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Posted: Friday, 14 January 2022 17:07

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Book Review: ‘Sunset in Glass’ by Gerry Dawes Riveting Book on Spain

Jan 14: Gerry Dawes, an Award winning Hispanophile gourmet has recently released a book, Sunset in Glass- Adventures of a Food and Wine Road Warrior in Spain - a travelog of his 50-year experiences with the changing Spanish Gastronomy from Tradition to the Modern, and the social fiber and culture with historical background, writes Subhash Arora who finds infectious his love and passion for Spain and highly recommends it to every traveler and wine aficionado who dreams of being in Spain

The book is admittedly a Collection of new and revised Articles previously published, with captivating photographs by Gerry Dawes- an American writer, journalist, photographer, food critic, a great story-teller and ardent admirer of all things Spanish. It includes over 150 photographs clicked by him since 1968 when he first came to Spain. The 220+ page book with almost a thousand words cramped on each page is full of interesting stories with the hundreds of people he knows.What makes the book exceptional is the personal experiences he shares over the period Spain was shifting gradually to modernism yet keeping traditions alive.

This is not a book you can finish during a plane journey although flipping random pages will likely transport you to some part of Spain and take you through the gastronomy- and the wines specific to that region and local cuisine.  This is a book that you will savor over time, criss-crossing across Spain and changing culture from 1968 to the present. 

Even if published in the Coffee table format, it would not purport to be so, despite the pictures he took because of his penchant for photography and reliving those times. The paperback is pure infotainment that requires leisurely time and perhaps a glass of his favorite Manzanilla Sherry in your glass, flipping the pages through the Sunset and after. It is fine food reminiscent of the long and extravagant meals in Spain and Italy you share with family and good friends, except that you would wish to be alone, savoring and soaking his experience on every page.

The book is a great read even for English speaking Spaniards who would have not covered all nooks and corners of Spain like Gerry has; no wonder he is known as Mr. Spain in the US. It is a must-have book for anyone who loves Spain-its history, culture and of course gastronomy. Gerry shares his experiences through the terrains of Spain giving a vivid description of the land and its people.  It is a Handbook, a Comprehensive Guide and a Companion to every traveler who dreams of Spain.

He talks of his friend Ambrosio Molinos who claims that his father drank three to four liters of wine per day in his youth while some field workers drank even six. He drank an estimated 85000 liters (over 9400 cases of 12 standard bottles) of wine in his lifetime! There is plenty of other trivia to keep you riveted, like the use of an interesting decanter-shaped glass vessel with a spout, called porron for community drinking.

He shares his love for bull-running and experience at the festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, which our Indian readers enjoyed in the Bollywood movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. He writes about his brush with Hollywood and a small role he landed.  Living in Barcelona, he takes you to the world famous La Boqueria with stores selling sea-food, fruits and truffles etc. and amazing breakfasts and meals, and lesser attractions like Las Ramblas, the Barrio Gótico, and Antoni Gaudi’s architecture adorning several buildings and edifices in Barcelona.

There is a whole captivating chapter on the history of wines in Rioja- or rather the unique, finely crafted wine producer following old traditions  López de Heredia Viña Tondonia, in Haro, where La Cata del Barrio de la Estación –Haro Station Wine Experience has been organised in the last few years

One cannot imagine a book on Spanish gastronomical delights without talking of Ferran Adria, the sensational Chef of El Bulli which closed down in 2010 but not before making waves about the cocina de vanguardia. Gerry pays him a fine tribute saying that Spanish Chefs like Juan Mari Arzak, Juan Roca, and international chefs like Massimo Bottura and Carlo Cracco (Italy), Heston Blumenthal (England) and Seiji Yamamoto (Japan), were emboldened by his lead and contributed to a style of cooking that may not be everyday fare but is very liberating and original. Interestingly the term ‘molecular cuisine’ is often connected with Ferran Adrià who objects to this style of cooking at elBulli ascribed to him.

Gerry takes you to the Alhambra in Granada and highlights the obsession of Chefs in Spain in the past two decades for the gin and tonic known as gintonic here. His experience at Ribera del Duero and particularly Vega Sicilia are enthralling to any wine aficionado. A bit of trivia for the wine professionals as a picture shows the winemaker lean against barrels taken outside for rinsing with water- and disinfected by burning a disk of sulphur inside the barrel!

You meet Maestros Cortadores de Jamón, specialists known for their skills in carving Spanish jamón Ibérico de bellota hams into paper-thin slices.  Or take a Cheese Journey in Spain’s Mountainous Asturias known as the Cheese Paradise. He even takes you to the colorful, ambience-packed sidrerías (cider houses).

Gerry has an American body but unarguably Spanish Soul. ‘When I end my journey at the end of this lifetime, I plan to be sitting on Bajo de Guía beach at Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a glass of Manzanilla in my hand where I first arrived in Spain nearly 3,000 years ago,’ he says. His love for Sherry-and more particularly Manzanilla oozes out, perhaps because he landed in Jerez in Andalusia during his first visit and had pleasant memories but for the readers it is fountain of knowledge that might make one start a life-long affair with this unique, sophisticated and elegant fortified wine for ever.

According to Chef Ferran Adrià, Spain wouldn’t be as well-known to Americans without the stories Gerry tells and writes. With Sunset in a Glass: Adventures of a Food and Wine Road Warrior, the whole world has an opportunity to learn deeper about Spain, its marvelous cuisine and a wide spectrum of wines with all those stories.

I agree with the celebrity Chef. Order your copy from Amazon and discover the World of Spain at leisure or gift the book to a friend who loves Spanish wines and gastronomy.

Subhash Arora

Gerry Dawes, a recipient of ‘Premio Nacional de Gastronomia’ -Spanish National Gastronomy Prize wrote for delWine as Spanish Correspondent for a couple of years. Some of the Articles he penned, may be accessed in our Archives under his name-editor






 

 

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