I was brought up on the mantra that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But nobody said anything about fruit. Of course lunch has nothing to do with it. What this means is that you get what you give and what you take has to be eventually in some way paid for.
I am now wondering whether this is a capitalistic maxim. Or a mathematical equation. For living here in El Maestrat, this just does not seem to apply. For instance, yesterday I drove to a lovely hamlet of old houses bordering the tile factory area near Alcora. The weather was breath taking. A fine red tile dust skirted the streets. This was compensated by the houses which struck all the appropriate romantic chords. Tiny vicious dogs copulated in the lanes.
Ok, maybe this does not add to the picture, but it happened.
Then I left and passed through the town of St Joan de Moro nearby; some old houses, some new houses, and many half built apartment complexes. The place appeared to be in limbo, awaiting the end of a recession that has hit the tiles sector particularly hard.
Here I stopped at a fish shop, bare in its offerings and clientele. The fresh fish did not tempt, two small trays of sardines in the midst of a never-ending stretch of empty slate. However there were tins of tuna, white, in olive oil, EXTREMEMLY cheap at 1 euro each, nothing I had ever seen in a supermarket, and so I bought four.
Leaving, I paused to admire a substantial antique bread chest tucked away in a corner. The old patina on its lid glimmered dully under decades of buffed wax. It was not for sale. I am ashamed that I enquired.
Outside the door lay a crate of dusty oranges that struck me as suitable candidates for a daily fresh squeeze. How much, I bravely asked again? Nada, nothing, and the shop assistant piled a generous bag high, seemingly happy to be rid of them. At home they took up two giant colanders and must have tipped the scales at 4 kilos. When I pressed three in the morning for a glass of juice, I sighed pleasurably with the first taste. This was juice, and nothing else. Tart, yet sweet, and bursting with health at its every pore.