Sports Commentary: Viva España!

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On rice, bulls and soccer

By Mike Forster


Ink runs in my veins.

That's not a surprising statement, as any old newspaperman will make the same figurative claim.

Only I make mine literally.  At least I can now.  You see, the wife and I recently returned from a trip to Spain.  Among other delicacies, I treated myself to a pile of seafood in black rice.

Now, when I ordered the dish, I assumed black rice was a mere variant of the grain.  Sort of like blue corn or red wheat.

No, señors and señoras (and señoritas), black rice gets its color from squid ink.

That's right.  According to our waiter, the rice is sauteed in squid ink prior to serving.  Squid ink is, of course, the stuff that squids expel to create a blinding cloud, in order to shield themselves from would-be predators.

It makes for a very tasty dish.  My only question is this:  Who in tarnation came up with this twist?  Was it a matter of Juan saying to Maria, "You know, your rice is pretty good, but it's missing a certain something.  Where did I leave that jug of squid ink?"

And, more to the point, who thought that having a jug of squid ink lying around the hacienda was a good idea?

I could share similar observations about such Spanish dishes as paella (delicious), Iberian ham (wonderful) and fried baby eels (Ha!  Didn't try 'em).

I could also share the story about how I attended Spanish services at my church here for two months in anticipation of this trip.  Then I could let you know that the church I attended in Spain on Easter Sunday had its service in Catalan, which is not even close to the Spanish language I know.

But, these are the sports pages, not the lifestyles section.  So, I'll discuss sports.

I can report that there are only two sports in all of Spain:   soccer and bullfighting.

Sure, the Spanish will tell you they play basketball, run track and swim.  But those are lies.  

Sure, you can point to golfer Sergio Garcia and NBA stars Pau and Marc Gasol.  All three of them are Spanish.  But a third-rate bullfighter ranks higher in the esteem of his countrymen than do Garcia or the Gasol brothers.

In that country, it's fútbol and bulls.

We were there on a Tuesday night when one of the most important soccer matches in Spanish history took place.  Real Madrid topped FC Barcelona to claim the Copa del Rey (King's Cup).  How fortunate for us!  How exciting!  The streets of Madrid were filled with joyous revelers celebrating the glory their team had brought to their storied city.

We felt a part of the local sports lore.  That is, until the next Tuesday rolled around and one of the most important soccer matches in Spanish history took place.  That was when Atlético Madrid played Chelsea for yet another trophy.

More joyous reveling, more celebrating the glory of a storied city's team.

We started to detect a trend:  EVERY game was huge, giving the people of this fine country a reason to go berserk.  And not Oakland Raiders fan berserk, by the way.

Meanwhile, we didn't get a chance to catch a bullfight.  The only one scheduled happened to be on Easter Sunday.  We figured it was probably more fitting to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord by going to church as opposed to seeing some 2,000-pound bull put through the (fatal) paces.  Even though the service was in that moon-man Catalan language, it was still quite moving.

As a younger man, I have been to bullfights.  I was never brave (or insane) enough, however, to participate in the Running of the Bulls, in Pamplona, a city in northern Spain.

That event consists of people being chased through the streets by bulls, in their one chance to enact a bit of revenge.

No, my craziness has been reduced to tamer matters.

Such as squid-ink rice.