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Happy-Gourmand

Yes, we have no canaries

Having had a good dose of North Africa, we had a change of pace this past week.

We left Morocco and headed to the next leg of our journey: the Canary Islands.

Here was a chance for us to do some scuba diving, and have a bit of European beach holiday before we experienced West Africa. 

The Canaries are a group of subtropical islands in the Atlantic, off the coast of Morocco’s southern border with Western Sahara.

They are considered an autonomous community of Spain, so they are a part of the European Union. Euros are the currency and the food and drink are a blend of European flavours. 

A bit of trivia I bet you didn’t know: although they say there is the odd canary flying around (I never saw any), the islands’ name comes from the Latin “Canarias” meaning “dog”, after a fierce native dog.

This handsome canine is on their coat of arms. 

We expected to see numerous tapas bars on Gran Canaria — lots of fresh fish and funky little cafes and bars along the beach.

There was some of that, but this is a place very popular and relatively easy to reach for many Europeans, so it was even more touristy than we thought.

Thankfully, we were fortunate to be there in the shoulder season. 

I was surprised to discover that Maspalomas, the southern community on Gran Canaria, is akin to a beach town in say, Florida: along the seaside promenade there are rows of tourist shops.

These places full of trinkets are sprinkled between plenty of bars serving drinks with umbrellas and blasting various types of music, and restaurants all advertising a menu featuring everything from pizza to steak and frites to calamari.

Hubby and I like to have some kind of local flavour so getting off the beaten path was important for us. We asked our dive masters where they ate and got a great recommendation for a tapas bar called Pica Pica.

We looked for seasonal, local ingredients and found a place that served roasted Iberico pig with an array of homemade sauces. And, of course, we looked for the markets and the grocery stores to see what was fresh and what locals were buying. 

Citrus fruits are in abundance here; lemons and oranges grow locally. So do figs and dates, which are in season now. There is quite a bit of local cheese from cows, sheep and goats, some of it softer and some aged, so there is a variety of flavours and textures.

Tomatoes grow locally, and are prevalent in many sauces. Potatoes are also local, and a dish called Canarian potatoes is on almost every menu. 

We weren’t interested in eating at a steakhouse while on an island, although this is a popular Spanish theme. But the potatoes we did eat, with pickled anchovies, grilled sardines and grilled cuttlefish. 

The traditional method the Conquistadors used when they first brought potatoes to the island was to boil them in sea water, but you can use salted water at home. Serve them with the “mojo picon” sauce and you’ll see what the fuss is about. 

My favourite meal of the week was “gambas” we cooked at our rental apartment. We paid 10 € for a kilo and they were huge. The local white wine we enjoyed with them was only 5 €. 

Our best times on Gran Canaria were away from the crowds, but the challenge of finding local “holes in the wall” was part of the fun.

Being able to taste the salt water and see the sea life in the morning and talk to the fishermen in the afternoon was a treat. 

To then sample fresh seafood with local wine in the evening, on our little balcony under the moonlight, that’s  what made our visit so memorable.



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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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