Last Friday I participated in a genuine gastronomic experience that one can only find in Spain.  I was invited to the annual celebration of the “Cofradia del Capon de Villalba” or in English, “The Brotherhood of the Capon of Villalba.¨  I was there because of my present work as an advisor to a winery in Portugal and my knowledge of wines. 

This was a feast worthy of the ancient Roman emperors.  We began at 2 pm and ended at just short of 9 pm!  There were eight dishes served with complementary wines before the main course, the capon.  A small scallop popular with “Gallegos,” the people of Northwest Spain, from whence came General Franco, was perhaps the most exotic starter.  But all were truly gastronomic delights. 

The head of the “Cofradia,” a cherubic Spaniard in his late 70´s broke into the festivities at one point to extol the virtues of the “Capon de Villalba.”   It seems that after turning him into a capon, which our host explained in disturbing detail, the bird is placed in a cage where he is forced fed croquettes, whose recipes are closely guarded secrets of each producer, to fatten the bird.   To maintain a perfect bird he is sacrificed by inserting a needle into his brain via the roof of his mouth. The process is geared to bringing the capon to market at Christmas when it, rather than a turkey or goose, is a highly prized  main dish. 

Our host explained that capons are produced throughout Spain but those of Villalba, a town in “Galicia,” the Northwest part of the country, are reknowned as being the best.  He founded the “Cofradia”s to promote the bird both in Spain and abroad.  It is also designed to promote all of Villalba´s cuisine and wines.

Following the eight courses we were treated to the entry of the capon, the focal point of the meal.  What a sight!  It was at least three times the size of any capon I have ever seen, and capon was a favorite dish of my mother, at least the size of a large tom turkey.  In spite of its giant proportions the meat of the bird was truly succulent and fully up to its advance billing.  It was served with three sauces, one of forest berries, one of apple and one made with the juice of the bird. 

While we were treated to outstanding wines with each course, including the capon, dessert was followed by generous pourings of the host´s favorite single malt Scotch.  By then it was 8:30 pm and after many goodbyes and a tad of Scotch more we left at 9 pm.

A bacchanal of lavish proportions that I have only encountered in Spain.   This wine business is really fun.