Spain . . . on the Road Again

5 Jun

I assure you that I won’t continually choose really very things that are two years old, but sometimes older is good. Just ask the Sex and the City gals about their success—two years ago. (Just kidding. I saw Sex and the City 2, and I thought it was a hoot. No one wants to talk about how a good portion of American women likely have a problem with their favorite ladies whooping it up in the Middle East. Or maybe they have, but I haven’t read it. Anyway, xenophobia, anyone?)

People don’t seem to take issue with their leading ladies going off to Europe for a whirlwind tour of the best eats and spirits a country has to offer, however. Spain . . . on the Road Again, the 2008 television series that aired on public television, finds the charming Gwyneth Paltrow, Spanish actor Claudia Bassols, renowned Chef Mario Batali, and food writer/cookbook author extraordinaire Mark Bittman traveling the roads of Spain in swanky Mercedes, engaging in witty repartee, and getting sloshed in each of the 13 episodes of this series.

When I asked a good friend—a foodie of sorts—if she’d seen any of the episodes, she replied that no, she hadn’t, and that she’d heard that everyone on the show came off as “insufferable.” “EH?” I said. I, for one, had no idea that Gwyneth Paltrow had such a wonderful disposition prior to watching Spain  . . .  on the Road Again. She is seriously hilarious—a guy’s girl, really. She’s down to earth, unpretentious, and seems to enjoy cutting loose when the opportunity strikes. And she’s so naturally stunning. I’m taken aback how she can look so regal without a trace of makeup. (I do realize I’m blathering on, but I never thought one way or the other about Ms. P before watching the show, and I certainly knew a fair share of folks who for somewhat unjustifiable reasons loathed her; so it was very nice to see her in this new light. The light of España!)

Mario Batali’s orange Crocs and fondness for dressing down for all occasions are a bit of a downer, but he has his comedic moments, as well—and he’ll randomly throw out proof that he’s pretty hip. I believe it was in an episode where he and “Gwynnie” are visiting a gallery, where he drops a Gang of Four reference. (If you aren’t into English post-punk, you don’t really care.) Mark Bittman is exactly how you’d imagine him, if you’re familiar with his New York Times column or blog: dry, a little crotchety, but lovable. “Bassols,” as she’s often referred to on the show, is glamorous and intelligent. She’s the least entertaining of the lot, but she’s most fluent in Spanish and serves as the tour guide on the show.

If you don’t think you’d grow bored watching people eat and drink, and discuss in both English and Spanish what they feel about what they’re eating and imbibing, this show is for you. The locally grown food, its preparation, and the enjoyment it brings are so impressive that you can’t really help but at least attempt to eat better after watching a few shows. Vegetables never looked so delectable—I promise you.

PS: Check for air dates on the Spain . . .  on the Road Again web site (above). Alternatively, the series is available on good old Netflix.

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