“Is there anything without meat on the menu?” The woman looked at us blankly, uncomprehending; the concept too radical to compute. “Our friend doesn’t eat meat, but she does eat fish.”
After tortilla was ruled out, we established that for non-meat eaters she had goats’ cheese, chips, salad and a vegetable stew that had no meat. It didn’t even have ham. Always, always check this when in Tenerife as the following is how conversations can pan out:
“Is there any meat in that?”
“No, no meat at all.”
“Not even ham?”
“Of course there’s ham…but there’s no meat.”
In this case although there was no meat, the stock for the vegetable soup was made with chicken stock. After a two hour uphill slog walking in the Teno Mountains our friend Sue was ravenously hungry. In order to be able to eat something suitably hearty she decided to overlook the fact that it was made with chicken stock.
It was only shortly after 1pm and they were obviously still sorting themselves out in the kitchen so we told the woman that we’d go for a wander and come back at 1.30. If she was pleased to have custom, she didn’t let on. On the way out I checked the menu again and noticed it had escaldón. Escaldón is usually, but not always, fish stock thickened with gofio. Sue eats fish and was quite excited by the prospect of trying this quite unusual local dish.
Thirty minutes later we sauntered back in to the basic, but welcome if not exactly welcoming, restaurant in Los Bailaderos called, surprise surprise, Los Bailaderos. There was no-one else in the dining room and one person in the adjoining bar. It took the woman about 10 minutes to make her way to our table. We didn’t mind the snail-speed service, we were happy to have a rest and a chat.
Ordering was easy in theory as we’d already established the only things that Sue could eat, but again it was essential to check first.
“The escaldón is made with fish stock?”
“No,” short, sharp to the point.
“Ah this one is with meat stock?”
Now I was stumped.
“No fish stock, no meat stock, what type of escaldón is it?”
“We don’t have any escaldón,” she shrugged. “There was a fiesta…”
Okay, it would have been easier to have replied that to my first question, but hey-ho back to the original plan.
“In that case we’ll have one vegetable soup…” my voice tailed off as I could see she was shaking her head.
“We don’t have vegetable soup. There was a fiesta.”
At this point it was becoming harder to keep a straight face. Less than 30 minutes previously we’d had the conversation about the veg soup. We realised she’d told us what dishes she had on the menu which had no meat in them, not what she actually had in the kitchen. The earlier exchange had been a totally pointless exercise. It was time for a different tack.
“Okay…what do you actually have on the menu?”
“Carne fiesta, carne de cabras, carne con papas, ensalada, papas, queso de cabra y garbanzos.”
“Ah, garbanzos (chick peas),” it was a long shot, but worth the try. “Any ham in the garbanzos?”
“No,” she nearly smiled at the idea we might be getting somewhere, then she blew it. “Just a little bit of pig.”
So whilst Andy had a meaty plate of carne fiesta and I had carne con papas, Sue had to settle for a salad with a side plate of chips and some goats’ cheese.
As it happened the food was all rather tasty and the bizareness of trying to ‘negotiate’ our order just added to one of those odd but amusing little experiences that makes an exploration of Tenerife’s more remote corners all the more fun.