6.10.12

Aubergines and Old Lace

I am sure that many of you, upon reading the title of this post, immediately associated it with Arsenic and Old Lace, a play by Joseph Kesselring, better known by the film adaptation directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. You would be right, although the setting is not Brooklyn but the city of Almagro in Spain. Almagro is in the province of Ciudad Real, in the region of La Mancha, known for, amongst other things, its pickled aubergines and "encaje de bolillos" or bobbin lace, which was a large industry here until the 18th Century. The city was the birthplace of Diego de Almagro in 1475, who was to become one of the Conquistadores that was involved in the conquest of Peru. He was also in Panama, as was Teddy Brewster in Kesselring´s play (or at least he thought he was). Diego de Almagro was involved in various conspiracies and was killed in Cuzco, though not by arsenic. His servant took the body and buried it under a church in Cuzco, much like all the bodies that the Brewster sisters, in the play, buried in their cellar.
At the centre of the historic quarter of Almagro is its Plaza Mayor, the main square with its Tuscan columns and rows of windows. The square also houses the Corral de Comedias, a theatre dating back to the 17th Century that maintains its original structure and which is still putting on plays. In fact, every year the city is host to the  Almagro Festival of Classical Theatre. The importance of Almagro in the 16th Century is also evidenced by the large number of palaces, monasteries, convents and churches. One of such convents, the 16th Century convent of San Francisco, now houses the Parador de Almagro, which is a good option if you are planning to stay overnight. The local culinary specialties besides the aubergines, which you can buy homemade in a shop two streets down from the Parador, called Morris are the "pisto manchego", a kind of ratatouille (but much nicer) which is sometimes served with a fried egg on top; "duelos y quebrantos" which is scrambled eggs with local charcuterie products; and the "Manchego" cheese.

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