Christmas Lunch at Los Abrigos

December 23, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Until 1994, shops in the U.K. were obliged to stay closed on Sunday and I rued the day that prohibition was lifted. Sundays were so lovely in London. The sudden decline in traffic, many fewer people in the streets, the loudest noise were church bells; all this combined to give the entire population a weekly breather. After all, the pubs were open and I marvelled at British men who could sit down to Sunday lunch with the family and dig into roast with potatoes and “vege”, bread, a pudding for sure and then, go across to the pub and down any number of pints of beer.

Truly a wonder in my view – where did they put it all? Eventually, I wrote it off to practice. If you perform this ritual every week for years, of course the body accepts the exercise with resignation and copes.

After the ban was gone, Sunday was just another day, people rushing about, hurrying to shop, crashing about with parcels under their arms, bags of stuff weighing them down, never thinking of what they had lost in those charming days of a leisurely lunch and a gossip in the pub. Did they still have time for all that with the pressure to keep shopping or did they carry on serving lunch but in a rush to fit it in with the shopping?

To be sure, there were days off – though too rarely for my taste: Easter Sunday and Christmas Day – Sunday or otherwise.

Actually, for my own reasons, I spent very few Christmases in my London home but preferred to go south to the Canary Islands and, generally, to Tenerife the largest of the

islands. I travelled with friends and eventually my daughter, Patricia and her father, John Higgs.

I don’t know – it’s the Spanish flavour, how relaxed and easy it is. In Tenerife, there were no resorts that we ever saw; we rented a little apartment for our two-week stay, shopped for groceries and ate out – like living in a village where most people spoke Spanish.

There must have been lots of other visitors like us. Because we were not huddled in an enclosed and guarded place but living at liberty as one does in a town, we didn’t run into them and that was fine.

Ah, the Christmas lunch. That big fat bird, roasting since the early morn, the crackers to snap, the wine dad made last year, the crowd of family, some you only see once a year. Childhood memories, yet, not lost – we’re still doing it – except for when we were in Tenerife. 

There, Christmas lunch was a very different matter. There was a reasonably isolated village, Los Abrigos, some 12 kilometres from where we were staying in Los Cristianos. Even if we had rented a car for the time we were there, we took a taxi to lunch that day. 

Situated on a rocky shore line, Los Abrigos was a ring of very simple restaurants and very fresh fish.

A basic building was where we habitually headed, formica covered tables and not particularly comfortable chairs, there was a space down some stairs, cool in the sub-tropical heat. In was only a counter with an edge all along it and ice covering its surface. On the ice was the catch of the day.

Our job was to pick and choose which shrimp to start with, which fish we would like to eat and how clean the air was in that subterranean room spoke to how perfect was the seafood.

Back at our table, our waiter greeted us with a carafe of local white wine and a salad dressed with tomatoes from a garden nearby. In those days and that place, there was no need to fear the water nor the salad: everything was a pleasure. 

With the fish came small potatoes boiled in sea water, so delicious. In due course, we had eaten and naturally drunk a second carafe of wine – hence the call for the taxi, which came and carried us back to our abode, replete and joyous. There is something about islands that I like – even a relatively big island still has that special feeling of exclusivity – we’re all in this together and for many good reasons. I long for it sometimes.

Christmas here is pleasant. We have conducted Christmas at home very nicely and been to the home of friends which were wonderful times. There is no real logic to how one feels at Christmas maybe because it is not a time of logic; it is a time of feeling all on its own.

So many other Christmases and for me, in so many different places. Chances are, when I reflect on the day, my youth in Canada with all the family hits me first and that can be a mixed blessing if one cares much about who is lost since then. 

Well, from this writer to all of you, may your Christmas be very merry and may the people you might miss be thought of with joy.

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