Xabi Alonso talks gastronomy & food
I just saw this on El País, which must love Xabi Alonso as much as we do (and it’s also a good opportunity to repost the lovely photos from that article). Their blog about food, El Comidista, chatted with Xabi about food, since it’s well-know that he’s interested in all gastronomic matters. The fact that he’s so interested in food and knows so much just adds to his perfection. Muy, muy jefe. And also very, very Basque.
It’s cliché to say that we Basque people like to eat well. But it’s true for Xabi Alonso, Real Madrid footballer and an aficionado of good food. Reading his answers to the questions, it appears that the Donostiarran enjoys playing with the ball as much as he does eating lamb shoulder chops, guisantes lágrima (a type of pea found on the Gipuzkoan coast) and Cristal peppers. I won’t say that Alonso is perfect – he hates olives and doesn’t play in Athletic – but it is a pleasure to find athletes that appreciate gastronomy this much.
What is your first memory associated with food?
The macaroni with tomatoes and hard boiled eggs that my grandmother Mertxe made in her house in Tolosa.
As a child, what dish were you made to eat that you detested?
I think olives. My grandfather used to take my brother and me to the gastronomic society in Orendain, they always gave them to us and I could try them a thousand times, but I still won’t like them.
Do you cook? What? When?
I cook a bit. But what I like best is food and the things that are made with pleasure and affection. When? When I go up to Donosti and we get together in the sociedad. What? Nothing grand, we usually buy chops with red peppers or lamb shoulder chops. I’m a limited cook, and a grateful eater, jaja.
Out of the ones you know, which footballer is the best chef, or the one who knows the most about the subject?
The one that has the most interest and curiosity is Aitor López Rekarte, whom I played with in la Real. In fact, he now owns a deli in Mondragón. It sells both wine and food.
Which is (or was) your favorite guarrindongada [it’s like a favorite, strange comfort food]?
I believe I’m from that generation that at times has a snack of a nocilla [it’s like Nutella] and chorizo from Pamplona sandwich, an impossible combination…
Do you have any special memories of a meal?
I have many memories and unforgettable dishes. Grilled cigalas (crayfish) fresh from Cádiz were marvelous, a sea bream that I fished in Zumaia (because it was the biggest fish I ever caught), chipirones pelayo (baby squid and onions). Grilled hake throats and turbot from Elkano, they’re really something. Chops and red peppers at Julián de Tolosa, Martín’s torrijas…
[My mouth is watering thinking of torrijas – I love them!!].
Is there anything you would never eat, even if you were dying of hunger?
I would say no, almost like Rocky, jaja. Although I would try to avoid frog’s legs.
It’s a fact that the best pinchos (Basque tapas) in the world are made in San Sebastían, so can you recommend us a couple of bars?
It’s always difficult because there’s so much variety and each place has its specialty. In the old part, there are many great bars. Ganbara is wonderful, they specialize in mushrooms. A Fuego Negro is innovative and the quality is great. La Cuchara de San Telmo has great mini pinchos. Paco Bueno is a classic with the best sandwiches.
Does your family bring any type of food from País Vasco when they come to see you in Madrid? What?
My father usually brings me meat from Tolosa, which is like butter when you eat it. Some friends from Tudela send me the first asparagus of the season, artichokes, guisantes lágrima and Cristal peppers, which I have a weakness for.
Basque people and food, is it genetic or learned?
It’s cultural, you absorb it from the time you’re a child. The celebrations almost always take place around a table and that makes you enjoy it. As you grow up, if you have a bit of curiosity, the possibilities that we have in Euskadi are a privilege.
You’ve committed a serious crime, and are sentenced to death. The night before sitting down in the electric chair, you’re allowed to request your last meal. What would be on the menu?
That’s a difficult question. I think the menu would be so extensive that I would come down with indigestion before the moment. But I would eat various things, such as grilled mushrooms with egg yolk, guisantes lágrima, a bit of seafood, a variety of grilled fish (bream, turbot, sole, tuna belly), lamb chops. And to end, a bit of torrija and cheesecake. With something like that, I’ll be ready to have a long nap…
Can you share a simple recipe with us?
More than a recipe, it’s something that gives a finishing touch to red peppers. When you’re cooking them in a frying pan on low fire, sprinkle a bit of sugar. You can see that I’m limited in the kitchen and I don’t attempt to give a lot of advice.
But you’re still perfect, Xabier Alonso.