On Marmalade

Remember that English is my second language so please be lenient.

Our particular feeling of a bed and breakfast at Albion Manor is related to the idea of being a link to the past and some good traditions (Beware! Some, not all traditions are good).  In this past, things were done not thinking in practicality or cost wise but in the only way things are or should be done (without killing ourselves in the process, after all we are in the twentieth one century).

In our table over breakfast we offer Seville orange marmalade.  It goes without saying it that I am the responsible for it and of course I am following a family recipe.  This peculiar way of making the concoction was develop in my country by my family in one of the most difficult time in the recent history of Spain.  If they manage I should do my best to try to made it now in here with so much wealth of options in our hands.

Imagine the scenario.  Spain 1940, the Civil War just finished in fact groups of terrorists (well I would not call them that, rather freedom fighters but again that depends in which side of the camp you are siting.  Is it not?) were hiding in the mountains fighting back in a desperate low key guerrilla war trying to send a message to the world that the spirit of democracy in Spain was still alive.  The Guardia Civil was kept busy trying to find and kill them, the guerrillas were as well trying to kill and avoid to be so by the others.  It was dangerous for every body but specially and ironically for the poor, as the African saying goes “When the elephants fight the grass suffers”.

My mother’s family lost every thing in the war, most important her father.  So my grandmother with her three kids moved to live with her two sisters and their family.  And they very were lucky. They managed to work for a landlord that allow them to live in one of his farms (bullfighting land) in the countryside deep in the south just one or two journey walk from Gibraltar.  Precisely one of the most active unsettled areas in the South.   They were allow by the landlord to use a little land to grow vegetables and rise some livestock.

Once when I was a child inadvertently I over heard a whisper that was suppose to be a secret. Even if decades has passed it was very incorrect to allow minors to know about wrong things that your elders did even if it was for a good cause.  You never know the licenses a child can take if he or she heard of broken rules done by their role-models.

In hot midday summers men goes for the canonised siesta and the women of the house gather together in the fresher part of the house to quietly chat.  It’s with those low voices conversations that kids finally surrender to the siesta or so the grownup people thinks.  In one of those days I learn of a time when my mother was a little girl (unbelievable to heard that she ever was).  Her two elder brothers were teenagers.  At the time it was almost customary in the farm for the boys to go to work.  I knew that it was often repeated to me, reminding me of how spoiled my cousins and I were.  Suddenly the voices went more quietly.  Some thing interesting was being mentioned.

I heard that during those wretched times my two uncles for a while were smugglers!  You see after the Spanish Civil war Great Britain closed it’s border that it had with Spain.  Yes, Spain has an actual geographical land border with Great Britain (even if Great Britain is an island) through its colony Gibraltar.  An illegal black market was instantly created.

In order to gain a extra money for the family my teenager uncles were put to work in that lucrative black commerce.  They used to go off for days, waking during the nights some time taking longer to use safer passes between valleys and mountains elevating the fears for an unfortunately encounter.  They have to be extra careful to keep an eye in two sides the Guardia Civil in one hand and the guerrillas in the other all looking for their precious cargo.

The cargo usually was beautiful silk female stockings from America, tobacco, café and sugar from Cuba, tea, and marmalade from England.  Back in the safety of home and one just can not imagine the relieve of the family seeing those two young lads approaching over the smooth hills that surround the house.  They will wait for the “connection” owner of the cargo.  But some times the connection coming to pick up the goods never showed up for reasons unknown- too sad or scary to even think about.  No one to turn to no one that could claim a thing that can be recognise to exist.  So here we have a family of very modest living some time enjoying the luxuries of a few.

The problem always so human was that once you try the good stuff you want more.  Of all the goods that they got to enjoy only marmalade could be reproduce by them.  I don’t know who, probably some of my great aunts figure it out.  Probably she thought of how strange the world was that the marmalade has to come from England when the oranges where produced right there in her own patio so to speak.  So having a beautiful Seville orange tree in the patio, keeping the seeds for the pectin and using the extra sugar (plus three extra ingredients that I will avoid mention if you don’t mind) they would produce the thing them.

And they did.  And they never commercialised it and never became rich.  In fact one of the most important job for absolutely everybody was to keep an eye in the horizon to spot any Guardia Civil on patrol and run to the house to hide anything what so ever that would be difficult to justify in such a lowly surrounding.

PS. For the enquiring mind.  Here in Victoria BC we receive authentic Seville orange once a year around February.  That is when I provide myself with the most important ingredient.  Ho ever I am trying to grow my own Seville orange tree from a seed of a tree from my own neighbourhood in Sevilla that I smuggled into Canada three years ago.  I guess that certain things just go naturally into your own blood.

Fernando at
Albion Manor Bed and Breakfast in Victoria BC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *