I was recently doing a small job for my brother-in-law Antonio. He’s usually on the road, but this particular week he was at home and it’s impossible to work when he’s around. I arrive at 9 a.m. so that the kids are already off at school. 20 minutes later Antonio calls to me out on the balcony where I’m staining the wooden floor.
I go into the kitchen and he’s got a coffee waiting for me.
“¿Quieres una tostada?”
I tell him I just had breakfast, but with Antonio it’s not really a question, it’s just a formality. You can say no, but you’re getting toast.
“Tienes que probar esto.” (“You have to try this.”)
He holds up a bottle of olive oil, tosses a pinch of salt on the toasted bread and then drizzles some oil on it. I tell him I can’t tell the difference between one brand of olive oil and another, but he smiles and awaits my reaction. I take a bite. It’s amazing.
“¿Donde has comprado eso?” (“Where did you buy this?”)
He shows me the bottle again. No label. This stuff isn’t in stores. It was a gift from a client. I finish my coffee and am about to get back to work when he throws another slice of bread on my plate.
It’s no use protesting. I finally get stuck back into my work when I hear,
“¡Hombre! No me dices nada.” (“Man! You don’t tell me anything.”)
Antonio’s mother, who lives in the adjacent apartment and has her own door to the balcony from her living room, comes out to greet me. She’s 88 and strong as an ox. I brace myself for her greeting. She pinches my cheek with one hand and then whack! she follows through and gives me big slap with the other hand. This is of course a friendly greeting and is followed by the obligatory double cheek kiss. There is some chit chat and then,
“¡Ven! Tengo cerveza y queso en la nevera.” (“Come inside! I have beer and cheese in the fridge.”)
I protest profusely and manage to narrowly escape being fed again.
Back to work. I manage to get in a solid forty five minutes before my brother-in-law appears again. This time he’s holding two glasses and a bottle of wine.
Don’t drink wine from “un porrón”. You look like a putz.
“No, cuñado, tengo que trabajar.” (“No, brother-in-law, I have to work.”)
“Gringo, tienes que probar este vino. Es muy, muy bueno.” (“Gringo, you have to try this wine. It’s very, very good.”)
He pours, I take a sip, and like he says, it’s one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. He disappears for a few minutes and returns with half a baguette loaded with chunks of patatera which is sausage made with blood, garlic, potatoes and spicy paprika. I don’t even bother resisting anymore. At this point I’m trying to slap on varnish with one hand while drinking and eating with the other. Then I catch him filling my glass again.
He takes out two of his little cigars and, as my hands are both occupied, he sticks one directly in my mouth and lights it. The entire week went by like this. I think I managed to do about twenty hours of work in five days.