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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Chinchón I: A Day Trip with Padre Luís de Lezama, Feb 5, 2011

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A Series of Posts on Chinchón, One of my Favorite Towns in Spain
Text and Photographs
By Gerry Dawes©2011

 La Plaza Mayor, Chinchón. 

Chinchón I: A Day Trip with Padre Luís de Lezama, Feb 5, 2011

A day in Chinchón with Padre Luís de Lezama and his brother, Patxo. Convento de Las Clarisas, Castillo de Chinchon, a visit with Alfredo Freire, La Plaza Mayor and lunch at Mesón de la Virreina, owned by Padre Lezama's old friend, Tito Clemente.

Padre Luís de Lezama and his brother, Patxo, stroll down a street in Chinchón.

Chinchón has long been one of my favorite towns in Spain.  I first visited this wonderful town in 1971 with my old friend and art gallery partner, Edwin J. Mullens, III, from Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Over the past forty years, I have visited Chinchón many, many times and I have spent at least a dozen nights there.  I especially like to stay in this charming, romantic town with its 16th-century atmosphere the nights before I have to catch a plane back to the U.S. (Chinchón is less than an hour from the Madrid air terminals).   

La Plaza Mayor, Chinchón.

When I visited Chinchón with Padre Lezama on Feb. 5, it was almost 40 years to the day of my first trip here and,  ironically, we would have lunch in the very same place, Mesón de la Virreina, which is owned by the Padre's old friend, Tito Clemente.   

Mesón de la Virreina, Chinchón.
On that first trip, it was a very cold day, so we had lunch in the upstairs dining room next to the fireplace at a table near windows that overlooked La Plaza Mayor.   I still remember that I had alubias con chorizo (beans with chorizo), baby lamb chops, the local red wine (now from the D.O. Vinos de Madrid), café con leche and a brandy snifter of anís (anís liqueur) de Chinchón.  That day is still a cherished memory.  

Alubias con chorizo with guindilla peppers and the red Vinos de Madrid wine of Chinchón.

My lunch with Padre Lezama was also on a February day, but the weather was uncharacteristically warm (nearly 70 degrees F.) and the sun was shining.   It was a glorious day, so the Padre, his brother Patxo and I had lunch outside on the balcony overlooking the square.    

Padre Luís de Lezama with Chinchón behind him.

The Priest of the Bull Bums

Gerry Dawes is writing The Padre’s Tavern, a book about the life of Padre Luís de Lezama, once known as “el cura de los maletillas,” the priest of the bull bums of the Franco era.  (Parts of this article are excerpted from the book in progress and may not be reproduced without expressed written permission.)
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Frascuelo, the famous 19th-century matador who was a favorite in Chinchón.

Early on in Chinchón, a town an hour southeast of Madrid that is famous for festive bullfights held in its picturesque 16th-century Plaza Mayor, Padre Luís de Lezama, a Basque priest on his first assignment out of the seminary began befriending down-and-out maletillas, or bull bums, the itinerant teenaged would-be bullfighters, in the Spain of dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Early one summer morning in 1962, when he arrived at the entrance the 17th century Convento de Las Clarisas, where he went each day to say mass for the nuns, he found three maletillassleeping under the overhang of the entrance to the church.  This encounter would change the Padre's life forever.

Matador El Bormujano, one of the maletillas that Padre Lezama found sleeping 
at the entrance to the Convento del las Clarisas, an order of Franciscan nuns, in Chinchón. 

Slide show of A Day Trip with Padre Luís de Lezama, Feb 5, 2011.
(Double click to enlarge.) 

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. 

Dawes was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
A trailer from a proposed reality television series with Gerry Dawes  
on gastronomy, wine, culture and travel in Spain.

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