In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Queimada Michele Morano And later, after the mussels, after the pulpo a la gaUega, the swirling bits of octopus flesh in a sauce of garUc and tomatoes, after the glasses of wine and loaves of bread broken and passed hand to hand, after the strong local blue cheese spread thick on thin crackers and the apples drizzled with honey, after we have aU eaten as much as we can and then picked the remains from one another's plates, tucking into our mouths one more bite, one more spoonful, one more tangy or sweet or salty fingertip, then we turn, lights dimmed and candles aflame, to the Queimada. In the kitchen Chus shows me the brown ceramic bottle, the label handwritten : Aguardiente. I say it aloud. The other words I cannot pronounce because they are in the dialect of GaUcia, the province where Chus was born. He is the only Gallego among us, the only person with roots in the land ofmagic and spirits, ofincantations. Chus opens the bottle, holds it out for me to smeU, explains that this is liquor made from the skins of grapes, not quite wine, not quite whiskey, and stronger than either. May I taste it, I ask, and Chus smiles, not yet, not until we tame it with fire. His smile is fuU, expectant. In this apartment, which is not where he Uves but where he spends his extra time with a dozen other artists, painting, sculpting, developing photographs, Chus is more himself than anywhere else. I have seen him in bars, at the homes of mutual friends, on the street as he heads off to work, and nowhere else does he look quite so fuU, quite so content. And above aU tonight, a night on which he has brought this group together—his coworkers from the newspaper, their partners and friends—to share food and drink and the experience of caUing spirits to us. Around the table there is silence and arms resting on stomachs. Rays of moonlight outUne the window shades, outline Chus positioning the large clay bowl in the middle ofthe table. I say that the moon is fuU on the winter solstice, imagine, and the others sigh yes, how amazing. I arrived with a 24 Michele Morano25 fuU moon, I do not say, and I wül see six more, perhaps seven, and then I wül leave. I am already nostalgic, already sad for the day I arrived here, so impressionable and with so much faith. And sad for this night, too, which I am already imagining as memory, the night ofmy first Queimada in a cold apartment on CaUe Independencia, Oviedo, Spain. And then we begin. Chus says to me, the foreigner, the person for whom every ritual is new: Pretend we're on a beach. The waves are roUing into the shore, the sand is moving under our feet. We can feel the spirits rushing on the wind to listen to our pleas. His eyes move around the table, to Lola, to Begoña and Pascual, to Isabel and her eight-year-old daughterVirginia, to Alberto, to Pilar, to me. He waits untU we are aU focused intently on him. And then he smfles and shrugs and begins. The wooden ladle brims at the level ofour eyes. Pilar Ughts a match, and we inhale as the fire erupts, pulsing over the ladle, dripping down and across the surface of the sugared Aguardiente in the bowl. Chus stirs carefuUy before scooping again, lifting and holding and releasing a long blue stream ofUquid fire. Over and over, the motion in his wrist hypnotic, he stirs and lifts and spills, finding a rhythm that the words begin to ride. Three months ago, I did not understand the language here. I listened to the words and sometimes understood them but not the language, not at aU. Spanish. CasteUano. And then early one morning in a lighted bar when I was tired from a long day, a day of taking Spanish classes and teaching EngUsh classes and making my way through the unfamUiar streets, Lola and Püar talked and I Ustened to the sounds Uke short, lapping waves. The table...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 24-30
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.