A Dinner Most Memorable // Bogrim Seminar 2019

The initials might be BS, but this seminar was far from that.

Jewish Brits abroad! Or British Jews abroad? Either way, don't bother locking up your sons and daughters because the likelihood of finding eligible Jewish partners in Barcelona is nada. Besides, this seminar was solely for the achievement of aims, all four of them; how else can we expect to see the Jewish people living in peace in the state of Israel as one people and as a light unto the nations? So ask me what my favorite memory of Bogrim Seminar was and you're likely to be surprised by the answer; my friends won't be. See, if you're of the belief that there's an unbreakable relationship between being kosher and being Jewish, then you might want to stop reading a pluralist magazine. The location for this momentous meal was Bodega la Tinaja, a restaurant not so much a hole in the wall, but an oddly excavated building fronted by an enormous wooden door, which in truth hid a comically miniature doorway.

To enter the restaurant I needed to hunch under a wooden buttress placed medievally low. This reminded me of ducking under ancient beams to access Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem. Perhaps it was this Spanish restaurant's Catholic character, but what I received wasn't far off a religious experience. Once I'd stuck my landing through the doorway, we were instantly directed to a table for 11 squeezed into the rear of the dining room. It was hurriedly constructed out of a pair of 6 seater round tables, which lay over an inch from flush due to the stone slab flaw's undisciplined angles. Just to get to our table we had to jink and juke through a tight pack of 2 seat tables, extra careful not to knock over the spilling tea candle ubiquitous to restaurant first dates. The party sat in the formation that nature had intended. The kosher loyalists placed at one end, the defectors on the other. There was no tension nor any disdain, merely the respect that our meals were incompatible. Both parties had important work at hand and any sort of interference from foreign bodies would tarnish their toil. What I see in retrospect is pluralism in practice. We can eat at the same table, but we aren't sharing the same experience. If this is the case, were the kosher keepers and team treif really sharing the same meal? I'll leave that with you guys, the foods arrived sooner than expected...

Ordering was a doddle. I recall a dialogue something like: "and that, and this, and that," followed by a flurry of provisions arriving bits at a time. Red wine hastily poured, next plonked on the table were exceedingly thin trims of Iberico ham - they'd have been transparent if it weren't for the darkest burgundy flesh indicative of its age. Like some Willy Wonka invention, the flavor of the acorns which the pig had fed on seasoned the meat; I'm not being funny. Next dish down, potato tortilla. While it was pleasingly delicate in both flavor and texture, I only found this out later in the meal for my attention was immediately stolen away from the beige triangle I'd been inspecting. In a rapid fire repeat after putting down the eggs, the waiter re-doubled with morcillas (blood sausage) and broad beans. They were delivered in separate squat dishes made of tin and terracota, somewhat reminiscent of large ashtrays. The morcillas hummed of iron to be sweetened by a healthy amount of cinnamon. Broad beans popped powerfully under the slightest pressure, dressed in no more than a light vinaigrette, and speckled with lardons of an unidentifiable cured pork product. Crucially, the wine was topped up about this time too. We were provided the resources for our own dinner entertainment in the form of a pile of lightly toasted country bread, which was edged off the side of the plate by 4 shiny whole tomato's. We required a demonstration of how to attack, so the waitress lifted the table knife out of my hand, topped a plump garlic clove leaving the skin on, and grated it against the coarse crispy craters covering the toast's surface 3 times exactly. She then jabbed at the tomato with the blunt bump on the end of the knife's head, it's dull teeth forcing the fruit open in a simultaneous tear and cut. The scrubbing process was repeated with the tomato before a light dusting of salt and a lazy slug of extra virgin olive oil. Not even we could mess up this process when we manufactured our own slices, the bites were crunchy and satisfyingly soggy, acidic under influence of the tomato and peppery rich from the oil. I'm told the kosher crew enjoyed their food too.

Of course we spoke during the meal, and though words were muffled by full mouths, I assure you discussion was meaningful. The food garnered much of the conversation's attention, but once we'd consumed our lot, the topics of our discussion rang similar to those which you'd expect of bogrim: "Corbyn eurgh," "Rashford will never be England's number 9," "what did you think of Hebron on Year Course?" See, our youth movement is not a business. Youth movements don't often have their most pivotal moments thanks to their members cordially collaborating in a conference room; there's a reason that we don't wear suits. To bring Jewish people together constructs a social space where Judaism is not avoided like it would be in secular society. This meal became a moment which I will always remember as a time where I was truly expressing my Judaism, and of all locations it could occur, it was bestowed upon me at a restaurant with various appendages of pork adorning the walls.

I had previously questioned the ideological value of holding Bogrim Seminar abroad. Yet in that night in Barcelona, our youth movement helped to bring Jewish life back to a city where it once flourished.

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