I briefly visited Valencia this week, and I came back with this treasure. And you might be wondering what that is. And it is 500 grams of tiger nuts, or chufas in Spanish.
They are a tuber, and also the essential ingredient for horchata (orxata in Valencian), which is a very typical drink from the Valencian area (although it was originated in Alboraia, nearby Valencia).
Perhaps because it is dairy-free, it started to be available in “health shops” in London since about last year as an alternative to other “mylks”, but unfortunately the commercial horchata can be too sweet. So I got the nuts with the intention of brewing my own—500 grams should be enough for two litres of horchata (possibly in four batches, because you have to consume it while it’s fresh ?).
Horchata is very popular and of course there are local sayings and stories about it in Valencia.
For example, it’s common to say that someone has “horchata blood” when they are very “placid” and don’t get altered by anything.
Or inexplicably, If something is bad, we might use “chufa” as a replacement for ruder expletives: “¡Menuda chufa!” in place of “¡Menuda mierda!” (i.e. what a piece of shit!). You would expect “chufa” to be used for everything that is great, but maybe this just goes to show our innate creativity again ?
There’s also a famous anecdote about where the “horchata” name comes from: apparently it was served to a king by a lady servant, and when he drank it, he declared “Açò és or, xata!” (“this is gold, gorgeous”, in Valencian). This is not true, as the etymology of the word points to the word for barley in Latin (hordeum), but people who do not like to fact-check love to repeat the story without warning listeners that it is false ?
I took that baby picture in a traditional ice cream parlour that we visited in an attempt to escape both the 32ºC heat and extreme humidity that were plaguing us. The shop featured some classic tiles depicting agricultural scenes related to ice cream making, such as this one, which I strongly suspect represents the harvesting of tiger nuts:
Look at those sacks filled with treasures and liquid gold to be…! I’m getting so excited about the idea of brewing my own…
Despite my love of horchata, I did not order it while at the parlour, because they had something that I could not find in London: my two favourite ice cream flavours, truffle and coffee!
There were two competing ice cream shops in my home town: La Jijonenca and La Ibense.
We were really good friends with the owners of La Jijonenca; we went there pretty much every week (often multiple times, I’ll dare admit). My family had a grocery shop nearby, so sometimes I’d just walk to the ice cream shop and spend some time there, talking to the lady behind the counter (which I called “my aunt”), and maybe drawing something that she would then pin to the wall for other customers to see. At the end of summer they would give us a ton of freebies before they closed the shop until next March, because back in the days, ice cream was only for the summer!
I really tried to like the Ibense too, as their shop was close to my favourite park in town, and sometimes we might have one ice cream after playing in the park, but their truffle ice cream (when it was available) was never as good as La Jijonenca’s.
And to date, whenever I find one of their shops, I like having a truffle ice cream, as I still think their flavour is the best, and it sort of brings me back to ye olde times ??