Paella, paella, paella…

‘Let’s have paella because there is almost no queue!’ Our decision was prompt because we were very hungry and also cold. The urge to fill our stomach with something warm was too strong to resist.

Hubbie and I were standing by a pop-up gazebo, selling freshly cooked paella at Cubitt Square. The pop-up canteen was one of the many street food shops, especially there for Lumiere London 2018.

Mmmm…, I’m starving…

There were two choices, seafood and chorizo. And we opted for the chorizo one…

The paella looked great and I was only very grateful because the rice was piping hot. However, my joy was short lived.

Why they make it salty?!

The dish was very very very very salty. ‘I tasted the paella as salty as this when I went to Málaga ages ago.’, I told Hubbie as I ferried the rice to my mouth gingerly.

Yes, the seriously brined paella did bring back a bitter sweet memory of my holiday at Málaga. The trip was my very first solo holiday and also turned out to be the last one. I was supposed to go with my friend but she got cold feet at the last minute and as a result, I ended up being in a foreign city all on my own.

After spending tedious four hours in a departure lounge at Gatwick Airport because the plane was delayed, I found myself walking through a deserted arrival lobby of Málaga Airport in the early morning. I can’t recall exactly how but I managed to communicate the address of my hotel to a taxi driver and he took me to an unassuming hotel on one of the quiet streets in the city centre.

My room was small and modestly decorated. It had no TV or a great view from the window. Then, the reality dawned on me, ‘Oh shit, will I have to spend my entire Christmas holiday alone in here?’

I must say I didn’t enjoy my four days in the Spanish port city at all. The first two days was especially boring because they were Christmas Day and Boxing Day. No place, except some eateries, was open and I spent my time, walking around a deserted port and a crumbling fort which overlooked the beach.

The hotel I stayed did not have a bar nor a restaurant, therefore, I had to find somewhere to eat. Would I look odd if I dined alone?, I pondered. Then, I saw a brightly lit sign of a tapas bar in the distance and decided to eat my first dinner of Málaga there.

The walls of the eatery was clad with dark brown wood and there were legs of pork dangling from the ceiling. I picked up a laminated menu from the counter and pointed at the picture of paella and then a word, “Diet Coke”. A man behind the counter gave me a slight nod and disappeared into the kitchen.

The man came back from the kitchen surprisingly quickly and placed a plate in front of me. The steaming heap of the sunflower yellow rice looked very tempting because I didn’t have a chance to eat properly that day, therefore, I picked up a cutlery eagerly and spooned the content into my mouth. But oh no, no, NO! The paella was very salty. It was so salty that I could only managed to eat less than half on the plate, despite I was starving. How can anyone find the dish that salty be palatable?!, I was utterly dismayed.

After the fiasco at the tapas bar, I resorted to eating every dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Their food was bog-standard but at least, their fried rice was no way as salty as the paella.

‘So the paella you had in Málaga was as salty as this?’, Hubbie shook his head in disbelief.

‘Oh, I can eat no more!’

I handed my half eaten paella to Hubbie who volunteered to finish it off. While watching him scoffing the rice and the chorizo in the dark at Gasholder Park, I wandered along a colonnade around the circular lawn. ‘Next time, we shall take paella with a pinch of salt.’ Hubbie declared as he joined me and Bella. I couldn’t agree more…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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