Monday, 11 August 2014


I agree with Elizabeth David on this one: this is an overrated dish. Perfectly pleasant but never spectacular in the way that a perfectly cooked risotto can be. It sounds almost insulting to say it is good street food because that is to imply that good street food can never be spectacular. Nevertheless, a good paella, served out of one of those colossal, slightly pretentious, pans: yellow rice, chorizo, chicken, mussels and prawns, to be gobbled in a market.

The village in Southern France where we spent summers in the nineteen eighties had a café (the "Café de la Paix"). When we moved there, it was known by some of the ex-patriots as Lenin's Tomb, so dour was the service; the first time I went in with my parents, nervously, wanting to practise my French, the man behind the bar affected not to understand my request for "Deux cafés et deux Oranginas". Later the place was taken over by a younger couple who offered food in the evenings, advertised on a blackboard outside. But it never seemed to change. Every evening as we drove past the "Café de la Paix", the cry would ring up: "Plat du Jour? Paella!" We never tried it.