|This is my photo of Cadiz, not Santa Maria. Close enough.|
Granted Chris has got 30 years on me in life and six years on me in ex-pat life, but still, he’s done it. He did Goldman Sachs for a while, quit to become a playwright, then quit that to explore Spain, where he eventually found his spouse and settled in the sun-drenched port town where Columbus departed in search of India.
Upon walking into his impeccably decorated, spacious apartment with views of the bay, Chris offered us a glass of Xerez, the regional spirit that’s nearly identical to Sherry (or maybe it is Sherry, I forgot, and neither Sarah or I liked it enough to care). While he was explaining Xerez’s history in lecture number 1 of the 3,937 we received in our three days in Puerto de Santa Maria, we were interrupted by a pop-in from his neighbor.
A tiny gypsy who very well may have been going on her second century of life walked in, bearing a large bag of snails, which happened to be in season. She yakked in a Spanish dialect that was impossible for me to understand a word, yet Chris was able to decipher. He later told me that she lived on the first floor with four generations of gypsies.
Post gypsy pop-in, we moved to his dining room to sip on our second round of Xerez, while we snacked on ham and cheese.
The front door opened again and in walked Chris’ husband, Nestor. It might sound weird to describe him as adorable, but to call him anything else would be a disservice. His perfectly molded hair was a shade of auburn that I believe is the exact pantone for Andalucian Homosexual.
He gave us enthusiastic welcomes and then darted to the kitchen to heat up the snails.
Moments later, we were each facing a bowl loaded with two-centimeter-long snails sitting in an opaque green broth. We were given tooth picks for the snails that couldn’t be sucked directly out of their shells and told to dig in. They were ridiculously tasty.
Nestor applauded the gypsy grandma’s culinary prowess as she got 99% of the snail heads to cook while sticking out of their shells, a trick he said was not easy to achieve.
If I’d have known how great snails and homosexuals went together I would have tried to incorporate many more in my life at an earlier age.
Nestor and Chris knew every corner of Puerto de Santa Maria and the entire Jerez province. They told us exactly where to eat and what to get from each restaurant. Their recommendations were flawless.
The Pavia de Merluza (a tender, juicy fish battered to perfection) was so good at Casa Paco that I told Sarah to give her the engagement ring to the chef. Not that I’d rather marry a 55-year-old portly chef (then again Chris does make interracial homosexuality seem really cool), but I felt we owed him something really, really nice and that was the most valuable thing we had on us.
After a round of two pavias to our dome, we continued to blitzkrieg our palates with some platter of stuffed seafood and squid in ink.
I don’t think Chris nor Nestor need the extra income they
earn from airbnb, I think they do it just because love showing off their town and knowledge
of it. The next morning Chris offered us a tour of the neighborhood, so we went
around as he popped into every other shop to exchange a friendly hola.
We returned home to find an apron-wearing Nestor in the kitchen whipping up a medley of dishes. This despite the fact that we already had grand lunch plans as we would travel to travel to Medina Sidona for a regional feast in the mountains.
At the meal we were joined by Dean, a Harvey-Weinstein-resembling Staten Island ex-pat who’s lived abroad since the mid-90s.
He spoke of his kids often and seemed to have a close relationship even though he didn’t live in the same country for much of their upbringing. Then he told me they had two of the most respected jobs in the United States, so he must have been an exemplary father, as anyone without a solid fatherly influence couldn’t achieve the prestigious positions (at least in my mind) of a Prescott, AZ school teacher and "guy who does something" in Mendocino’s marijuana industry.