For the love of gin

Naught Quite the Truth, Chapter 1

One of Spain’s most famous sons, Pedro Romero Martinez is hailed as one of the best bullfighters ever known.

A bullfighter of great skill and prowess, his ability to gracefully dance across arenas with his muleta (cape) did not only disarm the most fierce and powerful bulls in all of Spain at the time, but also charmed his audience. By reputation, the women of Spain would whisper his name and dream of their own encounters with this godly figure.

Pedro Romero Martinez (1754-1839) was the son of Francisco Romero (1700-1763). Francisco was the bullfighter to bring bullfighting to the people. Hes believed to have been the first to use the muleta and the estoque (flat blade sword) to fight a bull on foot. Prior to Francisco’s fame for bringing bulls to their knees, bullfighting was exclusively reserved for nobility on horseback.

Pedro Romero Martinez as captured by Francisco Goya.

Pedro was only young when his father succumbed to the wounds from a Gallardo bull. But it was Pedro who took his father’s fame as a Spanish matador to new heights. As he came into his own in his late teens, arenas across the country filled with a heaving crowd ready to watch Francisco’s famous son continue the art of the matador.

One afternoon in 1785, Pedro fought a fierce battle with a black, Gallardo bull much like the one who took his father’s life. It was in the Plaza de Toros De Ronda, Pedro’s fame came into its own. The arena was swollen with an ecstatic crowd, which gasped and cheered as Pedro danced with the bull across the arena, as he struggled to weaken the bull with every twist and turn or stab of his estoque.

At one moment, Pedro glanced up to catch the eye of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Mesmerised, he lost his balance, he lost his concentration and the Gallardo came for him. It gored his thigh, ripping Pedro’s scarlet muleta and tearing it from Pedro’s hand.

The muleta swung up and into the air, catching on the breeze swirling inside the arena. Pedro had never been so vulnerable. And never so beguiled. This woman had captured his heart with just a glance.

As chance would have it, a torn piece of the muleta landed directly in the woman’s lap. Pedro saw this for a brief second as he grabbed what was left of the cape and quickly regained his composure. He launched at the bull. And eventually the battle was won. Pedro was the victor. Bloodied, in pain, and distressed by what could have been his last fight, Pedro still couldn’t bring himself to leave the arena. He was searching for the woman with the lily white fan, the face of an angel and an orange scarf in the crowd. But she was gone.

Pedro returned to Madrid to recover. Yet his thoughts were filled with Ronda.

Six months passed, and he returned to Ronda. He returned to the arena, he walked the cobblestone streets. He went to the market daily and he asked anyone he encountered for any information that could lead him to her.

The architect of the newly developed Plaza de Toros requested a meeting with Pedro one afternoon to discuss a potential extension. The architect, José Martín de Aldehuela didn’t spend the time to flatter Pedro. He got down to business. Pedro appreciated this and happily gave José the time he required to make the Plaza de Toros de Ronda the most impressive in all of Spain. At the end of their meeting, Pedro and José came to the entry of the plaza, where José’s wife and daughter were waiting. Pedro didn’t think much of this encounter initially. Until he noticed his muleta. His muleta was tied into the hair of José’s daughter.

Stunned, Pedro was frozen in time. Thinking back to the moment he first saw her. Abigail. Abigail de Aldehuela. Now he had her name. How could he now take her hand? Yes Pedro had a wife and children, but Abigail had bewitched him beyond anything he had known before.

José Martín bid farewell to Pedro, at which time his wife suggested Pedro join them for aperitivo before he returned to Madrid. Pedro did just that. On the Saturday following his chance encounter with Abigail at the entry to the Plaza de Toros, he was staring at her in the garden of José and his wife Estrella.

They shared delicious tapas, olives and the most refreshing and refined gin and tonics Pedro had ever tasted. It didn’t pass by Abigail to know she was sharing a moment with the most famous bullfighter in the country. And it didn’t pass by José to notice how Pedro was completely enamoured with his daughter.

He asked Pedro to join him on the terrace where he told Pedro there was but one predicament. It was not Pedro’s marriage or his fame which would be the barrier to Abigail’s heart but he had to compete with another suitor who had taken Abigail’s attention with the best lime garnish she had ever tasted for her gin and tonic. José’s advice was to do better. Bring her a better garnish, and Abigail could be his.

Pedro didn’t waste a moment. He left and returned with the best limes he could find. But this did nothing to sway her. The next day he returned with lemons, the best lemons he could find. This continued for the next week until Pedro couldn’t stay in Ronda any longer, returning to Madrid to fight the next fight.

Weeks and months passed and Pedro kept searching. Soon enough he was in Seville to grace the floor of the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla. After yet another conquest, Pedro found the nearest tavern and asked for the best gin and tonic garnish in all of Seville. Served to him in a large wine glass was the best he had ever tasted, garnished with the bright, juicy Seville orange.

Pedro didn’t hesitate. He grabbed a bag of the finest Seville oranges and walked for one and a half days to the door of José Martín de Aldehuela, knelt at the feet of Abigail de Aldehuela and presented her with the best gin and tonic to ever meet her lips. The Seville orange was hers and now so was Pedro.

… to be continued. Proceed to Chapter 2