The Mañueta fritter-shop still keeps its faithful rendezvous with Sanfermin. It has been running for 131 years and five generations have worked within its four walls and thousands of Pamplona people as well as visitors have enjoyed the taste of its special, almost mythical, fritters. Paulina Fernández, the present owner, at a healthy age of 80 years, is a granddaughter of the founder, and she keeps alive the hope that there will be fritters to be had for some years yet. She relies on the help of her own family to ensure that the shop will be open each 6th July. This year some little hitch in her health threatened to deprive the town of its renowned fritters, but finally, after no little effort, they are once again at the starting line at six in the morning of each Sanfermin fiesta day. Paulina won’t say how long she can keep up the tradition, but she promises to do so as long as she is able to.
-Tell me, Paulina, what do the fritters from the Mañueta smell of, would you say?
-I would say they smell of clean olive oil. It even smells from the Plaza del Castillo, and from San Antón street, depending on how the wind is blowing.
-Do the family begin to tremble when Sanfermin is drawing near?
-You can say that again.What could my daughters-in-law say about their mother-in-law! I already warned them this year when they offered to come in to help in the shop: “You have ruined the fiestas for yourselves, you may as well forget Sanfermin.” But they didn’t mind that. They have really been very kind.
-With coffee or with chocolate?
-I have always taken them with a white coffee, but there is a liquor of “patxala,” which my husband makes really well, which also goes down very well after some fritters. For those friends who come to the University, as Miguel Javier Urmeneta would say, we usually serve them a small glass.
-The hand that makes the fritters would also be important?
-My husband, who says he is the consort of a fritter maker, has taught all the family really well. He likes to see them make a fuss of the fritter and if it is not really well made then it does not come out of the pan.
-While we are at it, tell us about some other little knack?
-For the fritter to come out perfect from the pan the secret is to know when the oil is at its high point. There is where you get your diploma in fritters. And that comes with experience.
-And the best way to eat them?
-Above all, don’t wash them down with water. That only leaves a bad feeling. So, if I am asked for water, I tell them that I won’t give them any, because if not, later on, they will say that the fritters from the Mañueta did not go down well, and what has really made them feel bad has been the water.
-Are some fritters from the Mañueta the best way to pull the curtain down on a night of partying and drinking?
-Yes, because they give you some lining in the stomach to go on drinking. The worst thing you can do is drink on an empty stomach.
-Have you ever had any problem over all these years?
-Very little. From time to time some fool has said something, for example, to my granddaughter, who is a very pretty girl. I have the knife for cutting the ring of dough, but usually it’s the customers who quickly say to him “Be careful, you don’t what you are getting into !”
-Many people are afraid that the day will come when the fritter shop won’t open.
-What can I say to them? I will do all in my power to open up every year. And above all, that I appreciate their custom.
-Do the fritters still taste the same as they did at the beginning?
-I think they are getting better and better.