a wandering woman writes

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Congratulations. Pass the Empanadas.

We interrupt this reverie about my trip to Andalucía to celebrate one of the most enjoyable perks of living and working in Spain: other people's cumples (birthdays).

In what I find to be a sign of a highly evolved civilization, Spaniards put the burden of any celebration squarely on the shoulders of He Who Has Something to Celebrate.

This strikes me as the perfect solution to an age old dilemma. As one Spanish friend explains it, "Our way you buy once a year, maybe twice. Your way you're always buying, and the celebration is never a surprise."

Birthday? Wedding? Baby's first tooth? Exotic vacation? Don't forget the snacks for the work crowd. Yes that's right, everything a Spaniard has to celebrate turns into free food for his friends and colleagues.

This weekend I celebrated 3 birthdays, all free of charge - a delicious afternoon of vino tinto and pinchos on Friday to celebrate the cumple of a colleague at work, a Saturday night tapas tour of Salamanca's tasty Calle Van Dyck in honor of a friend's boyfriend, and a nightcap in the Plaza Mayor toasting my boss's wife, whose cumple I crashed (accidentally) on my way home from Van Dyck.

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

In fact, my office mate Sol and I have worked out an oft repeated dialogue around these catered celebrations. Most days we begin the dialogue reading around 11 am.

- I'm hungry.
- Mmmmm. Think it's anybody's birthday?

On good days, unexpected IMs arrive at coffee time bearing invitations to join the day's happy celebrant in the lunch room.

- It's my last day at work!
- I'm getting married this weekend!
- Just back from a business trip to Moscow! Russian chocolates!
- ¡Pasteles para todos!

A stampede ensues.

The difficult days are those when no one has anything to celebrate. For those days Sol and I have worked out a sad refrán, a Hungry Worker's Lament, best delivered wide-eyed with a heavy drop of the shoulders.

- Tengo hambre, one of us will offer. The other joins in for the final phrase:
- Y no es el cumple de nadie.

- I'm hungry.
All together now:
- And it's nobody's birthday.

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  • Hi Wandering Woman !
    I really agree with you, in my office every time you come back from a travel, you have to bring "pasteles". And if you don't, they can make a strike ! ;)

    By Anonymous Peyu, at 3:38 PM  

  • You have to love that, don't you? Have you every flown back to Madrid form another city on an Iberia flight and seen the crowds lining up to buy sweets to bring back to work?
    I'm with your striking coworkers. I'm not sure I can ever go back to working without the pasteles rule...

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:20 PM  

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