Walking around Caimari the other day, I saw this blake hanging in a village bar, I somehow realised how difficult it can be for the traveller in Mallorca -foodie or not- to decode some apparently simple menus. Gastronomic translations in a country with a deficient English knowledge, such as Spain, can be tricky. It is not only about food or ingredients description, there is also a cultural component that needs to be explained. No worries, I am here to help.
For example, looking a the above menu, you would probably wonder what does exactelly ¿Varied? mean. Well, it is an unfortunate attempt to literally translate a very important concept in our popular Mallorcan gastronomic culture, the so called "Variat". With "Variat", a lonely Catalan adjective, consider in that case as a noun, we are presuming the existence of a plate or portion that has the quality of the variety. Technically, we are dealing with an assortment of dishes, usually served in an individual “greixonera” -a Mallorcan clay pot for cooking or serving food-. Pay attention to the fact that I am talking about small food portions and I have not yet mentioned "tapas". Well, this is because Tapas don't belong to the genuine Mallorcan food culture. Sorry to disappoint you. But the islanders, we also love to share foods; we do "variats", "llonguets" and we are back to the old style "Vermut", but we don't strictly do tapas. I promise another post about the rise and fall of tapas in the Spanish gastronomic map. But today, let's focus on this unique Mallorcan culinary specimen, our local bar's pride, loved and hated at the same time, the one and only: "Variat".
Depending on the size of the “greixonera” and the size of your hunger, you will find and order a "Petit" -small-, "Mitjà"medium or "Gran"- Big "Variat". Its composition varies, that its essence! Every bar offers a different selection of dishes and you can choose exactly what you want on your plate. Therefore "Variat" is a custom made assortment. You can be creative and fussy at the same time.
Not everyone likes the "Variat". I am not a big fan myself, because this precise quality of variation implies a variety of flavors, textures and temperatures that do not always go well together. For example, croquettes are often softening by the effect of hot liquids, these are cooled by cold dishes, the usual suspect is normally “ensaladilla rusa” and so on... For some people, it is a real gastronomic nonsense. But, hey, it's a local nonsense!! All in all, I do recommend it as a true Mallorcan dining experience, at least once! It is a good way to sample some of the most typical dishes of the Mallorcan bar food culture. Let me know if you try it!