The recipe for rice in a casserole, by Olga Merino

Sunday is (or was) a day of rice dishes at home, like this, in the plural, because each family treasures a magisterial formula. Beyond the onion yes / onion no debate, three ingredients are impenetrable: the grain, of course; a hearty broth; and the well-blended garlic and tomato sauce, until it looks like jam. Then, everyone handles times, cooking and all sorts of bumps, whether on land or sea, at their whim. also in every house beans are cooked in a different way.

On one occasion, the writer, journalist and immense dietitian Miquel Pairolí (Quart, Girona, 1955–2011) —a recent discovery for me, guiltily late— used the recipe for rice in a casserole as a simile to talk about columnism, which worked for 11 years in the newspaper ‘El Punt’. This matter comes to mind because today marks exactly two months since I embarked on the felucca of the (almost) daily article, and one is blocking leaks, adjusting nuts, tarring impossibilities. Tuning the tone. Learning. Because, how the hell do you write a decent column? They come out like the Padrón peppers, ‘uns pican e outros non’.


Pairolí was kind enough to share his method, which includes four essential props: observation, memory (the past explains the present), a certain desire for style (there may be style in the simplicity of a well-tongued subject/verb/predicate) and, above all, critical spirit. Without it, says the teacher, «journalism tends to flowers and violins».

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The problem is that I love «flors i violes», the oregano of the mountain, the stories of vampires and cursed mansions, the open endings, what is said in the street, my old fountain pen, the friends, cod in pilpil sauce, trifles and watercolors. However, in the pages of a newspaper you can not be for grapes; not everyday. It’s very tempting to stay in the bedroom, but from time to time you have to go down to the mud.

The article we have been talking about was the last one written by Pairolí before cancer took him at age 55. He titled it ‘Teló’, because both the red velvet curtains and the farce end up falling under their own weight. He had the grace to say goodbye to his readers by taking stock of the trade without fuss or sentimentality, with austere honesty. I think I would have liked to meet him. To sit one afternoon with him under his oak tree, next to his husky dog—one blue eye, the other brown, like David Bowie—not even speaking, watching evening fall over the fields. His diary ‘Octubre’ (Editorial Gavarres) is a gem, one of the best books i’ve read lately.

The recipe for rice in a casserole, by Olga Merino