Henry Marin Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, has a gastronomic altar in Tarragona. The sandwich made of llonganissa (pork sausage), mushrooms, fried eggs, ham, cooked onions, romesco sauce and herbs, is possibly the best and most ironic oblation ever to be offered to the father of the assembly line and modern consumerism. The supreme pontiff of such lavish ritual is Eduard Boada, a sandwich artisan and, above all, a one-off man.
The world is in a hurry, everyone’s always late. At the age of 71, Mr. Boada is no new learner, but one who takes it really easy. He’s on an unhurried pace, totally unstressed, proper of a wise person who’s done a lot in his life always in a good mood. Anyone else on his very same age would have shut the place down and, maybe, started looking at it from the other side of the counter. For someone like him, in the business since he was three, things are not quite so easy. Some can’t even think about it. ‘Oh god, the day we have to do without Mr Boada…’, says one of his customers leaving on a full stomach.
Gotham City has Batman; Superman works in Metropolis. Tarragona’s hero (tascaman, as he likes to be called) doesn’t wear a cape nor uses his fists, and yet his sandwiches do fix our world. ‘If you want to do things properly, you have to dedicate the exact amount of time to it. Pushing too hard is no good. Making a sandwich correctly does require some time; and so does eating it. Eating fast is a disease of our society’, he considers standing by the griddle. When the bread he bought in the morning runs out, sooner than later, he’ll lock the bar and go to have some lunch.
He stopped giving explanations to impatient customers about this and other questions a long time ago. These are absent-minded people with an uncontrollable hunger. As a general rule, they are off way before realizing they should’ve written their order on a small notebook on the wall. ‘It has to do with the law of natural selection. In Kenya, at the savannah, lions hunt weak herbivores. Mr Boada has something of this: patience is the selection criteria’, states a usual patron while flanking the counter in order to make himself a coffee.
Theory and practice of the griddle, tascaman, composed, is still focused on his duty while internally smiling, in a sort of tantric way. Boada style has convinced every trend and tendency, every Frankfurt bar in the 80’s and the huge franchises and sandwich bars in the 90’s, and up to these days. It all started as a bar for soldiers and blue collars, serving stew sandwiches, and it has adapted itself to the modern stomach creating ‘customized sandwiches’, as the artist describes. There is no other similar establishment as old as this in Tarragona, and most importantly, there is no other bar in the city (and keep in mind that there are over a thousand), which is able to cheer both grannies, workers, and students in the same way.
This parochial mixture contributes to a very peculiar setting. Absolutely mesmerized by classical background music, a truly in-house trademark, customers eat following a respectful order, and the conversation, for whoever that might be interested, mixes divine and human issues. Boada oversees it, and participates when he fancies; otherwise, he takes care of his creations, or takes some Danish biscuits to a group of starving students. He likes youngsters. ‘They’re very polite. You can tell they’re happy. They treat me better than they do to most of their teachers. It’s great working with young people. They never complain about anything and they’re always starving. What I cook for them here would be never prepared by their mothers’, says Mr Boada using irony at all times.
As a young man full of a provoking talent, Boada was a show business lover. Performances and witticisms, such as the preparation of cocktails using cement mixers, bathtubs and other big containers, did strike post-Franco Tarragona. For years, his name was associated to important events, which cemented city’s identity, such as the Carnival’s recovery. Nowadays, he focuses all his ingenuity on creating the best sandwiches of Catalonia.