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I was lucky enough to attend two cookouts that were a great deal of fun, but very, very different than any cookout I have attended in the past. There were two common denominators, though, lots of fire and lots of food.

To celebrate Fallas, you have to step into the mood. This is when people see each other, much like the American Christmastime, that you have not seen in a year. Family, friends, lots of food, and plenty of impromptu celebrations to round out the festivities are planned for Las Fallas. These are two examples that I witnessed up close and personal. Both were a lot of fun.

The first was a “paella,” meaning the dish but also an event where people got together to cook paellas as a group. Over an open flame, paellas take on an aspect of food and a party, and there is plenty of both to go around. In this paella, the even was also somewhat bohemian in its gatherings of all sorts of people for a general block party. The event was held in the spaces between buildings, and the fires were built on the ground and a few chunks of pavement that existed from the previous structures that occupied the space. Eventually, a band started playing, drawing a crowd of dancers and enthusiasts. Sadly, all of the paellas had meat in them, leaving this vegetarian out of the sampling of the dishes.

DSCN4228 copy See the dishes of paella cooking on the flames through all of the people?

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DSCN4231 copy DSCN4230 copy DSCN4229 copyThe second event was a more structured affair sponsored by a Catalunyan restaurant. Two very long rows of tables, lots of beer and wine, and groups of families and friends all shared a communal meal of a traditional dish, calsots or calçots, served in the Catalunya region of Spain surrounding Barcelona. (Click here to learn more.) See those onion bunches in the picture above? Those are roasted and then dipped into a savory sauce before being suspended into a waiting mouth. This whole process takes some coordination, though, because the outer layers of the onions have to be stripped off before meeting the sauce and someone’s waiting jaws. Definitely one of the messiest meals I have ever eaten in public. Ever.

DSCN4257 copyEventually, there was more music and more celebrating. I was quizzed in three languages (English, Spanish, and French) about where/why/how/when/what do I do for a living, and left both of the events pleasantly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of so many people. Amazing.