I think I must have downed at least four sherries whilst sat in the bar with Antonia, pondering on what to do with the mysterious icons. I weaved my way back to the house, went upstairs and gathered them up from the table where I’d left them after Anna and Antonio’s visit. Fortunately Miguel was still working and hadn’t yet plastered over the hole in the wall so I was able to replace the statues and crucifix carefully back into their resting place, offering up a few prayers and apologies for good measure.

Antonia thought I was being superstitious wanting to put them back in their hiding place. She said that we should repair them and keep them, sell them even, but my thoughts (somewhere around sherry number 2/3) were that someone had placed them there for a reason; that buried deep inside the outside wall, they were never meant to be found. After all, I reasoned, they had been there at least a hundred years or more? Maybe someone had died in the house and it was some sort of burial site. Who knows? Effects of sherry aside, I felt much happier once I’d put them back where I felt they rightly belonged.

And with that, I went back to the bar to fetch Irishman who’d been sat outside it all afternoon in the sunshine writing his thesis. His excuse for being there was that our Internet was off and the house was too dusty and noisy with the builders to be able to concentrate. I thanked Antonia, paid our bill and was just about to leave when she asked if I was busy the next day. ‘It’s the village Matanza (pig slaughter) on Friday and I need help before, preparing and peeling onions’ It seemed a perfectly innocuous request and as I’m always looking for ways to repay Antonia’s kindness, I said I’d be round the following morning to help.

the-onion-peelers--muma

When I wandered over the following day, I saw that I wasn’t the only one to be have been roped in for onion peeling. Sat outside in the morning sunshine were both Paco’s and Antonia’s respective parents. I bade them ‘Buenos dias’, introduced myself, and then grabbed a chair and sat down between them. Antonia handed me a sharp knife and a bucket, and then pointed to the large pile of onions in the corner of the barn. ’80 kilos to peel, Lottie!’ followed by a roar of laughter. 80 kilo’s indeed! Not only did my eyes not stop watering, but the painful splits and cracks on my hands which I’d developed from dish-washing and hand-washing clothes outside in cold water for 6 weeks meant that the onion juice felt like acid as it burnt into my skin; – never has onion peeling been such torture but I couldn’t possibly let anyone see that I was a wimp so I gritted my teeth, did the stiff upper lip thing and got on with it. Whilst fighting back the onion tears, I had wondered why Paco’s father was sporting a skullcap forged from onion skins? When he saw my quizzical look, he told me that it helped to stop his eyes watering. Always a follower of fashion and swift to follow suit, I copied him in the spirit of the occasion and got on with the peeling and chopping, I only hope that the relief on my face when the last of the onions was peeled and chopped was invisible.

peeling-onions---antonia

But the job was not yet finished. ‘Why are you taking the wheel off your car?’ I asked Paco. ‘Watch Lottie!’ and so I did. Antonia went inside to fetch her old metal mincing machine, spanners, and various implements. metal pipes were then speedily assembled on to the table outside. The car wheel was soon off and a pipe then attached to the wheel hub, which then in turn was fixed to the end of the mincing machine. The first of the bowls of chopped onions was brought to the table and Paco started the car engine, this in turn turned the metal pipe, which in turn got the mincing machine going. It may have been somewhat Heath Robinson, but over the course of an hour and a half, 80 kilos of onion became finely minced. It was a sight to behold.

the-car

mincing-onions-with-car-power

The reward for everyone’s hard work that morning, was a delicious lunch. Irishman, who’d been working at home, was summoned over to join us. Large glasses of sherry were poured and plates piled high with jamon were passed round as Antonia cooked an enormous paella. Sat there in the bosom of our neighbour’s family, not only did Irishman and I feel extraordinarily blessed being invited into our new community, we could not have felt more at home and relaxed. Here we where, laughing, eating and drinking, for the best part of an afternoon; taking part in the preparations for what we now know is one of the highlights of the village year, ‘La Matanza’.

47 Comments

  1. Amazing ingenuity to use the car for chopping onions. It’s probably a good job they didn’t tease you by asking to use your car, Lottie. Your neighbours sound such warm people, a real community. How is the Spanish coming along? Does it get better with each sherry? BTW I think you were right to put the icons back. RIP who’re or whatever was the cause.

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    1. I hate to admit this, but the more sherry i drink, the worse my Spanish becomes. I agree with the RIP, it was the only option. I don’t think I could sleep easy at night if we hadn’t put the icons back, lovely though they were. We’ve fallen on our feet here, the villagers are the most lovely people. We continue to be ‘blown away’ by their kindness.

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  2. That’s pretty inventive how they used the wheel of the car to mince onions. It looks like a fun and flavorful day with your new community, Lottie. It appears you have settled in there.

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    1. We love it here, BikerChick. It’s out in the sticks, deep down and dirty rural living, but it suits us just fine! Just occasionally I long for the bright lights but most of the time I’m really happy just being here on the side of the hill. Great to hear from you! xxxx

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  3. Good post Lottie, I’m pleased that Casa Nevin is now insulated against ghosts 🙂 the right decision I think. Bracing myself for the Matanza!…x

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    1. Yes, George. You need to brace yourself! I took over 1,000 photographs that day but sadly i can probably only use a handful. I don’t want to compromise my neighbours and it’s not something that everyone will understand. However it was an eye-opener into real Spanish village life and self-sufficiency xxx

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  4. Ay ay ay! Muchas cebollas. Ochenta kilos?

    The “onion mincer” is the perfect example of “necessity is the Mother of invention”.

    If I ever make it across The Pond, Spain will definitely be on the itinerary.

    Por favor, diles a Paco, Antoina y los otros que El Tejano dice “Hola, Y’all!”

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    1. Thanks AV. The BBQ rotisserie tractor sounds very grand – it’s given me an idea for here, plenty of tractors and chickens round these parts! – I love urban but after living in Jakarta, I’m more than happy to be a rural life now.

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    1. I wondered if anyone would ask me that question. I woke up this morning and there was your comment and one other asking about whether I’d taken photos or not. The answer is no, I didn’t. I felt quite superstitious about the whole thing and thought it best not to have any images of them. I have to say, they were very beautiful and it was tempting but well, it’s hard to explain, maybe I thought i’d take something away if I did so.
      It’s funny about onions, sometimes they hurt my eyes, sometimes they don’t – I think it depends on how old there are, younger ones seem to be a lot more pungent. These were those big spanish onions which are about the size of a babies head. I’m glad that onion peeling is over with for now!

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  5. Absolutely love this, don’t know which I like best your surprise at the car powered mincer, or their surprise at your surprise.

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    1. It was one of those weeks where something happened everyday, a blessing as it got us out of the house and away from the mess. Antonia is so lovely, she’s determined to get me involved in village life and ways to help improve my Spanish. That’s my biggest frustration here, not being able to communicate properly – I had to borrow some tampax of her last week – i mimed most of it and she eventually realised what i wanted – I hope she didn’t think i meant something else!

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  6. Ah, at last I understand. The statues were not such a worry for being landed with some old gypsy curse as much as an excuse for getting hammered on sherry. And next day it’s not so much a ‘help your neighbour at her festival day’ as an excuse for hair of the dog. I see it all now. Has the Irishman figured out that’s why you chose to live so close to the pub?

    Fair play, I sympathise with you over the onion juice stings, but not so much since you didn’t provide proof of your onion skin yamulka. Did yo actually watch the pig slaughter as you don’t mention that. I’m guessing it’s to smoke all the ham for the months ahead?

    I love the ingenuity of using the car to turn the mincer for so many onions.Maybe you can punish your car like that if it ever runs away without you again.
    Thank you for the entertainment and smiles Lottie.
    xxx Sending Massive Hugs xxx

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    1. Hah! You’ve got us sussed out alright! Detective David! Years and years ago I lived close to a pub, it’s mighty convenient I tell you 🙂
      I’m glad I’ve entertained you, it’s meant to be light-hearted. I try not to dwell on the less appealing side of things like our blocked drains etc!
      Muchos Huggos to you! XXXXX

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  7. Eighty kilos of onions? That must have been a mighty paella. Rural Spain sounds very communal, sharing the sherry and slaughter the swine. The car mincing the onions is an example of ingenuity being the mother of all inventions…
    I wonder if the car could be made to good use in England to improve the cricket score? ( or pump out rain water)

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    1. That’s not a bad idea about the cricket nor the rain water – boy oh boy there’s some flooding in Ingleterra right now. It’s a disaster zone. I think they need to call the Dutch in and start building some proper drainage channels and canals – no seriously, it’s only going to get worse so something major needs to be done about it.
      The onions were not for paella but for all the sausages etc that were made after the pig killing. more on that in the next post.

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  8. Holy weeping onions! “A Tale of a Few Sherries And The Mysterious Religious Icons.” So much mystique going on and I have to agree that putting the objects back was the right thing to do. Who knows? Perahps they’ll bring blessings to your home and to you and Pete. I am sort of superstitious and would have done the same as you.

    But on to the onions. I could not have perservered with the onion peeling as just the smell of onions sends my head realing. I love, love the taste of onions and garlic but my body says, “no you don’t.” So I use the dried and minced version and use a bit for seasoning.

    The neighbors are wonderfiul and I think you can thank your lucky stars for directing you to that area. The bar keepers seem to be a real blessing and I’d be hard put to find anything of the sort here in the states.

    Great writing as usual. I am slowly getting a real smell er, I mean feel, of the village. 🙂

    ~yvonne

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    1. Yvonne, that’s a real shame that you can’t eat onions. I’d be miserable if I couldn’t use them in cooking as they add so much flavour. The dried ones are good though and tasty when sprinkled on top of food.
      I’m glad you think that i did the right thing putting them back, i think so too. It’s rather nice knowing that they are safely back inside the wall where they belong, I’d still love to know more about why they are there, but I think it will always remain a mystery. If I do find out I shall let you know.
      The next post is going to be about the pig killing and you may not want to read it so just to warn you – I don’t want to upset you so please don’t feel obliged, I quite understand. XXXXX

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      1. Of course it doesn’t, Yvonne. Your views and opinions are important to me – as a vegetarian and lover of animals you are bound to feel passionately about such things, I accept that and love you all the more for it. You need never apologise to me. Lottie xxxx

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  9. Hi Lottie 😀 Love the car idea !! Okay girls. Non cook here !! Peeling Onions !! Simple. Peel them in a bowl of warm water. The water stops the droplets getting in your eyes and the warm water keeps your hands warm while peeling 80k. Ralph xox 😀

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    1. LOVE your top tip, Chef Ralpho! I’ve heard that one too and it does work as I’ve tried it when dealing with really fiery, eye scorching, burning your retina type onions – they can be quite evil. It was my hands that really really hurt. OUCH they stung. My hands were so painful anyway as I’d stupidly not worn gloves when washing so the detergents had played merry hell on my delicate lily-white youthful skin! haha! Actually the weird thing was that having recently moved from a tropical humid climate both Pete’s and my skin got really dry, it’s amazing how humidity, annoying though it is keeps your skin moist. Now i’m beginning to sound like a chicken….XXX

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  10. Great post. Well done replacing the icons. Did you photograph them i their place before they got sealed again?
    The car is a hoot – where there’s a wheel there’s a way!
    Sounds like such a great village and neighbours.
    I think I may pass on the pig day post. I’m a wimp.

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    1. A most excellent pun – I like it – Where there’s a wheel there’s a way!
      No I didn’t photograph them, I didn’t want to, tempting though it was. I thought it best just to leave everything as it was as before. They were rather lovely though and beautifully carved and painted.
      You are most certainly not a wimp but I understand you not wanting to read the next post, it’s not pleasant but I felt (a bit like my last post from jakarta on the feast of sacifice) that it’s something I should witness and be a part of so I could record it properly.

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  11. You are a photographing machine so I conclude that either you made a conscious decision not to photograph the icons at all, or you indeed did take pictures but omitted them from your blog for a reason. I can imagine all kinds of voodoo around this mystery. It would make a great suspense novel!

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    1. You dont’ miss a trick, do you? You are spot on, Sherry. I did make a conscious decision not to photograph them. I’ll admit it was tempting but a bit like certain folk who hate having their pictures taken because they think it takes away the soul, well I suppose I felt like that too in regard to the icons. I realised afterwards that I’m much more superstitious than I thought I was. It would make a great suspense novel – I fancied after the event that I could hear them knocking from inside the wall……

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    1. It was pretty ingenious, Marianne. The speed at which they rigged up the whole mincing table and had the wheel off, makes me think that they’ve used wheel power many times before, maybe for all sorts of things, not just onion mincing 😀
      Yes, 80 kilos is A LOT!

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  12. Hi Lottie, not wanting this to sound like a suck-eggs session but did you know that when you cut the top tapered end of an onion off there is no problem but when the bottom is chopped off, that releases the acids which make the tears run, i discovered this on a professional cookery course !
    Basically you chop the top off, score the skin down to the root end, slice if slicing or If chopping, cut half way through using the segment markings then once cut around then chop until the root end is reached then trim off………no tears ! Happy chopping 🙂

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    1. Andy, you are a genius! Thank you 😀
      Next time I cut an onion (which will most certainly be this evening) I shall follow your lead. Hopefully by the next Matanza, I shall have got it down to a fine art! great to hear from you. Lottie 😀

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      1. Hi Lottie, I’m no genius, just what I learned & seemed an appropriate reply, i gave Fiona(Duncan/Pickering) a first hand lesson…….chop chop, get skinning those now, non tear jerkers 🙂 x

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  13. Basically my weight (sigh) in onions is a horrendous amount of onions. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made an appearance in your dreams after that effort. And I’m wondering if they had an ‘after effect’ in the village following their eventual consumption… though they’d be a dietary staple there, so perhaps not. Full credit to the ingenious person who came up with the car contraption, otherwise you may still be sitting there, finely chopping and chopping and chopping.

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    1. To right we would! The car saved the day. Don’t worry Hayley, I wear a lot more than that gigantic pile of onions, no sausages for me!
      Here’s a little factoid, you never know but it may come in handy at a pub quiz some day….What is the most eaten vegetable in the World? – Answer: Onions
      If you didn’t already know that then you heard it here first! 😀

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  14. I think your decision to plaster the icons back up was a fine one, Lottie. Maybe they will be found again in another 100 years, a mystery will ensue and then they will once again be sealed up…a sort of time capsule sans the explanations.
    You have found yourself in a marvelous place. Such a great move to end up there. Warm folks and endless entertaining stories to share. Thanks for including us in the proceedings. 🙂

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    1. I like your thoughts on this and the idea of it being a time capsule sans explanations – 100 years later being found again and still the mystery goes on! A detective story with no end! Thanks as always for your comments, Steve. They are much appreciated 😀

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