Churros are a big deal in Spain. And most big deals are in need of heroes who represent the cause and make it better. Charo Salguero is one of those unsung heroes who, after investing six decades of her life trying to achieve the perfect recipe, she finally made it.
I believe that the character of a place is often forged by the character of the people who live there. Every now and then this connection becomes so apparent that when we look at a person, we immediately recognize a place.
That is exactly what happened when we met Charo. Looking at her, one knows that she couldn’t be from anywhere else in this world but from El Puerto de Santa María. Her pride, her spark – or her ‘chispa’ as Andalusians would say – her beautiful black amber eyes, her accent… Everything points in the direction of this sherry-making town off the coast of Cádiz.
Charo is the longest serving churrera in Andalusia. She was only 13 when she started helping her father with the family churreria. Today she’s well into her 70s and her churros are made of much more than just flour, water and salt. They contain the skill and the passion accumulated by the same pair of hands which have been perfecting the churros-making art for nearly 60 years.
“They must be long and thin but not too skinny or they will dry out too much”
Few people know more about churros than Charo. “They must be long and thin but not too skinny or they will dry out too much. The deep-frying must be precise so they go crispy on the outside whilst keeping a fluffy inside”, she says. “They must not be oily or they will give you a hard digestion. Can you see any oil in my churros? I’m sure you can’t because I know how to fry them well! They’re delicious, aren’t day?”, she asks rhetorically.
Charo is a proud woman. She’s full of that very charming Southern Spanish character that I find so attractive in the people from this region. Standing at the queue of her tiny churreria is an experience worth living; with Charo conducting a symphony of greetings, jokes and gossip – a full-on demonstration of the intense levels of liveliness that infuse this socially exuberant part of the world.
“Can you see any oil in my churros? I’m sure you can’t because I know how to fry them well!”
One of the several old ladies in the queue tells us that “since she started helping her father out when she was just a girl, she’s always been a beautiful woman, always with a big smile for everyone, always with her characteristic painted eye-ribbon”. Another says that “she loves football. Did you know her son was very close to become a professional player?”.
Whatever the stories, Charo is clearly the queen of the main market place in El Puerto de Santa María. Her natural friendliness and above all her incredible skills at making churros make Charo not only one of the best churros makers in the country but surely one of the most loved ones.