The engine groans as it grinds up the hill in a tight curve. The windshield is caked over with dust, the ochre smudged off just above the steering wheel where the wipers have been working over time. They’re taking a breather now so the A\C can stir waves of overheated air from the back to the front of the car, in time with the Latin disco static crackling from the radio. A bump in the road, and the car shudders to a halt beneath the desiccated arms of a pine tree, where bleached stonework clumps together into the barnacle of a Spanish village on the endless plains of La Mancha.
This is mystic land, where Don Quixote once battled the windmills in tales of gallant chivalry. In Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote, a modern errant knight is taking up the fight against bigotry, oppression and greed: an unprepossessing country priest and his opinionated comrade, Mayor Sancho, take to the road in their rusty Seat ‘Rocinante’ to escape political turmoil in their native El Toboso only to find themselves caught up in treacherous intrigues and machinations that threaten the freedom and wellbeing of their community and ultimately their own lives. What starts out as a benign country road trip filled with humour and witty banter turns into a madcap race against the unbridled power of state and church, and we learn that humility, empathy and grace are not some wornout romantic notions but the very core of our moral compass that guide us in times of ambiguity, guilt and doubt.
Father Quixote and Sancho set up camp under the pine tree, scooping out traditional eggplant, tomato and green pepper pisto stew with floury flatbread, a wheel of mildly cured Machegan cheese rolled over in rosemary sprigs, roasted red peppers, pimiento-stuffed olives slick with fragrant oil exuding grassy notes, thirst-quenching wedges of watermelon, and the deep-plum, easy to drink Tempranillo wine that hints of tobacco, vanilla and herbs.