Photo by Maggie Schmitt
Two o'clock in the afternoon, whitewash ablaze in the midday sun. There is no sound but the shrieking of cicadas from a cypress tree. No movement. A trance of stillness has fallen over every living thing. Withdraw to the shade of a grapevine or a fig; seek the consoling gurgle of a tiny fountain. And eat gazpacho.
Much of the aesthetic heritage of Andalusia has to do with lending grace to the long hours of ruthless sun. Leafy courtyards, narrow whitewashed alleys, tiles of greens and blues: From Kandahar to Cadiz stretches a common culture of dealing with heat and dust. Poetry, architecture, and religious images all prize interior sanctuaries and the sound of running water, all await the fragrant clemency of night.
But to my knowledge, in that whole great swath of sun-baked earth, there is no gastronomic solution so perfect as gazpacho, humble invention of this westernmost outpost of the Islamic world. Cold and bright, tasting of summer itself, gazpacho is what one craves even when all other foods stick in the throat.
Do not be deceived by imposters! I have noticed that outside of Spain all manner of slop--tomato juice with bits of vegetable--is passed off as "gazpacho," and little wonder many friends arrive here thinking they don't like it. Let me set the record straight.