There is only one photo set that can sum up how I feel about my imminent visit to Asturias this weekend. Its a place I am SO keen to explore and from what I can tell they are the most passionate ciderheads I've ever had the pleasure to meet (and thats saying something.)
These were shot at the International Craft Cider Festival held in Wales last year, the idea being to bring together various cidermaking nations to sample, learn and generally understand more about other cider cultures. The Asturians where of course there in force; gaitas blasting, cider throwing left right and centre, scoffing chorizo cooked in cider, tee shirts, badges and flags... so proud.
The set in question (that follows) is my favourite sequence from that weekend. Its of a young boy learning to 'throw' cider and I love it because of how simply it picks up on a difference between them and us. I should point out for those that don't know, the Asturians pour their sidra from a bottle held over the heads into a glass waiting in the other hand held as low as they can (around groin level.) It has the effect of effervescing the cider from being lifeless and sharp, to sherberty and very refreshing. Then you neck it, saving the last drop for the floor and pass the shared glass on. I can only imagine how many times I will be asked to attempt to pour sidra this over the coming days... its known as 'throwing' cider and I'm sure to make matters worse, I will feel the need to do it on tip toes for some reason.
Look at the faces of the people involved, they say alot about Asturian cider culture. At first, the boy stands respectfully watching, waiting his chance. In the second photo, he 'throws' the cider and concentration is paramount. Thirdly, he realises he's made it, as does his mentor. Fourthly, he shows his delighted mum and give her the glass, as the cavalry step in reassuringly, arms and eyebrows raised beaming with genuine excitement. Its wonderful.
I think the short narrative says as much about Asturian cider culture as it does our own, would we ever see this happening in UK? (OK - we don't 'throw' our cider but I think its fair to say that its generally frowned upon to encourage our children to pour alcoholic drinks.) To these guys, as with other European countries, alcohol and children is not such a big deal, its just another thing: like food, or school.
I wonder if we had more of this attitude within our own society if we might have less of the alcohol issues we do? Alcohol has a real stigma here, we seem to separate our children from it in a way that, being the curious being we are, as we grow up without having been introduced to it as understanding it in that way, we are left to discover it amongst peers with the obvious consequences. As in Asturias, I'm a firm believer that in educating our young guns on their cider heritage, they will grow up understanding that its something to marvel, to be shared but above all something to respect and enjoy with family and friends.
I love the enthusiasm of Asturians because I can REALLY relate to it. Something I notice time and again on my cider travels, wherever I go in the world, is that some aspects are the same and some are entirely different. Its the space between those two simultaneous realities that really holds my interest in cider culture. Their inexhaustible passion is one aspect I really get - so much so that it makes language barrier is irrelevant. I embarrassed to admit I can't say much more than 'No hablo espan-yole, sorry' but I am proud to admit that in some instances it matters a little bit less, because we share something bigger. Hopefully....
I should add their website http://www.sidradeasturias.es/ for anyone who wants to find out more.