Can Majorca: Food, Drink, and Life off the Coast of Catalonia

by Stephen Shull on January 10, 2016

A linguist’s guide to the food culture of Majorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands.

I lived in Majorca for about a year. In my relatively short time here I came to know a lot of details about the island, meet a lot of people, see and experience what it is like to live in a place of intense physical beauty – a beauty which attracts the millions of visitors the island receives each year, mostly Germans and British, who are responsible both for lifting the island out of persistent poverty and for slowly eating away at the natural and cultural beauty that attracts them here in the first place. If I learned anything about Majorca in this year, it’s that it’s complicated. There are a lot of competing identities, changing customs and mores and levels of optimism, pessimism and resignation about the island’s future.

Bread Sausage Oil Island – Jun 25, 2009

Sobrassada De Mallorca - Palma, Spain
In the midst of this hung sobrassada, a resilient symbol of Majorca’s centuries of autarky and knack for creating powerful impressions from the fruits of one’s own labor.

Sobrassada is a sausage. The name is cognate to the English word “suppressed,” in an apparent reference to the packing of the sausage inside its casing. This generic term passed into Catalan from Italian, where “soppressata” refers unspecifically to sausages made in this region or that, a generic word for generic product. Sobrassada mallorquina, however, is far from generic.

Sobrassada is a pork sausage. The consensus is that the best is made from porcs negres (black pigs), which feed exclusively on acorns. The meat is chopped and mixed with salt, paprika and perhaps more – depending on whose padrina’s (grandma’s) recipe you’re using – until a creamy, powerfully red paste is formed. This paste is then stuffed into a casing, for which no attempt is made to cloak its colonic origins. A string is tied around the product and it is left to hang. The other ingredients effectively cook and preserve the meat, and the finished product retains both the creamy texture and the flavor of all its component ingredients.

It’s kind of gross, to be honest. I first tried sobrassada as a pizza topping; the meat was in small pieces, melting atop a generic cheese pie. That might have been a good introduction; I could appreciate the strength and depth of flavor without experiencing the grossness of its original form. I mean, I’m an adventurous eater, but the sight of creamy red meat coming out of what is obviously a long intenstine is for very few people a pleasant sight. I’ve since gotten over that. I now proudly buy whole sobrassades to keep in the pantry, in open air at room temperature. Sobrassada is a product made by those-lacking-refrigeration for those-lacking-refrigeration.

The best way to experience sobrassada, or at least the most mallorquí way, is with pa amb oli. Pa amb oli is the universal Majorcan dish – a basic exposition of the staples of Majorcan food. The name means, simply, “bread with oil,” which fails to convey the fact that any standard pa amb oli is also served with tomato. So, pa amb oli is essentially the combination of three foods – pa moreno (an unsalted brown bread), olive oil and tomato. Beyond this one can and does add any of a myriad of ingredients, be it sobrassada, cuixot (air-dried ham, sliced thinly, reminiscent of prosciutto), cheese, seafood or any other fruit of the earth that strikes one’s fancy.

On a sunny weekend day I joined some friends on a drive to the northwest corner of Majorca, a place where the Tramuntana mountain range, which constitutes a dramatic spine along the entire north coast of the island, drops precipitously into the sea. We visited the town of Pollença, close to which lies Cala Sant Vicenç (Saint Vincent’s Cove), a small and idyllic beach surrounded by rocky cliffs. After some too-pretty-for-words swimming and snorkeling, we hopped in the car and drove down the coast.

Alcuida - Majorca, Spain
We ended up at Alcúdia, a picturesque town still guarded by walls built during the time the island was ruled by Arabs. Not very far from the town is the site of where the Romans built their capital on the island. We parked outside the walls and walked into the center of town through the medieval gates and up the carrer major (main street). We sat at a table outside of Ca’n Fuat, a restaurant just off the main square, and I ordered a pa amb oli de sobrassada.

Pa Amb Oli de Sobrassada - Ca'n Fuat - Alcuida - Majorca, Spain
Given such an aggressively simple dish, the spectacle lies in the ingredients and the presentation (and it helped that Ca’n Fuat made its own sobrassada). The dish is two slices of pa moreno with olive oil and some salt – the first with slices of sobrassada, and the second with slices of tomato, sprinkled with capers.

The sobrassada was – as it should be – rich and pungent. It had the texture and a little of the flavor of raw meat, marinated in copious spices and left to hang in the air. The pa moreno was tough and bland, but it worked perfectly in this combination. The tomatoes were fresh and the capers had a salty acidity that cut the sobrassada’s meatiness perfectly. I had associated capers mostly with smoked fish and bagels, and never thought much of them. At that moment I knew what they’re supposed to do.

After the meal we hit up another beach as the sun was going down, then hit the road back through the middle of the island to Palma. Yes, Majorca is complicated, but when it works this well, no questions need be asked – except, perhaps, to inquire about seconds.

Xurros, or the Universal Appeal of the Fried – Jul 16, 2009

I remember once reading an article about the American palette that claimed America’s favorite flavor was ‘crispy’. Synesthetic quips aside, there’s a certain truth to this assertion, and I think that it’s not in any way limited to those of us who hail from the United States. As sure as the sky is blue and the grass green, people the world over love their food crisp. It is both a thread that binds cultures together and gives them a space to exhibit their diversity. We love fried food, and we have so many different ways to show it.

Spain’s principal contribution to the world of fried sweets is undoubtedly the churro, a more or less flavorless stick of fried dough that is to be dipped in hot chocolate. Growing up in California, I was never unfamiliar with the churros that are a staple of county fairs and theme parks. Warm and covered with cinnamon and sugar, they are a treat that conjures up memories of summer, rollercoasters, family outings, and the magic of meeting Mickey Mouse.

It is easy to see how one arrives at that American churro from its Spanish antecedent, but Spanish churros (‘xurros’ in Catalan) are something else. The name comes from a particular breed of cattle, whose horns these fried treats are said to resemble. They are not properly Majorcan, and are associated more with the interior of mainland Spain, where they are commonly eaten as a breakfast food. The first time I visited Spain, in Madrid, I remember how astonished I was to see people eating for breakfast what was to me obviously a dessert. Some people even chose to forego the chocolate and dip their churros directly into their morning coffee (I didn’t try this myself more than once – the only result is a soggy churro and a greasy cup of coffee). Chocolate, however, is the perfect complement. Traditionally it is thick and hot – I remember thinking upon first taste that it was more like hot chocolate pudding than what I had previously experienced as hot chocolate.

Xurreria Rosaleda - Palma de Mallorca - Spain
In Madrid one can find a good churro all over, but they’re more difficult to come by in Majorca. The general consensus was that the best xurros are at Xurreria Rosaleda, on a steep little street in the very center of Palma’s old city. There, families would line up out the door on holidays to sate their kids’ sweet tooths with fried goodness.

The Frying of the Churro - Xurreria Rosaleda - Palma de Mallorca
To make these churros, Xurreria Rosaleda equipped its fryer with a special contraption to let a string of dough out at an even pace into a vat of hot oil. Then a metal rod was used to shape this string of dough into a spiral. Once fried to a golden brown, this spiral was taken out whole and chopped into pieces, each one a hand-sized arc to be dipped into coffee cups of chocolate. Like any fried food, it is best consumed with as short an interval between fryer and table as possible.

Xurros With Chocolate - Xurreria Rosaleda - Palma de Mallorca - Spain
I once stopped by with friends when Xurreria Rosaleda had just opened after the afternoon siesta, and we got to eat from their very first batch of the evening. A communal plate was set before us, and, armed with paper napkins to keep our hand grease level to a minimum, we dug right in. Some people choose to pour some sugar out over their churros, but I think that is overkill. I didn’t want anything more than the crispy dough and strong chocolate.

A good walk – and maybe a beer – was in order after that grease fest of a snack. Although I can’t really imagine myself having churros for breakfast more than once in a blue moon, I find the custom charming. I suppose it’s ultimately not that different from some of the pancakes and waffles one finds on the American breakfast table, but it is conspicuously decadent: the breakfast of children eating with their eyes, starting their day with a carnival treat.

Palma Over Ice – Jul 2, 2009

One of the qualities of Spanish city life overall that might surprise an American is the way people live large chunks of their lives on the street – sitting at tables in front of cafés, taking perfunctory walks in the evening with their family, etc. Majorca, as independentist graffitti shouts loudly on walls around the island, is not Spain; and at least in this respect, the tagging is pretty dead on. When St. Paul wrote that no man is an island, I think he was ignorant of island residents themselves, or at least of residents of this particular island, where insularity seems to have the effect of turning people in on themselves to a certain degree. In comparison to, say, Madrid, Palma’s residents tend to keep more indoors.

That is not to say, though, that Palma lacks street life. Here and there one finds streets that seem to operate as pedestrian highways, major arteries directing the flow of foot traffic from one neighborhood to the other. One of the highways that I frequently employed was Via Sindicat, a comparatively straight street that stems from what was a gate in the medieval city walls, cutting through the maze of narrow alleys into the center of the old city.

Via Sindicat - Palma, Mallorca, Spain
I would find myself walking up and down this thoroughfare rather frequently, because I lived not too far beyond the one-time gate to the old city in Palma’s eixample (“enlargement”), which sprouted up after the destruction of its city walls. Via Sindicat was the way I got to friends’ apartments, central shops and nearly all of my favorite hangouts in the city. A large part of my experience on Via Sindicat was the brisk, still-enebriated walk home from one place or another in the wee hours of the morning, dodging handsy prostitutes who aggressively pushed their product along the way. Even at that ungodly hour, Via Sindicat was a commercial center.

During the day, Via Sindicat was a haven of decidedly more legitimate commerce. The street was lined up and down with shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, electronics, what-have-you. It was also the street on which the offices of two of the principal political parties – the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and the regionalist Unió Mallorquina – were located. Locals and tourists alike walked its length in droves, window shopping and providing periodic obstacles for those briskly on their way elsewhere.

On a hot day, all these pedestrians needed something to cool themselves down: Enter the granissat. “Granissat” could be translated equally as “slushy” or “ice,” and in its texture and mode of production it definitely resembles what you can find at your local 7-11 back Stateside; however, granissats are by no means an imported or particularly new concept here on the island.

The granissat is traditionally flavored by the citrus fruits and almonds that are grown on the island. Nowadays these flavors are complemented frequently with newer flavors, such as mango, cola, or the apparently international conundrum of blue raspberry. Of these newer imports, the majority are presented with colors so hyperreal that it is obvious they’ve been dyed – not that this diminishes their tastiness or their capacity for refreshment. The basics, though, are still the basics, and the basics are good.

Gelats i Granissats Rosaleta - Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Towards the top of Via Sindicat was Gelats i Granissats Rosaleda (Rosaleda Ice Cream and Slushies), a diminutive storefront where one could stop for cold, delicious sustenance for a euro or two. My absolute favorite was their ametla (almond), though their lemon did not disappoint. The almond granissat was sweet and creamy, but not so much that it diminished its own refreshment. In the cupful of crushed ice I could discern flecks of the almonds that were themselves crushed to give me this masterpiece. The lemon granissat was as it should be: tart, sweet, and fresh. I would find flecks of zest in other lemon granissats; not so on Via Sindicat, but no matter – it was still good.

When I last went to Gelats i Granissats Rosaleda with my roommates, we also sampled the mango and cola granissats, which were essentially as expected. There was nothing wrong with them, but nothing particularly wonderful about them either. The mango may or may have not been made from fresh mangos; the cola, well, was indistinct from any other cola-flavored product you could imagine.

After our stop at Gelats i Granissats Rosaleda we continued on our way down Sindicat to do some shopping. Drink up, cool down, keep walking through the street life that had become part of my own.

The Angels’ Share – Jul 7, 2009

Can Angel - Palma, Majorca - Spain
I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon Can Angel, but it was relatively soon after I moved to Majorca, quite possibly a random encounter while wandering the circuitous alleys of Palma’s medieval center. Regardless of how I arrived, it became very quickly my favorite place to go out in Palma. It was informal. It was social. It was a bit edgy, but nevertheless a bearer of tradition. It served tasty drinks. It was cheap. In short, it was everything I was and am looking for in the world.

A quick note on the name: You may remember that I had visited a restaurant named Ca’n Fuat in Alcúdia. In Catalan, ca means ‘the house of’ someone (cognate in form and use to the French chez), and the suffixed ‘n’ is a masculine article that comes before one’s name. Therefore, Can Angel can be translated in English as “Angel’s house”. It is used equally when speaking of one’s personal residence (‘can Stephen’ would be the abode of yours truly) or of more informal establishments for eating and drinking, where one can expect a homey atmosphere.

A homey atmosphere, I believe, was the soul of Can Angel. Although it was a place where Palma’s punks congregated and where the occasional high school student might be served hard drink, it was nevertheless run by a family and had offered essentially the same ambience to its clientele for more than one generation.

While only steps away from more than one major thoroughfare, Can Angel had the feeling of being hidden away, both because of the street it was on and because it was located in the basement of its building – the celler. One had to step down through a narrow, low doorway upon arrival. Having been a regular there for months, even I would find myself walking past the door sometimes without noticing it.

What Can Angel was known for more than anything else is pomada, a drink from Minorca, the island immediately to the east of Majorca. Pomada is a gin-based cocktail, mixing the liquor with lemon juice, water and some sugar. This concoction is the lingering effect of English rule of Minorca in the 18th century, when the conquerors taught the island to make that typically British spirit, then mixed it with local citrus for more pleasant imbibing. Its simplicity belies the complex and syncretic spirit of the islands that brought it to be, and each sip is the positive result of two cultures coming together, albeit violently, and sharing with each other the best of their own.

The flagship brand of Minorcan gin is Xoriguer. One can find it in abundance in bars, restaurants and markets throughout the Balearic Islands, but it is painfully difficult to come across the further afield one goes. Minorcan gin has a flavor of its own, perhaps because its alcohol is distilled from grapes, rather than grain, before the requisite juniper berries are left in it to soak. It is particularly smooth and fruity, and lends itself perfectly to its signature cocktail.

At Can Angel, one could buy an entire bottle of Xoriguer pomada, mixed on site, for ten euros. Pomada here is made in a strictly traditional manner. At most bars, if I asked for a pomada I would receive a tall glass with gin and ice, and a can of lemon soda to mix in myself. Can Angel would give me the real thing, mixed with juice from lemons in a crate in the backroom. It’s not that a lemon-soda pomada is a bad drink, but the real thing is the real thing.

I don’t think I would be in any way wrong to say that this deal is what kept people coming back to Can Angel time and again. Whenever I would talk with people about places I like to go out, and invariably bring it up, I would be met with a smiling, “Yes! Pomada at Can Angel!” One of my coworkers told me about how she used to go there as a teenager – which was several decades ago – and share bottles of pomada with her friends. Can Angel found the secret to longevity: a good place, a good product, and a good price. Years later, I remember it too, whether I’m back for a visit or trying to conjure up some refreshment in my own kitchen.

Home Cooking Away From Home – Jul 30, 2009

My daily commute to and from work in Palma would take me through a wide and variegated slice of ciutat (“city”), as Majorcans are apt to call it. It weaved from my apartment in the immigrant-heavy Pere Garau neighborhood, through the old city, through neighborhoods trendy and trashy, as far west as one could go on a Palma city bus line and to the suburban institut, or high school, where I made a concerted effort to impart knowledge to others.

This commute to and from took a little less than two hours out of every work day, but I came to value my trip on the bus as some quiet time to listen to music or read. Every now and then the ride varied slightly due to some construction here or there – one day, when I pushed the button to call my stop and stood up by the door, I was surprised to find that my bus stop had been blocked by road work. The driver moved one innocuous block further up Carrer d’Aragó and set me down in front of the almost garrish storefront of Petit Poll (“little chick”), a hole-in-the-wall takeout that shouts via its crowded signs the traditional Majorcan foods that can be purchased inside.

Petit Poll, Menjars Preparats - Palma, Majorca, Spain
Takeout isn’t an uncommon sight around Palma, where it is labeled menjars preparats (“prepared food”) in Catalan, comidas preparadas in Spanish, or cáterings in the local dialect of Spanglish. Each one specializes in one thing or another and can range from economical to high end. Petit Poll was on the economic end of things, and offered a daily six Euro special (eight on Sundays) with two dishes of your choice. Perhaps it was providence, or perhaps it was simply hunger after a day’s work and an hour’s ride; whatever it was, I took Petit Poll up on its offer.

Petit Poll, Menjars Preparats - Palma, Majorca, Spain
Once past their crowded façade, I found a fairly simple layout – a wall of roasting chickens on the left, shelves with wine bottles and other drinks on the right, and a display case of homemade dishes directly in front. The couple that ran Petit Poll (and had done so for more than 25 years) didn’t have the broadest palette, but they did know good homemade Majorcan food. To make matters more interesting (to this eater, at least): Among their various homemade dishes on offer was almost always some traditional preparation of offal – organ meats or what-have-you that tended to be forgotten by many menjars preparats establishments. Petit Poll was a treasure for anyone wishing to taste and see what Majorcan food is. Whether it was delectable suckling pig or humble frit mallorquí (a dish of fried lamb liver, potatoes, peas and peppers), this food was made by people who loved what they cooked.

Squid ink pasta with kidneys Petit Poll, Menjars Preparats - Palma, Majorca, Spain
A typical plate from Petit Poll was a sort of salad of squid-ink pasta, artichokes and kidneys, cooked with sherry and onion and accompanied by roasted potatoes. Squid ink is a fairly common ingredient used in Mediterranean cooking; in Spain, it is most frequently seen in arròs negre (black rice), a paella that uses squid ink in place of saffron. The two ingredients both share a subtle flavor and have the property of coloring any other ingredient in their path – the ink creating a rich black, the saffron a bright yellow.

Petit Poll’s pasta was tart and tasty, basically a showcase of typical Mediterranean ingredients (artichokes, noodles, squid ink). The kidneys here were surprisingly appetizing; they were a little tough, but when cut into small slices they reminded me of chewy button mushrooms. While I ordered this dish against my better judgment (my only previous experience eating kidneys had been decidedly unpleasant), the sherry and onions proved to be exactly what the dish needed.

Spaghetti with pesto and snails - Petit Poll, Menjars Preparats - Palma, Majorca, Spain
Petit Poll also made a dish of spaghetti, pesto and snails served over a sort of potato stew. The spaghetti with pesto sauce was, of course, not a native invention of the island; it was, however, a testament to its influences, situated between the Iberian Peninsula and the Italian boot. Pesto may have come from the not-so-far east, but it seemed to get along well with its Majorcan cousins.

The snails and potatoes were delicious and even a bit spicy. Snails in Majorca aren’t typically presented in the French manner – that is, with a utensil for holding the shell that facilitates easy removal of its contents; eating snails in Majorca is a much messier experience. Both times that I attempted this (once at a restaurant, once at home) I wondered if I had made the right choice; the restaurant experience, however, was much more nerve-wracking, since it came with an audience of fellow diners. While they aren’t the most convenient dining option, snails still taste very good. The texture is distinct, but it’s nothing that merits squeamishness.

Both of these dishes had a touch of the exotic for an American eater, whether it be the squid ink, the kidneys or the snails. These ingredients, however, are what grounded them in the basic food traditions of the islands, relying on ingredients freely available for Palma’s humble kitchens, from land or from sea. It is this straightforwardness that made a great meal from Petit Poll – I got the impression that this store was a window into the homes of its cooks and the place that has shaped their cooking.

The Spitting Image of Fast Food – Aug 13, 2009

Not long after I had begun teaching in Majorca, a student asked me if it was true that people eat lots of “trash food” (“fast food” or “junk food” rendered in his particular Spanglish) in America. The question got my attention – not just because of his mistake, but because I had never thought about it while in Spain.

Of course, Americans eat a lot of fast food; there’s no question there. Spain, however, eats a good lot of fast food too. When I told my student that I didn’t think Americans ate particularly more “trash food” than Spanish people do (taking care, of course, to explain the terms “fast food” and “junk food”), he was a bit dismayed. I didn’t know if he was a big fast food consumer himself, but he seemed to take some comfort in the idea that whatever amount of low quality food Spanish people consumed, Americans consumed more. Not so: Fast food had caught on big in Spain, and the lion’s share of the market was dominated by big American companies – McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC. The ubiquitousness of these chains outside the U.S. gave many the unfortunate impression that this is America’s food.

Amidst the forest of big American chains there is another fast food option: the kebab. This is neither from Majorca nor from Spain, nor is it limited to these demarcations, but to talk about food in Majorca without mentioning the kebab would be a major oversight. Kebabs are everywhere. They are healthier and heartier than most similarly priced choices. You can find them in any part of the city, but one can’t help but notice their proliferation near dance clubs and other night spots, a testament to their popularity as a snack in the wee hours of the morning.

Kebapa - Palma, Spain Kebapa - Palma, Spain
My favorite kebab stop in Palma was Kebapa, a hole in the wall not far from where I live. The form kebabs would take here and most everywhere in Spain is the döner kebab: meat (either chicken or veal at this locale) that is stacked on and shaved off a giant rotisserie skewer, then packed into a pita with vegetables and your choice of spicy or “fine herbs” sauce. That wasn’t it for Kebapa; I could have a kebab packed with french fries, a vegetarian kebab made with feta cheese, a kebab in pizza form or the “kebab de la casa” (house kebab), essentially a gargantuan version of the basic option.

What set Kebapa apart didn’t have to do with reinventing the wheel; rather, it was good meat, fresh vegetables and powerfully flavorful dressings. The kebab pizza was a special occasion dish and was what it sounds like: a standard pizza with kebab meat on top, perfect for when I wanted to add a lot of melted cheese to my late night snack. On most visits, however, my roommates and I would go for the regular kebab with french fries stuffed inside, adding the perfect note of crispy to the already meaty, crunchy and creamy assemblage.

Kebabs are a classic, portable street food. Between the steady flow of immigrants from North Africa, German tourists who bring their own love of kebabs by way of their country’s sizable Turkish population, and the food’s popularity with just about everyone, kebabs had become well rooted in Palma before I arrived. While I would have loved a truly local fast food option, I was still happy to see something flourish that wasn’t an attempt to replicate McDonald’s. Globalization may have been responsible for the arrival of American “trash food” to Majorca, but fortunately that wasn’t the end of the story.

The Ultimate Taste of Majorca – Aug 20, 2009

As previously touched upon, the center of Palma is with few exceptions a maze of streets that the average American would find difficult to sort out. During the first days after my move there the old city seemed very large to me. At first I stuck to the area immediate to the alley on which I was staying, but each day I would venture a little further away from my hotel, making the city feel a little bit smaller and more manageable. Later on, I realized that I had no trouble walking from my apartment across the old city to the other side of town to go out on a not-too-irregular basis. What had seemed so immense at first grew smaller with familiarity. That was the realization, almost as much as anything else, that I felt very much at home in Palma.

There were still sections of the old city whose impenetrability defies almost any attempt to get to know them, but therein lied the charm: As soon as I left a well-trodden path, I never was quite sure what I’d stumble upon – a strangely secluded plaza just steps from a bustling thoroughfare, an architectural gem or a centuries-old establishment. Can Joan de s’Aigo, Palma’s oldest café and pastry shop still in operation, was an example of just such a place.

Can Joan de S'aigo - Palma, Mallorca, Spain
There was a certain jewelbox quality to Can Joan de ‘Aigo (“John of the Water’s house” in Majorcan Catalan). The decor looked like it may have been updated since its opening in 1700, but it maintained an air of antiquated dignity, reminding me of Victorian era clutter. The intensity of the place was magnified by being tucked away on another one of Palma’s easily overlooked alleys in the old city. The approach involves traversing seemingly forgotten passages that, while just off heavily trafficked areas, had an air of remoteness. Before I had realized where I was, I would be standing in front of this venerable institution.

Can Joan de S'aigo - Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Can Joan’s menu had changed little over 309 years. I could have coffee, hot chocolate or ice cream (perhaps this wasn’t on the original menu), and I could choose from an assortment of pastries.

One pastry in particular, ensaïmada, might just be the quintessential Majorcan food item. One can find it in nearly any café, and tourists buy giant ones in what look like hat boxes to take home. Ensaïmades have been made in Majorca since time immemorial, and have survived down to the present day intact – a perennial favorite. Their pastry is made from dough that is not entirely unlike a croissant. As croissant dough is made by folding butter into layers of dough, flattening, then repeating the process several times, so the dough for ensaïmades is made by folding saïm, the local Catalan word for pork fat, into layers of dough, flattening, then repeating.

Instead of being rolled into a crescent shape like a croissant, the dough is wound into a coil. From that point, the variations are many. A plain ensaïmada is usually just sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar. It can be topped with slices of fruit, or slices of sobrassada, or with custard, or even a preserve of sweetened spaghetti squash called cabell d’àngel (angel’s hair).

Ensaimada With Apricot and Coffee - Can Joan de s'Aigo - Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Can Joan usually had a variety of ensaïmades available, but I had only tried them with cream or with apricot, both of which were delicious. Elsewhere I had tasted ensaïmades in any number of the above variations – I think my favorite ensaïmada was one served with dollops of nutella at a wedding party. While ensaïmada dough has a method of production similar to that of to croissant dough, the end result is different. It is usually baked lighter than a croissant, and the pork fat used to cut the pastry can give it a somewhat greasy quality. I don’t think I’d like to eat it everyday, but once in a while is nice, especially at Can Joan de s’Aigo.

I left Majorca several weeks ago to start a new job in New York City, the first day of which was yesterday. I’m thrilled about my new life beginning here. New York is amazing, and after only a short time I’m beginning to feel very happy about my decision to relocate. Still, I haven’t been quite able to shake a nagging wish to be back on the island: when I go into a supermarket and can’t find anything that matches things sold at the market near my old apartment, when I can’t find a place that will give me espresso drinks in a real cup, when I think of something to say in Catalan and realize that no one around would understand me. Every now and then, I’d like to sit and have a coffee and ensaïmada in Can Joan de s’Aigo.

Mallorca, te trob a faltar – I miss you. I’ll be back soon!

Editor’s note: Stephen eventually did move back – not to Majorca, but to Barcelona, which is about as close as one can get. He continues to live, teach, and dine there to this day, a Catalonian at heart with dreams of spending the rest of his life on bread sausage oil island.

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