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Musings of an Obscure Composer

The Nagual Composer's periodic musings on the milieu of "New Music," and other topics that cross his mind.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We Owe the Catalans So Much

“bailan tregua y Catalá …”
- Julio Cortázar from
Historias de Famas y Cronopios

Think of all we owe Cataluña? They are the folk who gave us that gentle, elegant, dance of resistance, the Sardana. The Catalans gave us the music of Mompou, the architecture of Lluís Domènech i Montaner (which I prefer to the lunatic opus dei wet dreams of the right-wing Gaudí).  The Catalans gave us goose with pears in cava. But for Cataluña we would not have, the great novel of the Spanish civil war, Mercè Rodoreda’s La plaça del diamant. The Catalans produced some of Europe’s finest Romanesque art works. They gave us Barcelona, that golden town. They are an admirably industrious culture. They match the Basques dish for dish in kitchen.

What a peculiarly eccentric culture the Catalans created for themselves. They sit between France and the Carmenland of Andalusia. They resist the cultural dictates of imperial Castilla and long for their days of Mediterranean primacy under the Aragon-Catalan empire. For me, there is usually something in Catalan art (Picasso and Dalí excepted) that is somewhat reticent even it its most expansive and baroque moods. Mompou embraces that reticence and quietude whole-heartedly. But, I find it too in Miró and Montsalvage.

Not all Catalans stayed at home and of those who left, they didn’t all go to Paris. One who left for greatness in Cuba was the legendary mixologist, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert Ribalaigua, who for many years owned the famous La Floridita bar in Havana. Someday Fidel and Raul will die, the politics of Cuba will change and I will be able to visit Havana. It will probably be too late for La Floridita. Fidel already installed a statue of Hemmingway in the writer’s favorite corner of La Floridita. It’s now museum, a place of reverence. It’s now probably a rotten watering hole. Constantino is gone, but he left us my favorite cocktail the Floridita. Let us drink to Catalans everywhere!

El coctél La Floridita

1 ½ oz. white rum (use a good rum like Mathulsalem)
½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (put the rind in the shaker too)
½ oz. sweet vermouth
Splash of grenadine (real grenadine if possible, rather than that died sugar water)
Splash of white crème de cacao

Shake all the ingredients over cracked ice and strain. Serve in a martini glass with a slice of lime for garnish.

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