We’d gone to pig out on pork at a tapas fest in Tarifa. But a man in a pork pie hat on the poster had other ideas, adding a curious twist to this piggy tale.
He stopped us again in our tracks outside the Tourist Information Office where we went to pick up a map. A dapper gent, in spectacles and a cravat, presiding in spirit over Tarifa’s 1st Ruta de Cerdo Ibérico, held in homage to this local VIP:
The Sage of Tarifa, R.I.P.Roblox Hack No Survey No Download
Juan Luis Muñoz Alonso is just a bust now, cast in bronze, that must have cost a bob or two – a fitting tribute to a man who was a legend in his time, as we came to understand. Although not from the Tourist Information Office which had no information at all about the iconic figure on their doorstep, who was honoured posthumously as a Favourite Son of Tarifa in 2013.
Qué va, estamos en España!
We all have reasons to complain about Spain but Juan Luis will never be one of them – a man who embodied the very ethos of why we love to live here, as we discovered.
“Try his grand-daughter’s … El Ombligo,” the girl behind the counter suggested.
Which is how our tapas fest turned into a quest to uncover the legend of the Sage of Tarifa and locate his grand-daughter’s belly button (el ombligo in Spanish)!
We could have done with the Sage’s help to find it. El Ombligo was his bar once, a belly button-sized indent in a wall, hidden deep in the heart of the Old Town’s twisting maize of streets.
How he would have loved to have stepped down from his plinth and joined us on this glorious gastronomic tapas crawl around 32 bars with nothing but pig on the menu! Just like his own restaurant, where pork was all he served.
Just like the Monty Python sketch, without the spam!
Eating at Casa Juan Luis was like being a guest at his home for dinner, one of his customer said. “You had to knock at the door and walk through the kitchen to get to the dining room which was full of his personal belongings. He often pulled up a chair and chatted while we were eating. His place was always full of famous people – TV presenters and torreros. I think he was a judge for a bullfighting version of Spain’s Got Talent and had his own celebrity chef programme years ago. Loads of famous people came to Tarifa for his funeral.”
From bar to bar we went, eating and drinking and picking up titbits of information about this enigmatic sage who bred pigs, claimed ham was better than viagra and drank daily and deeply from the cup of life – and all the better if it contained sherry. Through dishes of pork puchero and pigs trotters, belly and cheek, sucking piglet and sausages, fino and vino and bottles of Cruzcampo, we pieced together the scrag ends of a story. A few pork scratchings.
“As Seneca was to Cordoba, so José Luis was to Tarifa”, he’s been described!
A modern-day philosopher, educated in the School of Life, the Tarifa countryside he loved was his classroom and he promoted the Moorish town on the tip of Spain wherever he went – on national TV, quite often. He once upstaged the avant garde Spanish TV presenter, Jesús Quintero, by bringing his donkey onto the show! For evidence, watch the clip below!
He hated hypocrisy and snobbery and lit up a room with his presence – sometimes literally. Sparks flew in the jamón Iberico pavilion at Expo 92, the day he was nearly floored by the King of Spain’s bodyguards. He’d only offered the monarch a slice of ham on the blade of his very sharp knife! Incredibly, the King forgave him, the Queen too (and she’s a vegetarian)!
He was wise and kind and witty and cheeky and told a good joke. If you know his most famous one, about the Wedding at Cana (the one where Jesus turned the water into wine) , please share it!
There are so many stories, if only he’d lived to tell us them! How I wish I had known the Sage of Tarifa!
A rusty sign in the shape of a pig oinks plaintively in the infamous Tarifa wind outside the Sage’s locked and shuttered restaurant today…
…but his memory lives on in the little belly-button-sized Bar El Ombligo, opposite, where we found his grand-daughter Elena, cooking tapas-sized hamburgers for a flurry of extranjeros (with real Iberian pork, of course).
A pretty girl with a smile like sunshine, doing her abuelo proud, unflustered by her battalion of back orders and two more recruited for us. We ate in silence, not wishing to disturb her. They were scrumptious!
Juicy, spicy, filled with the goodness of Spain – and a touch of Sage…
Foodies and fiesta lovers, check out the Tuna Festival of Zahara – a great gourmet gig!
— Joanna Styles (@Jostyleswriter) December 15, 2013