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A grape night out

Por: | 30 de diciembre de 2013

More than one hundred years ago, the grape-growing community of Alicante came up with a marketing masterstroke. It resulted from a particularly good year for their crop, meaning a surplus of grapes needed to be shifted. One can imagine the scene: several chaps, sitting around a table in December, with only the ticking of a clock breaking the silence. As they twiddle with their ink pens and discreetly avoid making eye contact, an occasional suggestion is put forward for the use of the excess grapes: “Coat them in glass as novelty marbles?”, “Ear plugs?”, or “Ammunition for catapults?” Then, one bright spark utters, “What about getting people to eat one on each stroke of the bell for the New Year, to bring luck and prosperity?” The grape-growers no doubt choked on their wine at the brilliance of the suggestion, just as many individuals would choke on their grapes in the years that followed. It was probably the pick of the bunch. A great grape idea.

However, as with many traditions, it's not without its risks. Whether it's losing a filling to the trinket in a roscon de reyes in Spain, or chasing a cheese down a hill in the UK, traditions seem to have developed on a 'no pain, no gain' basis. For those of you looking to undertake the challenge of eating twelve grapes for the first time, or just wishing for a safer experience, it pays to heed some basic advice so that efforts are not made in vine. Sorry, in vain.

Transporting your grapes to a New Year's Eve party or to a crowded plaza can be a headache. Remember: grapes are delicate – they detach from their stalks and squash very easily. A detachment perspective can be illustrated by picking up a bunch in a supermarket, which invariably sees several grapes bailing out before you manage to bag them and brings into question the existence of a grape skydiving gene.

Of course, in the hustle and bustle of a crowded new year plaza, you're not going to be popular if you pull out a few withered twigs from your jacket and comment, “That's funny – there were grapes on it when I left home.” To locate the missing fruit inevitably means jumping up and down like a maniac in the hope that they'll appear around your feet, or, in a worse case scenario, removing your clothing layer by layer. The grapes may well be found, but whether your friends will still wish to eat them may depend in which part of your attire they are located. Even if they remain attached to their stalks, the pushing, shoving and body heat from a party or plaza means by the midnight hour the grapes can look like a bunch of small, dry, sweaty prunes. They look even more unappetizing if your identity card or driving licence is stuck to them. Take precautions, and think tupperware container.


Grapes: delicate, delicious, yet deceptively dangerous. Photo: flickr (CC) Matt McGee

In a further marketing triumph, twelve grapes have long been available in tins, but remember that tins don't always open with ease. If you've trudged all the way to your local plaza, the question “So, who has the tin opener?” can really cast some gloom if all members of your party look blankly at each other. In the absence of the device, one brave soul will try to open the tin with his or her penknife, which usually results in access to twelve grapes and a severed thumb. Take a tin opener, and a small first aid kit just in case.

Having safely transported your New Year's Eve essentials, perhaps the most important advice can be applied to consumption. Unfortunately, there is a similarity in size between the simple grape and the much-needed human windpipe. First and foremost, remember to chew and swallow the grapes. Nowadays, the sight of your Uncle Pedro turning blue in the face whilst pointing frantically at his neck makes for a great youtube video pending the swift arrival of an ambulance, but we'll never know how many casualties have succumbed in the past, just seconds into the first day of January, with their final word being 'ten!', 'eleven!' or, heart-breakingly, 'twelve!'. Also, should any individual manage to consume the dozen, please remember that the last thing they need is a strong, congratulatory, 'well-done-mate', slap on the back, which is more likely to result in something resembling a famous scene from The Exorcist than a humble 'Thank you'.

On such a joyous occasion it would be shameful to finish on a sour note, so of course, more than anything else, enjoy yourself, have a wonderful night, and I hope that, if you'll excuse the pun, the evening lives up to grape expectations. And have a warm, happy and prosperous New Year too.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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