When I traveled to Venice with my mom in January, my eyes were full of Murano glass. I was wooed by a huge chandelier of candy pink roses and light green leaves, by bowls small and large and by jewelry everywhere. I even found a hilarious (and oh-so-slightly tacky) Santa Claus delivering his gifts from a gondola… when in Venice, right? We packed for Venice knowing that we should leave a little extra room for Murano glass and other Venetian goodies.
Our friend C. who recently visited us from Toronto came bearing Canadian gifts: Q-tips (the real brand, not the faux Q-tips that fall apart in your ear necessitating a trip to Emerg) and five lovely Crispy Crunch chocolate bars for me (the Crispy Crunch is a Canadian variation of the taste of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup… but ten times better. I kid you not.) Having emptied her luggage of these gifts, C. was ready to fill up the void with a very special Barcelona treat. What, do you suppose were her top contenders?
– a Caganer (the little figurine who poops in your nativity scene)
– a Barca jersey (Barca soccer ball, scarf, toque, mouse pad with a photo of Ronaldinho on it)
– local ceramics
– jewelry made by a woman in Park Guell (lovely pieces made to order while you wait)
Wrong! (Okay, C. did buy Barca jerseys for her nephews Sean and Jack but that’s not what she wanted for her adult self.) Cheese. Manchego cheese, to be exact. C. fell in love with the cheese in Barcelona and she fell hard… she sampled it every chance she got. When we ate at Cerveseria Catalana, one of our favourite tapas restaurants in Barcelona, there was no question that C. would be “jonesing” for a big plate of manchego.
Then C. confessed that she’d like to take some cheese home… and was that permitted? We have brought olive oil home from Florence in our luggage and sent Italian sun dried tomatoes for DPs parents in Canada with my mom… so we understand perfectly the desire for the edible souvenir, that gourmet treat. DP and C. unleashed their awesome internet research skills on the task and learned that Customs Canada would permit her to take 20 kilograms or 20 dollars of cheese (whichever came first) into the country. On her last day with us, we took C. to Caprabo, a local grocery store, where we spoke with the slightly intimidating women behind the meat and cheese counter about their manchego. They told us which was the best and the second best and sliced us off samples of the cheese they recommended. Yes, yes! This is it! We told the cheese-women how much C. wanted to buy and they were weighing it when suddenly she exclaimed, (her eyes all lit up like a Christmas tree) “I’ll take all of it.” You could see on their faces, “The whole piece?” Yup. The whole thing. DP had the brilliant idea of vacuum sealing the package and the women were happy to do it although vacuum sealing a kilo of manchego takes a bit of time.
C. carried her cheese home to our piso, happy-happy-happy. She placed it in the fridge before we went off to have Mexican food at Gracia’s Cantina Machita. Later, as she was packing, she left space for this extra special package and wrote herself a note that said only “CHEESE” which she left on the coffee table as a reminder. She even (and this might have been the move that got her into trouble with the cheese-gods) sent a facebook message to a friend bragging about the cheese…planning how they would consume it.
C. did not forget the cheese. I walked her out to a nearby taxi stand and she and her cheese were soon whisked away to the Barcelona airport. There was bad weather in New York (shocking) so her flight was delayed and, when she finally landed in Toronto, her bag had not made the trip. She sent us a quick message to say that although she had made it back “safe and sound” she was sans luggage and queso. It will probably just take a day, I thought to myself.
Oh no. The cheese-gods were not happy with C. She had been so cavalier about this particular manchego… counting her eggs before they were hatched. I started to think about her bag, somewhere in the world, its belly filled with ripe cheese…. imagine the experience of those lucky baggage handlers who grabbed this bag!
One day turned into two… and then three… and Cs luggage was presumed lost.
Then, five days after she left BCN, I was checking facebook and Cs status update was:
C. is wondering whether or not to try the cheese.
Yeah! Hurrah! The cheese was found. What? No, don’t eat it, C!!! Then we realized that she was just teasing us. She wouldn’t eat it… that would be CRAZY!
One day later, her status update read:
C. tried the cheese and still lives.
So, as far as I know, C. has not succumbed to botulism. And where had her luggage been all that time, you ask? Moscow. Her cheese went all the way to Russia without her. As DP pointed out, however, if you buy a kilo of cheese in Barcelona and that cheese goes missing, don’t you want it to be sitting on the tarmac in Moscow where it will stay nicely refrigerated? Yes, yes. You do!
Enjoy the manchego, C! (Secretly, we are very glad the Canadian government provides her with excellent and extensive health care.) We’re thinking of you… we still have your note that says CHEESE!