Fiesta de la Clotxa, Benissanet
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Review of "Fiesta de la Clotxa, Benissanet"
I am back, and determined to start posting regularly agan!!
I have just finished my breakfast and thought you might like me to tell you about it....Not that interested?? No I don't blame you! But actually my breakfast was more interesting than most, as it was eaten in the company of around 1000 other people in the warm spring sunshine.Welcome to yet another Spanish Fiesta.
The Spanish love their fiestas. It is indeed hard to make it through any month of the year without at least a smallish one happening somewhere. The word itself can actually mean any type of holiday day, from a day when you don't have to go to work like Sunday to a full blown party with balloons and cake..or anything in between. This particular fiesta (or in the Catalan language, festa) was more of your sedate type with hundreds of Spanish people doing what they like to do most in the world...eating, and more importantly eating in company.
Ribera De EbreRibera de Ebre (loosely translated as “the river edges of the Ebro") is a geographical area, similar to a county, consisting of 14 small villages and towns clustered around the banks of the River Ebro, the largest river in Spain. Located in Southern Catalunya, these 14 villages share the fortunes and misfortunes of rural life, banding together occasionally for sports events, fiestas, political spats and of course petty rivalries. With Mora D' Ebre as the largest and the area capital, the towns included are Mora la Nova, Benissanet, Miravet, Garcia, Vinebre, Asco, Ginestar, Flix, Riba Roja D' Ebre, Tivissa, Rasquerra, La Palma D' Ebre, and Torre D' Espanyol.
The Clotxa (pronounced Clocha) is a very traditional rustic dish from the Ribera D' Ebre and it's neighbour, Terra Alta (high ground). It is a traditional farmworker's breakfast in the true sense of the word, eaten after the morning routines of the farmworker are completed. Elaborated over an open fire in the field by the farmers themselves, it supposedly sets them up for the rest of the day..or at least till lunchtime, although in truth it probably heralded a quick siesta under a shady bush to sleep off the heavy meal.Per person, a couple of tomatoes, an onion and a few cloves of garlic are cooked over the open fire barbecue style with their skins still on, together with a whole sardine that has been preserved in salt. Then a rustic loaf of bread is cut in half with each person taking half and scooping the centre out. The cut edges of the bread and the scooped out centre can also be toasted on the fire to taste.
When the vegetables are all cooked until they are soft and collapsed, each person takes his half a loaf of bread and squashes all the other ingredients into the hollowed out centre. The garlic cloves and the onion should just squeeze out of their skins, and the sardine can be lifted from it's central spine before squashing the flesh into the bread hollow. All the ingredients should be well mixed together, and finished off with a good splosh of olive oil, before the scooped out centre of the bread is plonked back on top.
La Fiesta de la ClotxaClotxas can now be eaten at various small fiestas in various towns, and participating local restaurants serve them from 11th February until 1st March, but it is best enjoyed at the annual Fiesta de la Clotxa which I have just attended. Like many Catalan traditions that were quashed by Franco's regime, this traditional dish has been re-invigorated and celebrated in recent years and this year is the 14th annual celebration of it. The fiesta moves each year, with a different one of the 14 towns proudly hosting it each year on the 2nd Sunday in March. This year was the turn of Bennisanet and they entered the 21st century by offering the tickets for sale online as well as at the local ajuntament (town hall), with none for sale on the day.
With over 1000 people to feed, volunteers were hard at it all morning, cooking and setting up tables chairs and bins. The, luckily ungrassed, football field was turned over to provide free parking with various signs and volunteers guiding cars in the right direction as they enter the village. Ticket holders were encouraged to arrive from 10.30am and are entertained with speeches a few stalls selling local cheeses, pottery, wines and olive oils, and a brass band. Food is served up at 11.30, but the long queues to get it meant we didn't get ours till gone 12.Having bought five tickets at 4 Euros each ( around £3.50) we were given five half loaves of bread with the middles already cut for removal, five take away type containers holding the cooked fish and vegetables, and five small carrier bags. We took our haul to nearby half barrel barbecues to get the bread nice and toasted, then went and sat down at the long communal tables, where two of our party had bagged us five seats together.
Next came the job of putting all the food together, and to be honest by the time it is all ready it is no longer very hot, but you get used to luke warm food in Spain after a while. In each of the bags we found a plastic knife and fork and a paper napkin, together with a plastic cup, an individual wet wipe for afterwards and a red neckerchief for everyone to wear to make the party look more festive.Once you have got all your ingredients mashed up inside the bread, added the oil and poured yourself a glass of red wine, both from bottles distributed freely around the tables for each group of people, you then have to work out exactly how to eat this half kilo of bread loaf. Like all Catalan bread, this loaf is pretty tough and chewy, and not mouth shaped at all, especially as you are now expected to chomp straight thought the loaf sideways. But that's all part of the fun, you will get sardines and onions all over your face, and you will drop three thousand crumbs down your front and on your lap, but everyone around you is in the same boat so it's just funny. You will also likely end up picking tiny fish bones out of your mouth as it is almost impossible for some not to slip through and end up in your food. The fish is also very very salty,. Often this fish is rinsed several times before cooking, but for this traditional recipe it is cooked straight from the barrel of salt, and many people choose not to add the whole fish or even forego the fish and bring along a sausage from home instead to add to their breakfast.
The next half an hour or so is spent chewing away on your huge breakfast, enjoying the sunshine and the company and listening to the brass band who hopefully will be rewarded with their own breakfast before too long, before we all slowly wend our way home with full belly and smiles on our faces...what better way to spend a sunny Sunday morning.Tickets from atrapalo.com or in person from the ajuntament (town hall) € 4 per person
If you happen to be in this small area of Catalunya at the beginning of March, I can highly recommend this authentic fiesta. Even if you are enjoying the delights of Salou and Port Aventura you might want to drive or train (although it won't get you to all the villages) the 40 minutes or so South West, for a complete change of pace and to experience genuine rural Catalan life surrounded by normal people going about their business on their weekend off!! If you are unsure or confused by what is going on, I have always found the Catalans very kind and helpful to strangers, and someone will steer you in the right direction.. Their attitude has always been, the More the Merrier!!
Product Information : Fiesta de la Clotxa, Benissanet
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Listed on Ciao since: 12/03/2017