Cargols, Correfoc and Castellers. Do you know what these 3 words mean? Well, I must say in Catalonia they represent the essence of festivity since they are present in all the folkloric celebrations. Popular traditions exemplify the soul of a country and it is through these manifestations that the true personality of a civilization comes out.
In Barcelona there’s an enchanting district known as Barri de Gràcia (mostly called Gràcia). It is a lovable place made of tiny tree-lined streets and little squares where people crowd bar terraces during the all year. It’s like a little village within the city and it has a unique bohemian soul. But there’s one thing that turns Gràcia into one of my favorite districts in Barcelona: la Festa Major de Gràcia (Gracia Festival), a folkloric festival celebrated every year in August. For almost a week streets and squares are decorated by neighbors who compete to win a prize. You can walk among pretty sirens, enjoy an illuminated colorful garden and if you look up at the sky you can see flying musicians or fabulous Venetian masks.
While I was roaming around Gràcia I noticed all the festoons where made with recycled materials: plastic bottles converted into flowers and fishes, Nespresso capsules transformed into curtains, plastic cans turned into insects, old cds decorating sirens’ tails.
After enjoying such fantastic creations I felt quite hungry…as usual ;). I had not a specific idea in my mind. Suddenly I saw something quite interesting, down in the street there was a stand with both Catalan and international delicacies: Tasta Gràcia (Taste Gracia). A tempting smell led me in front of a huge paella (pan) full of cargols (snails). A nice cook was smiling at me telling me the secrets of his delicious recipe: cargols a la gormanda.
Snails are gastronomic specialties here in Catalonia, if you go to traditional restaurants you can taste them in many different ways. The most common is Cargols a la llauna, snails baked with garlic and cooking salt that are eaten with all i oli, a typical Catalan sauce made with egg, olive oil and garlic. I wanted to know more about Tasta Gracia so I met the organizers of this culinary initiative. They welcomed me with a succulent dish of snails and a glass of excellent vermouth (a flavored wine). I was sitting in a garden, tasting authentic delicacies, talking about food with funny people in a bright summer day. How could I ask for anything more?
Tasta Gràcia was born in 2008 under the initiative of a group of people interested in food. These people realized they had in common the passion for snails and food in general. All of them knew the Aplec of Lleida, a gastronomic festival celebrated every year in May where thousands of people cook, taste and enjoy 12 tons of snails. Inspired by this festival, they founded El cargol graciòs, an association that wants to promote food in a cultural way. So they started meeting people, organizing open activities and they proposed to the coordinators of the Fiesta Mayor de Gràcia to open a gastronomic corner to celebrate food. A part from cooking snails and other Catalan delicacies, they offer international food and make wine tastings. Their main objective is to create a consciousness about food that unifies people and help to comprehend and share diversity. El cargol graciòs wants to stimulate a cultural and territorial cohesion; it’s a way to celebrate with friends, neighbors and with everybody. Once again food inspires, delights and unifies people!
The other C I mentioned is Castellers, people playing drums and building spectacular human towers. Look at the way they erect a castle of about 7 levels! It’s amazing!
The last C is Correfoc (firerun), a very popular Catalan tradition where a group of devils dance spreading sparks from fireworks attached to forks.