“There’s an art to eating the calçot,” Helena, our friend in Barcelona instructed us. Plastic gloves, like those of a cafeteria worker, covered her manicured nails. A white bib was strung around her neck to protect her designer jacket. “You must dip and then swallow it whole.” She unwrapped a spring onion-like calçot from newspaper, peeled the charred outside with her fingertips and dunked it in rust-colored pepper and almond sauce in. She tipped her head back and dangled the long flame-grilled snack above her open mouth. With surprising grace, she swallowed nine-inches of the onion before biting off the green tip.
I looked over at Patrick. He was visibly impressed. He had been hesitant about attending an onion festival; but once there, he enjoyed himself. How could he not?
We had arrived to find the fires roaring. Flames danced high above the grill. The vines and hard woods crackled as the coals began to glow. Dirt from the field still clung to the long white onions as they were placed in large batches over the fire to roast. Beers were poured as fast as we could drink them. Laughter filled the air. In the courtyard, families gathered around tables laden with the discarded green tips and charred outside of the calçots. This was a winter festival enjoyed mainly by locals. Our English voices were in the minority. In fact, even Spanish was minimal. This was a Catalan festival.