Today, guided by a closer star, I am heading to the Valencian Community in search of the answer. The day, rather the night, promises. It had to be epic, to live a gastronomic experience under a blanket of stars. Why?
If we can see the same stars anywhere in the world, right? Well, no! This is how a scientist at the Aras de los Olmos Astronomical Observatory (University of Valencia) tries to convince me through satellite maps.
” Gastronomy bloggers will live a culinary experience under the stars in Aras de los Olmos “, this is how La Agencia Valenciana del Turisme (AVT) presented this fusion event between astronomy and gastronomy. ”
Although it is true that the stars are the same, the sky, the delicate layer that surrounds us is not. Determinants such as the quality of the sky, light pollution make those same stars perceive them in one way or another. Now I understand the reason for the trip of more than an hour away from the Valencian capital .
Secondary road that crosses the Los Serranos region , or Alto Turia as the locals call it. Longer was the trip of the Russian telescope, yielded as a result of a collaboration at a scientific level. Telescope, which although small, is the jewel of the Astronomical Observatory .
The Starlight reservation had united two different communities, with the same interests and the same objectives, because of those favorable sky conditions. For scientific study, and now also as a tourist attraction.
Although the masterclass is interesting to me, after half an hour I still don’t see the connection with gastronomy. At this point in the afternoon, we have already enjoyed an infusion that includes various herbs and that after the long journey, calms the upset stomach. And, the previously published menu contains such heavenly names as ” Big Bang ” passing by ” Iberian Constellation ” or ” The Milky Way of the Lamb ” to give an example, finishing off with a ” Saturn of Cocoa “, it could be an ice cream. Who knows.
Gastronomy. Cooking Valencian porridge
During the presentation, I go out to look at the sky. I’m curious if the stars really shine more as they said well in the introduction. To my surprise, a group of men hardened by the cold in the area surround large bronze pots, ” Just like the ones you have in Galicia for octopus .” they assure me. But I see more that connects us.
I have traveled more than 850 km, (exactly 861 km, surrounded by scientists one tends to give more detailed information) and I see the same thing that I could see on my land. Retired people, grouped together doing what I would call ” making people “, nowadays known as “large bottle”, sharing the bonfire to warm the pots and the body while telling anecdotes of the day.
” What are you preparing? I ask what seems to me to be the unofficial mayor, the oldest. ” Gruel! He answers, with a mixture of amazement and pride. ” ¿Porridge ?? I ask him.
His gaze says it all, another stranger who does not know the ancestral dish of the region. He takes me by the hand and leads me to two huge sacks of flour. Before the trip I have tried to document myself and I know that ” porridge ” is cooked cereals, but each corner of the world has its own recipe that from what I see is being executed only by the men of the town.
“You don’t cook” porridge? ” I ask the lady who received me with that aromatic herb broth. “Noooo!” he says to me as if he were opening the pandora’s box. “That is men’s work!”
I do not know why I am surprised by your answer, in the three steakhouses of the summer to which I have been invited the panorama was the same. Men cook, while women do everything else. It seems that in public men take out culinary breasts.
This is confirmed by the lady. “ I do make them at home, but these pots are so big that we need the strong arms of men. “He laughs, he knows that the arms of the men in the plaza are no longer as muscular as they were in his time. ” The owners of the recipes are them, the women.” “Pepe, did you add the salt? “I hear to my left,” It won’t be like last year! ” Of course, they let them cook.
The owners of the recipes are them, the women. I only see people from a generation who have already worked hard enough. The depopulation, or perhaps the lack of interest in the traditions have made me, at 44, the youngest of those present.
I remember the words of Alfonso de Recetas de Rechupete. ” Carlos, enjoy the experience, document it. But enjoy! “I decide to keep the camera with which I have documented the recipe, the steps to follow to make” the porridge “and I sit next to the countrymen. I want to live this experience, I want to be one more around the fire.
Tasting of Valencian porridge and other delicatessen
” Carlos, the tastings begin! ”Armed with my camera and torch (the organization has decided to turn off the lights so that the guests can visualize the decorated central table as if it were the Milkway.) I enter and I am amazed by the local products exhibited there. At this point I still don’t see the connection between
astronomy and gastronomy. Furthermore, these products do not bear the names of stars or planets.
Remembering Alfonso’s words, I try each of the products. Three or four jams resulting from artisanal elaboration with special apples
Iegas of the area. Or the monofloral autochthonous honeys such as Thyme Honey, quite a star (I think I am starting to see the connection with astronomy) since it has been awarded the “ Prize for the best thyme honey ” in a national congress.
I am especially interested in the black truffle . The aroma given off competes with the other aromas present. When I take a copy to photograph, not without first asking permission, I am aware of its value.
Do not let me look, the price of the kilo is around 1000 euros, and with the name of ” black diamond ” is no wonder. The low presence of this mushroom and its high gastronomic value make it highly coveted. It is not the first time that I try it, but I have come to enjoy it, and I add the tooth to the third pintxo that contains this fungus.
To see the stars, even if they shine brighter in Valencia, I don’t want to cloud the view much. So I decide not to abuse and give a single sip to the beers present. ” What would you use to make a rabbit stew? “I ask the artisan. ” Amstel! ”Replies a blogger, or that he knew I was Dutch. “ The lightest, you don’t want it to compete with the taste of the rabbit. ”The craftswoman answers, while she gives me two bottles to do the test at home.
Astronomy. Under the stars anything is possible
I should know that an Observatory is at the top and therefore, the path to it is a suffering for me. With fear of heights, rather a phobia, it does not help that the driver thinks he is competing in the Subida al Garbí in Valencia.
This is what the passenger who screamed once his head had landed against the roof of the minibus as a result of an unsuccessful pothole must also have thought. “Back there is much worse!” José, the driver, tells me, looking guilty.
The trip from the capital to Aras de Olmos had been very entertaining and interesting but not very productive since he had not recorded any resources. So now it was time to go co-pilot. I wasn’t going to miss any epic moment in front of my camera. Or was it that, until then my chair, had been occupied by someone else?
Armed with tripods, various tutorials, flashlights, torches, and even a camera user manual, we got off the bus. That the nice astronomer said that the ideal conditions to see the stars were not received was a good blow. Gone is the professor’s explanation in the masterclass, as if to demand explanations.
He also didn’t know that clouds could make bad plays. It could not be that the claim of the trip, the stars, the ones that shine the most, hid behind the clouds. Hours and hours of tutorials had ended not only with my mobile and battery data during the trip, but for a moment the objective of the trip seemed to be falling apart.
Capture those stars.
The visit to the telescopes, seeing the dome rotate, they were not going to console me. I had come to have that blanket of stars tuck me in, take me to another world.
Where was the Big Bang, Pluto, or even the black hole? The script prepared for the video I was going to make ended up in that hole. Of the plans he had planned, there were only 12 failed attempts to capture the stars. “Enjoy Carlos!”
I move away from the group. Tired I decide to drop to the ground, it’s cold. Very cold. I miss a blanket. I can see some red lights, they are not stars, they are the focus of the windmills that with a little fantasy could have been even aliens. I use my camera backpack to settle in and decide to
let go. The silence, sometimes interrupted by the wind, calms. My eyes adjust to the dark.
Black is black, dark black. The ideal conditions to see them. The stars. The more time I spend looking at the sky, the more stars appear. As if the clouds disappeared. Another, and another. And there, there another.
The milky way
I’m late. Late for the second part of the Big Bang recipe, the name given to “porridge”, where bacon and sardines are fried. “How long did it take!” Manuel says. The poor man had been going around for two hours until the flour and the saffron water turned into porridge.
“The stars that until recently had made me happy the visit to the observatory had come down with us. ” Come in ! Enters! ”He says excitedly knowing that a surprise awaited me. The stars that until recently had made me happy the visit to the observatory had come down with us.
The interior of the municipal theater had been transformed into an exact copy of what he had witnessed minutes before at the observatory. This
All of them, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, even Eris, the reason why Pluto became a dwarf planet, due to measurement error, the astronomer told us.
I was beginning to see the connection, beyond the names of the dishes. The dim light made the set shine. Not only the countrymen had worked. A team of professionals had taken care to detail that the interior was an integral part of the heavenly experience.
The “Big Bang”, “The asteroid”, “The cream that wanted to be a wormhole” passed through my palate accompanied by the wines of the Llanos de Titaguas and the wonderful voice of Domingo Chinchilla that between couvert and couvert took us from journey among the stars.
I began to live the connection, to see the coincidences between both worlds. If astronomers kept looking for new stars, chefs looked for new flavors. Both are scientists, using a different language, but that tonight, possibly due to the correct alignment of the planets, had created a unique experience merging astronomy and gastronomy.
The return to the hotel, long and less cold, had cleared me of doubts. Did the stars shine brighter in Valencia? Or had the “cremaet”, the trip, the land or “the porridge” been responsible?
Really, in Valencia, the stars shine brighter!
Publicist and audiovisual producer for Retas de Rechupete
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