Mr. Melon Man swings his machete at an alarmingly wide arc shouting ‘Bom Dia’ – Valencia for good morning.
Having been ‘told’ that this beautiful man stood before me will be instrumental in my life I have been patiently waiting for him to arrive for the last six months. Jumping out of my seat to great him half way down the drive I am finally glad to have an opportunity to put a face to the pet name I have given him – Mr. Melon Man and now I can finally have a proper name to the most striking face I have ever seen!
He stops speaking Valenciana to me and asks me if I speak French, German or Spanish – Mr Melon man is multi-lingual!!
I opt for Spanish – What else can I offer? Welsh! That would confuse him….
He begins to introduce himself to me….
An almighty noise erupts.
I look to see a pointer type dog with the most adorable brown eyes holding my prize laying chicken in his mouth. The prize laying chicken who had to put up with the cockerel cock-a-do-ing through the length and breadth of France (but still continued to lay everyday without so much of a ruffle to her feathers) is locked between the jaws of death.
Set between the ever tightening jaws she is squawking and flapping in a protest of being thought of as a dogs dinner. Mr Melon Man, we haven’t gotten around to the formal name swapping introductions yet begins frantically pulling chicken killers jaws apart and yelling for him to let go.
Amazingly the dog obeys and my poor drool drenched hen shakes her self in a bid to recompose her dog breath soaked feathers and walks off unharmed to find something interesting to eat- that doesn’t smell or taste of dog.
Melon man, apologises and introduces himself as ‘Jose’.
I look at him – he’s almost biblical in appearance…and quite beautiful. His frame is solid and strong yet gentle, his blue eyes are the colour of the Mediterranean ocean and contrast perfectly with his olive skin. He puts chicken killer on a lead and ties him to a post.
Waving the big bunch of wild green asparagus under my nose he begins to educate me on the best places to find it. Prompting me to walk around my own land, he begins to show me the best places to find it, how to cut it – close to the bottom and what time of year it is best for picking.
Directing me back to my house he marches straight past me into my kitchen and begins to give me a Spanish cookery lesson on how to cook the best Tortilla.
“Oh! Tortilla de patatas“ I chime, pleased I know so much about Spanish cuisine in such a short space of time!
Tortilla de patatas is a much loved recipe for a cold upside down omelette with potatoes and is absolutely delicious.
“No No No” he chides “potatoes are out of season here….silly girl!” I am reduced to a naughty school girl in my own kitchen…..
This tortilla uses the wild asparagus. He begins to demonstrate how to cut it correctly for the dish. He proceeds to snip the most teeny weeny bit off the top – the best bit he assures me. I instantly begin to wonder why he would need such a big machete to cut the stuff half a metre from the bottom if you need only two centimetres at the top.
Of course the answer is obvious! The only snobbery to exist here in Valencia is with anything edible…
Yes that’s it! You park up in a highly visible spot, walk about with a machete the size of Ali Baba’s, cut whopping great stalks of asparagus. The whole community can then see what a fabulous hunter gather you are and that you have a massive bunch of the green stuff for your family, you can stroll back, machete swinging in pride – and then, you cut two centimetres from the top when your behind closed doors and no one is looking. Voila! – if your French and Tomar! – if your Spanish! Perfecto!!
Once my uninvited and unprompted cooking lesson is complete, Jose accepts what he calls a ‘sneaky’ glass of red wine – his wife is watching a soap opera on the telly and he isn’t really allowed to drink much because of his diabetes…
“oh one won’t hurt” he says before inviting himself to lunch the next day so he can make sure I‘ve cooked the tortilla correctly!
Jose – my melon man, has finally arrived in a whirlwind of cultural ambivalence and I adore him!!