Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It didn't start out as a nightmare. It started out as a quite pleasant dream. I was in Spain, on vacation, I think Madrid. I was looking for a cafe to take breakfast at and I passed by one place with a sign that said, in English, "Jazz Session." So, being a jazz fan, I went in, though it seemed odd that they were featuring jazz in the morning. It was a fairly typical Spanish cafe, with a bar and some tables, but I didn't see a bandstand. Then I noticed a staircase with a sign that said "Jazz," and a red arrow pointing downward.
I walked down to the cellar and opened the door. It was a large room. The music sounded great. Better than I was expecting. Rather than a small combo playing standards, it was a group playing fairly complex arrangements. But the place was noisy with conversation. There were people in armchairs and on sofas conversing loudly. I hate it when people don't pay attention to the music, especially when it's so good. So I decided to get closer to the musicians. It turned out that they were all seated around a big banquet table. I took a seat at the table. I recognized several of the musicians. They were major European jazz figures, mostly Italian. They finished the number they were playing and took a break.
A waitress came around during the break to take orders. I said, "Un cafe con leche, y..." I couldn't think of the name of the pastry I wanted, a little tart with almonds. "Y-y-y-y-y," I continued, stalling. I figured even if I didn't know the exact name of the item I could ask for a pastry "con almendras." But I couldn't even think of the Spanish word for pastry. I was about to say "pasticcia," but that's an Italian word (and, as it turns out, a conjugation of the verb meaning "to make a mess"). I thought the word might be "torta," but in Mexico, at least, that's a sandwich. I didn't want to be laughed at for asking for a sandwich with almonds. The waitress was staring at me impatiently. I didn't know what to do. I wanted a pastry with my coffee, but I couldn't come up with the name. In one last-ditch effort to stall her, I said, "Y tambien..." When I said nothing more she announced that if there were no more orders she was leaving.
I was doomed to having my coffee without pastry. And I was pretty hungry, too.
Note: the most famous Spanish almond cake is the torta de Santiago, but that's not what I was thinking of. In fact, I might have been trying to order an imaginary pastry, though I'm sure something like it must exist somewhere in Spain. I was imagining a small pastry with a cupcake/muffin shape, but denser, with almond-flavored flour (not an almond paste filling) and sliced almonds on top.