I was certain that after two full weeks, this year’s Carnaval had to be over. Like last year’s shenanigans, we had celebrated the first seven days with parties, botellones, lunches, costume contests. Our days off from school had ended and we were back to the usual grind. Thanks to Galicia’s infamous rain, many rescheduled parties had spilled into the second weekend, but all of that had finished. With wigs and costumes packed away for next year, I was calling it. Carnaval 2017 was done!
Then the Friday of that third weekend came, and with it marched in a nearly three-hour long parade all through town. ¡Mimá, Galicia! What was once a single night out that this American knew as Mardi Gras was now a three-week long extravaganza! Since this was my third Carnaval, I thought for sure I was a veteran at dressing like a fool and drinking like one by now. It just goes to show you can never underestimate a Galician’s ability to party, nor their need to dress up in the most ridiculous costumes you’ve ever seen.
In Galicia the parties aren’t the only important thing about a celebration—delicious food is just as essential. (As if I needed another reason to love this region more!) To really experience Carnaval you have to taste it. This holiday is the perfect mix of 2 parts party, 1 part food. That’s why of all the celebrations this year, our American-themed lunch and the food we ate that day is the reason this Carnaval trumps all the rest. (Cue the satirical Trump party pictures.) Oh yes, we had a Trump party.
Dressed up as everything from Mexicans south of the impending wall to secret service, rioters, rednecks, and of course Trump and Melania, our group of nearly 30 met on Saturday to enjoy a typical Carnaval lunch. If you’ve ever had a true Spanish “lunch,” you know how loosely I’m using that word. We started drinks at 2:30 and two bars later we were finally sitting down to eat at 6:00 p.m.! Also, it had taken our friend 3 days to prepare this food—I told you Galicians don’t mess around! Here are the three main dishes we ate that are served all February long during this festive pre-Lent season.
As I’m sure it’s quite evident from the photo, (most) Galician dishes are as far from vegetarian as possible. Cocido doesn’t have just one main meat, but can have as many as the chef feels like adding. Typically there’s lancón (front pig hock), orejas (pig ears), morro (pig snout), pollo (chicken), chorizo, tocino (bacon), jamón, and costillas (beef or pork ribs) to name a few. You cook all that up in a big pot and serve it with grelos (turnip greens) or cabbage, potatoes or garbanzo beans.
It’s almost impossible to talk about this Carnaval classic without mentioning it’s brother, caldo. Caldo is a staple recipe in Galicia and we eat it weekly during the cold and rainy winters in this region. It is almost like cocido, but is more of a stew with white beans and a delicious broth that locks in the flavors of all the meats and veggies. This incredibly tasty dish fills you up and is just what you need to keep warm in the cold weather.
Orejas or Orellas
Not to be confused with the pig ears I mentioned before, orejas or orellas in Galician, are a sweet funnel-cake-like dessert that is a lot more appetizing than the name implies. You cut the dough into triangular pieces, like the shape of a pig ear, then fry them till puffy and golden brown and coat them with powered sugar. The end result is a light, slightly crispy treat that is the perfect amount of sweet after a salty plate of cocido.
Last but not least, filloas are a thinly spread pastry made of flour, milk, and eggs that dates back to Roman times. Although they are thicker and not made with butter, filloas very closely resemble French crêpes. Better not say that to a Galician, though, unless you want a speech on how filloas differ from crêpes, and of course why they’re better. The real question, however, is whether filloas are more delicious covered in chocolate, or filled with cocido meat and eaten like a wrap. I personally am a sucker for savory foods, so you know which has my vote!
Whether you call it Mardi Gras or Carnaval, plan your next one to be in Galicia. Throw on a costume, enjoy the parades, and don’t forget to eat! There will be hot cocido, orellas, and filloas here waiting for you!