere in 2009 but then I remember,we’re in Tenerife. But we lap it up because just for once it’s not Latino and we join the hordes of people getting down to ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘YMCA’, ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Karma Chameleon’.
Around us everyone’s joining in with the chorus and singing nonsense that sounds like the real thing, which is exactly what we do to the Spanish stuff and when they play ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Volare’, roles are reversed.

Getting down to bad retro sounds in a brilliant setting

Getting down to bad retro sounds in a brilliant setting

The DJ pumps it up with more retro rubbish intermingled with Spanish pop rubbish and finally climaxes with Blur’s ‘Song for Two’, presumably a tribute to this year’s Glasto performance, which goes down a storm and like all good DJs he bows out leaving his crowd hungry for more.

At this stage the Maquinaria Band take to the stage and the dance floor shifts a gear from busy to crushed. Sweltering in the heat of the night and the bodies around us, our throats like sand paper from the garlic-laden food we’d eaten earlier, now augmented by the sardines, we slowly thread our way through the masses and escape to the slightly less overwhelming heat of the promenade.

At around midnight, like salmon returning to spawn we fight our way upstream through the crowds of teenagers making their way towards San Telmo where the band are still on their warming up numbers.

Tomorrow’s the BIG DAY – hour after hour of standing, eating and drinking in the searing sun while all around us people are throwing, squirting, diving into, sailing on, swimming in and predominantly being thrown into… water.
It’s tough, but being privilaged enough to live in Party Town, we feel obliged to join in at every opportunity.

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The neon street temperatures may have fallen to 20° C and the sock box may have been retrieved from underneath the bed where it lives for a good eight months of the year, but autumn in the north of Tenerife brings more than adequate compensation for the official end to long summer days.

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

The Jackass antics of riding the boards in Icod de los Vinos

Not least, November brings the year’s new wine harvest, reason enough on its own for a fiesta, but throw in to the mix the happy chronological co-incidence of the celebration of Saint Andrew’s Day (fiesta de San Andrés) and you’ve got all the excuses you need for a very merry affair indeed.

On Saturday afternoon we headed up to Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife’s north coast to watch how their youth like to celebrate this time of year.
First they take their town’s tradition of rolling wine barrels down its impossibly steep streets on wooden boards pulled by oxen, then they add a little Jackass element and what they come up with is ‘arrastre de las tablas’ or riding the boards. From the top of Calle del Plano (the sort of street that sends a small cramp to the calves at the mere sight of it) teenage lads sit on waxed, wooden trays and career down at breakneck speed, negotiating a small undulation at the halfway mark that bounces the tray off the road’s surface and sends it ever faster towards a heap of old tyres at the bottom of the street.

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; its like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

The only brakes are a pile of old tyres; it's like the crash test dummies Tenerife style!

It’s addictively good fun to watch, particularly as the afternoon progresses and the town’s daredevils take to their boards, resolutely refusing to attempt any slow down before smashing into the tyres, travelling several feet into the air and landing in a heap of sprawled limbs amongst the rubber.
It’s the sort of event that would have UK and US lawyers rubbing their hands at the prospect of juicy law suits that would lead perfunctorily to a complete ban on the event.
Luckily, the Tinerfeños don’t have a litigious bone in their bodies and have never allowed the likelihood of personal injury to get in the way of having a good time.

Later, we headed down into Puerto de la Cruz for the rather more sedate, but much more participatory celebrations.
In Plaza Charco small children ran across the cobbled surface pulling long strings of empty cans and assorted pieces of metal, providing endless ‘cute’ poses for grinning mums and dads to capture for posterity.
Around the harbour, the air was filled with the fragrant smoke of chestnuts being roasted on open coals, sardines sizzling on grills and succulent pinchos (skewered beef and pork) browning on hot plates as food stalls did a brisk trade with the hundreds of visitors and residents occupying the al fresco tables and chairs.

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Savoury roasted chestnuts, succulent beef pinchos and sizzling sardines are just some of the flavours on offer at the street food stalls in Puerto de la Cruz on fiesta de San Andrés

Proving to be extremely popular were the rows of ‘bodega’ stalls where, for 50 cents a time, you could sample any number of excellent wines from local wine producers. It was a difficult choice and I have to admit, the type of ‘nibbles’ that were being offered by each bodega had considerable influence over which stall was favoured by our custom.
After half a dozen varieties of both red and white had been tasted and points awarded, I would have had a go on one of Icod’s ‘tablas’ had one been handy. Thankfully for all concerned none was, and we headed off to one of the food stalls for pinchos, crusty bread, spicey mojo sauces and roasted chestnuts to soak up the alcohol. Of course, you can’t have chestnuts without wine and so we ordered a small carafe of the new ‘vino del país‘, or country wine, just to see how it compared with its more upmarket cousins.

Fiesta de San Andrés…one of my favourite Tenerife fiestas, hic!

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