Cazorla Blues (Lunch at Juan Pedro’s)


There are a few places to eat in the old square in Cazorla. They do look like tourist traps, so perhaps we should have known better, but it was a hot day and the blue of the sky, never mind the sun, hurt your eyes to look at. El Cliente was panting and lethargic; he’s an old dog; we rescued him from a waste container, fourteen or so years ago. The town was crowded. The locals, as usual, were all terrified of a dog too big to go in a handbag. Around lunchtime on Friday, the narrow streets of the Casco Antiguo were blocked by van-drivers making their last deliveries in order to knock off early and have a beer in a café in a side-street as far from the tourist traps as possible. I couldn’t blame them. We cowered in doorways as they squeezed past, wing-mirrors folded in.



So when we got to Plaza Vieja, we were irritable and ready to sit down and eat, just as soon as we had enough beers to replace the sweat expended in climbing the steep slopes to the old part of town. We sat on the less shady side of the street, a tourist-y thing to do, I know. Electric fans with a reservoir of water who knew how old sprayed fine droplets over all the tables on the terrace, us and whatever food we might order. I should have known it wouldn’t go well when I asked to see the menu and the waiter threw the photo-copied sheets in their plastic folder onto the table in front of me. The man, I apologise for this, was a miserable shit. I tried to hold onto the ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ mantra from my “dealing with the public” training from many years ago. The theory is you imagine factors and motives for people’s rudeness and then you can understand. It was bollocks then, and it’s bollocks now. No wonder Spanish people don’t tip. Nearly 15 years I’ve been here and I still can’t get used to the general absence of customer service. We overheard this waiter’s name, but I’ve forgotten it. He had two helpers, who delivered the food. One of them, a wizened old character who looked as though he’d slept rough, arrived from somewhere across the square with pan tostada, a tomato and two cloves of garlic. Now I like a Catalana as much as anyone, but I’ve never been given it in kit-form before. Still, it was something nice for the dog. If it’s bread, he loves it. I ate the raw tomato and neither of us bothered with the garlic cloves. The other guy working at least smiled, but there was something a little off about him and I wasn’t sure if he’d been given the job out of… well, you know.



Anyway, I did learn from the menu that Meson de Juan Pedro had been established in 1910. When the mixed grill arrived it appeared that some of the meat had been cooking since then. Best of all, it transpired that all the food was cooked in a building about 50 metres away round a corner. In my miscreant youth it was the kind of restaurant from which I would have ‘done a runner’, but we paid up the excessive bill.



So, finally I got to do something very un-tourist-like. That’s right, we didn’t leave a tip.