Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nobody Loves Me. Everybody Hates Me. Think I'll Go Eat Worms.

The title of this post is the start of a song from my childhood.  And it hasn't stopped playing in my head since dinner last night.   I'll soon explain why.


We returned to Dos de Mayo, one of the best (if not the best) tapas bars around.  The place is always busy and the food and service are always phenomenal.  Everything is made fresh to order.  We started off with a spectacular plate of large grilled shrimp — the bartender showed us the fresh gambas (shrimp) as soon as we sat down and then had them cooked up for us.  As usual, we ordered too many — eight instead of simply four — and they were very expensive I'm sure, although they were worth every penny.  They were so good I didn't even mind getting my fingers messy (and I usually mind very much getting my fingers messy).  And I now know the Spanish word for those individually packaged moistened towelettes — toallitas.


We had to have spinach and garbanzos again.  As delicious as we remembered.  And we were pleased to note that the spinach and garbanzos Jerry cooked in Irvine were exactly right.  I then asked the bartender to choose two more dishes for us.  He suggested, and I agreed to, a cazuela (casserole) of shrimp and fish, and a lamb and vegetable skewer.


When the cazuela arrived, it was filled with shrimp, fish, and what looked like some kind of sprouts (like alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts).  On closer inspection, the "sprouts" appeared to be worms.  A bowl filled with worms.  Jerry and I were both brave enough to try one each and we then agreed that not only did they look like worms, but they felt like we thought a worm would feel in one's mouth.


I asked the bartender if he knew what they were called in English and he did not.  He called out to a customer at another table and she told me in English that she was pretty sure they weren't worms, thought they were fish of some kind, but did not know more than that.  I laughed and said they still looked and felt too much like worms for our taste.

After I emailed the photo to Margarita to find out what they were called, my personal research librarian, Jerry, checked things out this morning and we now know all we need to know about the worms that are not worms.  Angulas, 2-inch-long (5cm) baby eels are a traditional Basque dish.  Six families are the principal suppliers in the world.  These baby eels, also known as elvers (a crossword puzzle staple) in English, are rare and very expensive (more than $40 a pound) and in the 1980s were so hard to find that the price was up to $120 a pound.  So, one of the Basque family companies came up with a less expensive imitation.  They work with Japanese technology to convert surimi (fish from Alaskan waters pressed fresh into blocks on factory ships) into pseudo-elvers, which they call "gulas," by forcing the material out, spaghetti-like, into the shape of elvers.  A touch of squid ink is then added to tint the backs dark.  What makes it obvious these are fakes is that there are no eyes.  Now, why anyone would want to eat anything that looks and feels like a worm (or baby eel) — pseudo or not — is beyond me.  Margarita, by the way, thinks they are "marvelous"!



  1. Hello Mitch:
    We can see that you are both getting into the Spanish way of life immediately and with such gusto!. The seafood looks to be absolutely delicious and we are sure, tasted just so. However, we too would have passed on the 'worms'....rather too many memories of wormeries from our gardening days!

  2. Shellfish? Yes.
    Skewers? Yes.
    Bowl of Teeny Eels? No.

  3. Even looking at the worms made me a bit queasy! But the jumbo prawns look amazing. When you get settled and go shopping, keep a look out for Argentine red gambas. They are red in colour before cooking and are amazing - a taste somewhere between prawns and lobster. They are readily available in Spain (thanks to close trade links with Argentina) but sadly not in the UK. Trust me, they're very good.

  4. J&L: It was unfortunate. If I didn't focus on the fact that it looked and felt like a worm, the gula actually tasted good. But, I don't think I'll be able to get past the idea that I'm eating something that -- not vegetable -- that was dug up from the garden.

    Bob: :)

    Craig: We commented that last night's gambas were like lobster. Thanks for the recommendation. Can't wait to find those Argentine red gambas. Also, can't wait to have a home in which to prepare them (for Jerry to prepare them). We can't keep eating like this or we'll go broke!

  5. It´s always a pleasure check this blog,today a get caught by surprise again.
    If there is a way to "become a local", that way is trough the spanish food.
    You guys are doing pretty pretty well, and i´m so glad you both are happy in your new country.

    By the way Mitch, i have found some Auto-promotion Video Series of Andalucia´s Tourism Agency, are called "Andalucia es de cine", these videos last only a few minutes and show different places of Andalucia from aerial views.It is a must see. All videos are available typing ANDALUCIA ES DE CINE in youtube.

    PD: Next time order Gambas al pimpil or gambas al Ajillo, you will fall in love immediately.
    I would like to say again, that it´s a pride for me see how good is going to you folks.

  6. Sorry, i forgot to say that the videos are a good tool for future trips to other places, because you see the place before you go,and the main reason it´s because the narrator speak a perfect,clear and slow spanish,so you could understand a lot of what he´s saying.

  7. Jazintosh: Thank you so much for the kind words and the great recommendations!

  8. Jaz: More thanks! (Perfect, clear, and slow spanish is always helpful!)

  9. WOW that skewer looks amazing [dabbing my mouth in the mean time]. I wouldn't go for the eels [worms], but I do love me some gamba's.

    Using the Google translation tool: toallitas húmedas

  10. Peter:
    The last time we were there (in February), we had a fish skewer that was phenomenal. And last night's gambas were the best I've had (like I said, good enough for me to not mind getting messy).

    Don't you just love those translators? My favorite is WordMonkey. But, sometimes, the translations get a bit confusing.

  11. The look alone would have scred me off, bravo to you both for at least giving them a try...

    so glad I found your blog...


  12. I am properly shamed. One of my biggest 'meltdowns' here in AZ was not finding cottage cheese I could eat. LOL I'm not a traveler let alone a mover as you are. Incredibly intrigued. What an amazing life you have chosen!!!


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