Now, now, don´t you all start grumbling. I know what you´re going to say. Where does she get off, telling us how to rub tomato on a piece of bread? And, also, that´s some nerve, writing about Catalan tomato bread from enemy territory. Madrid, no less!
Well, you´ll have to forgive me. And catalanes won´t mind, I´m sure. Intercity and sporting rivalry nonwithstanding, even the most diehard madrileño will admit that when it comes to bread and tomatoes, they´re the best. We´ll argue Gaudí, and the beach, and the football, but not the pantumaca.
I learnt how to make pa amb tomàquet in Florence, Italy. Silly, no? I was doing a watercolour course there, and the school arranged accomodation with us. By chance, one of our flatmates was from Barcelona. She it was who initiated me.
I´d spend every morning going to all the galleries and the churches, trying to not wilt in the humid heat, and the afternoon drawing. Our evening ritual was to sit chatting in the shady garden and go through whole bags of tomatoes.
In Sevilla, where I lived then, toast with tomato is made by dousing a piece of bread with olive oil, topping it with slices of tomato, and sprinkling some salt.
The Catalan way is different.It only works with the best, ripest summer tomatoes, so don´t even bother otherwise. And yes, go right ahead and rub garlic first if you like. I think that calls for prior negotiations with everyone in the house, but each to their own.
So, what happens is, the tomato is cut in half , squeezed to let excess juice out, and then rubbed on the bread. Then, and listen up, because I found this pretty strange, you sprinkle the salt. And only at the end do you pour a trickle of olive oil on top. This way, the bread soaks up mostly tomato juice, the salt is quickly absorbed by the tomato, and the little oil sits on top, making all look glossy and beautiful. It´s healthier, and well in keeping with the Catalan tradition of thrift and good graphic design.
Marta, my friend from Barna, who will be on the receiving end of any indignant emails from her native land, also taught me the cheat´s method.
You take the tomatoes, cut them in two, grate them so that you just have pulp in a bowl. Then you salt and oil that, and put it on a table with the bread. People just spread the tomato when they want the bread, and it doesn´t go soggy. With a tortilla, or some jamón or caña de lomo, or tuna, it´s the perfect food for watching a Madrid-Barça match.
And if you´re thinking I´m going to say may the best team win, you´re outta your mind.