Kicking off the B2S Questionnaire with Pablo Álvarez Fernandez. This post is close to the author’s little Spano-phile heart not only because Pablo and the author shared a flat in Madrid, but also because he taught her: 1) that there’s olive oil and then there’s really freaking good olive oil, like the kind produced in small villages in Andalusia; 2) how to cut thin slices from a pata negra (that cured leg of jamón that typically hangs from ceilings in butcher shops, also a common staple in a Spanish home kitchen) – this task is harder than it seems, especially when you arrive home from the discoteca a little hungry and a little drunky; and 3) how to make one of the author’s favorite dishes, Andalusian gazpacho.
Pablo is pretty badass in the kitchen, but his true art is graphic design. He’s practiced his craft in Sevilla, Madrid and London, designing websites, posters and the like, always adding his signature “Penko” (his nickname from the uni) touch. Hablamos.
Coffee or tea?
Tea. I like the taste of coffee, but because I was born a nervous person, if I drink coffee, I get anxiety and have trouble sleeping the same night. I only use coffee, and not very often, as a drug to keep me awake – for example, when I’ve had a bad night and am struggling to stay awake.
Beer or wine?
Beer. As cold as possible. I like Cruzcampo, Guinness, ales and some gourmet beers. As for wine, I prefer white – because most of the time it’s served cold, and that’s how I like it. Vino de Rueda Verdejo – which is seco (dry) is my favorite.
Describe your typical breakfast.
My typical breakfast, when I have time, is based on toast of a good bread. Once the bread is toasted, I rub raw garlic all around the surface, to create just a thin layer of garlic. Then I add olive oil – it has to be a good one, like 100% extra virgin olive oil, the kind that’s made in small villages, not refined. Then I add a touch of salt and I eat it. Another variation: instead of garlic, I add a few slices of jamón de bellota (a type of ham made from pigs on an acorn diet), and it’s really nice. I have this toast with a Cola Cao (powdered chocolate that is mixed with milk) or a decaffeinated coffee.
What is your earliest food-related memory?
My first food-related memory is more like a trauma than a memory. It’s because my parents have always been rigid about their kids’ eating habits, and they wouldn’t let me refuse a meal if I didn’t like it. So if I refused to eat something, they’d keep it for me until I decided to eat it. I hated lentils and one time my parents served it for lunch. It took 18 or 19 hours until I finally gave up and ate them then next day for breakfast. By that time, I was f*cking starving and those lentils tasted like heaven. Since then, I haven’t had any problems eating lentils. But my parents weren’t so cruel – my brother and I had a “joker” card – a single food that we could refuse to eat and swap for something else of our choice.
Describe your ideal sandwich.
My ideal sandwich has white bread, Havarti cheese, arugula, raw sliced mushrooms, jamón york (smoked ham, similar to the kind you find in the US), tomato, raw onion, a touch of ketchup and mayonnaise. It depends on what’s in my fridge, but this is the ideal recipe.
Where would you travel to eat?
I know it’s not a very original answer, but a few years ago I had the opportunity to go to Italy and I discovered a few things that now are always in my fridge. I love how Italians combine certain simple ingredients – such as buffalo mozzarella cheese, Balsamic Modena vinegar, basil and arugula. Before that trip, I didn’t use ingredients like basil at all. And now I often make salads with tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella. I just like how Italians combine natural ingredients – for me it was a revealing food discovery.
Name 5 people you would like to have at a dinner party.
1) Paul McCartney – I love music and he’s my favorite musician and composer ever.
2) Winona Ryder – it might sound random because she’s now kind of retired, but I’ve always had a crush on her, since I was a teenager.
3) my parents – because I owe them everything and I would like to have them there if I could invite Paul and Winona, and they are also good cooks.
4) Caitlin (the author) – and you, because you have always believed in my kitchen skills, even when they are not that good.
What are you in the mood to eat right now?
I’m always in the mood to eat two things: popcorn – the hotter, saltier and juicier, the better; and jamón de bellota.