Shalanna (shalanna) wrote,

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Happy memories of Dallas' special place, the Olla Podrida

This article about a Dallas developer contains a paragraph that caught my Googly-eye. But don't bother to click the link; here's all you need to know.

"The Olla Podrida, a specialty shopping center converted from an abandoned warehouse*, utilized recycled building materials and architectural antiques. Containing 88 specialty and craft shops, artists' galleries, antique[s] retailers, and classrooms, it was one of Dallas' most popular shopping facilities for 25 years. It generated some of the highest sales per square foot of any retail center in the city and was one Dallas' major tourist attractions."

*(It looked like an old red barn with three shopping bays, but Heath Coker of Dallas recalls, "My dad bought the land when he was a partner of Trammel Crow and they developed it into the office park called Park Central. We often raced up & down the old runway before there were buildings there. I can tell you that the site of the Olla Podrida was actually the hangar of the old Highland Park airport. I used to ride my horses in them. It was 3 hangars that were turned into a shopping center unlike any other at that time.")

I loved the place. My friend Linda and I used to find any excuse to go out there for lunch or just to wander around. There was a shop that was made like a cave; it sold Australian opals. That was the first time I ever saw a string of those unearthly beauties. Aaarghh. They had a dollhouse and miniatures shop where I got my tiny gumball machine. There was a place where you could browse through all sorts of unusual cards and posters and stationery; Ann and I got prints of the "Strawberry Force," which was a unique painting of a snail's transparent shell like in Doctor Doolittle but with everything shaped like strawberries in an underwater strawberry field. (I suppose it was kind of like a head shop.) The Acoma House upstairs sold the first "nacho cheese sauce" I ever had, along with wonderful tortilla chips. A needlework shop there provided me with many a cross-stitch and needlepoint project back when I did that stuff. There was a belly dance shop! That's where I got my first coin bra and belt, as well as several CDs and a heavy belt made of tiny "bells." There was a glassblower with a classroom, a homebrew (zymurgy) shop, the Haystack theater where a marionette class for children took place every summer, and a cobbler where you could have moccasins made to measure, and . . . just everything. Wonderful place.

And they say in that article that it generated some of the HIGHEST SALES PER SQUARE FOOT, so it had to be profitable.

Okay, I believe that. So WHY IN THE 3@%&#*@(*) was it torn down several years ago? The excuse I heard was that the disabled persons lobby insisted that EVERY shopping area MUST be totally accessible, and the Olla Pod could not be made to agree. Why could it not have been given a "dispensation," as the Church used to in the old days? Why did they have to say, in effect, "If you don't do it our way, you cannot have your building AT ALL because we're pissy little sulkers?" Is that how it happened? (Note that I have a visual infirmity and am not attacking people who are not "able-bodied" or whatever the official term is; I'm attacking whoever it was as far as the lobbyist who caused this ordinance problem. I am simply saying that the reasoning doesn't follow logic.)

I think that's a lie. I believe it was done actually because the land there is now worth so much money. Medical City Dallas is a stone's throw away. There are big, big businesses that want the area to re-develop.

But the rumor was that it would be too expensive to "update and bring under the new code for accessiblity." If so, that makes me think less of whoever was supposedly lobbying "for" the disabled; I should have thought they'd be willing to make an exception for such an EXCEPTIONAL tourist attraction. I am hoping that's just an urban legend, but I remember the Morning Snooze running stories about this. It was something about an external elevator and how the little wooden "footbridge" paths upstairs that creaked wouldn't hold a wheelchair. Okay, so they wouldn't; but hey, do I say that since I can't fit on a child's swingset or into a little wading pool, that NO ONE may have one? Is that in any way reasonable? Because wheelchairs and so forth rolled around on the LOWER level ALL THE TIME. They just couldn't go up to the narrow circle that comprised the upper level of shops. (They also couldn't cross the Swing-Along Bridge at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and they couldn't climb the Matterhorn or other mountains in the scooter or chair, but don't TELL anyone because those attractions might have to be closed down if anyone realized it.) It just blows my mind that a minority of the few can ruin something so thoroughly for everyone else. But then that's why we have all sorts of rules . . . somebody's going to get something we don't if we don't have a rule. The modifications that the code would have required were too expensive and too elaborate for the property owners to implement. They could have "grandfathered" this building in so that it didn't have to be reworked and STILL have had their new code for other buildings. I just don't understand why someone was "out to get" this beautiful, special place.

Please don't think that I'm mean to the disabled. My grandmother had a failed hip replacement way back in the early 1960s when it was still experimental and had to use crutches and a walker (and later a wheelchair) for the rest of her life. Back then when I was a kid, there WERE NO "handicapped parking spaces," and we often were honked at or yelled at when we stopped at the curb to let her out of the car so we could go and park. She used to have a lot of trouble with curbs and split-level houses and so forth. There were a lot of places she simply could not go (because we didn't have a man to pick her up and carry her past the obstacle). Nowadays, the disabled can do things on their own more easily, and people don't even blink when wheelchairs and scooters pass by. Things have improved, and that is all good. What I am saying here is that I don't expect that there should be NO STROBE LIGHTS ANYWHERE just because I can't tolerate them any more . . . I don't say that NO DISCO BALLS MUST EXIST because I can't handle the flashing . . . I don't even say that skinny women must be made to gain weight because I'm fat. I just don't see why ONE EXTRA-SPECIAL WONDERLAND had to be taken from us and demolished over some idiotic complaint about a "level playing field." There will never BE a "level playing field" for everyone everywhere. There are things that I cannot and will not be able to do because I have some physical limitations. So I live with that, and I'm happy for people who can jump a mile high or who can lift a piano with one hand or whatever. It's okay if they can do it and I can't. It's not as if we're asking for lots of exceptions to the "accessibility" rule. Just the one.

It's too late for the lost lamented Olla Pod, though. A Jewish day school has just bought that property. (sigh) The artisans long ago left and scattered across the land. There was talk at first of finding another venue, but it just didn't happen. The magic is gone. Some idiot mowed down the fairy ring. *poof* in a cloud of orange smoke.

(It's got to have been the filthy lucre. If they think they can get $$$ for the land, they'd tear down ANYthing. The only way to protect a location is with a historical marker. I'm not sure they couldn't figure out a way to get around that. My cousin is having to move because his apartment complex is on three acres in Highland Park, and now the owners say they can't afford NOT to sell and let the developers raze it. Along with all its lovely history.)

It has been ten years or so since the Olla Podrida closed, but I'm still upset.

That stained glass window logo was pretty, too. Wonder who bought the fixtures and stained glass out of the building before it was demolished? Surely someone has it and is using it and enjoying it.

Anyhow . . . I can still go to Scarborough Faire. Craft malls aren't the same. Maybe Old Sturbridge Village and that kind of place might be similar.

"Olla podrida" comes from the Spanish, literally "rotten pot." From olla, "pot" (from Latin olla) + podrida, feminine of podrido, "rotten," from Latin putridus. That nasty connotation aside, the term has come to mean any mixture; a hodgepodge. An eclectic mix.

An Olla Podrida today is a gallimaufry, a salamagundi, a potpourri, a hodgepodge, a miscellany of ingredients cooked together one pot. It appears in Don Quixote as a long, slow-cooked stew, “the rotten pot”.

In 1669, Samuel Pepys wrote of dining on olio, or olla podrida. “To the Mulberry garden, where Sheres is to treat us with a Spanish Olio by a cook of his acquaintance that is there, that was with my Lord in Spain: and without any other company, he did do it, and mighty nobly; and the Olio was indeed a noble dish, such as I never saw better, or any more of.”

The original olla podrida is the mother of all Spanish stews, traditionally calling for chickpeas, chorizo, cabbage, beans, onions, leeks, garlic, and various meats, from Serrano ham and blood sausages to pork shoulder or stewing brisket.

Here's a recipe I found for it in the form of a chicken, chorizo, and chickpea stew. But the very nature of an olla podrida allows you to use whatever you like. A little bit of everything.


Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 mins

8 chicken pieces (breasts, legs, thighs)
2 chorizo sausages, pricked
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp paprika
2 bay leaves
1/2 a Savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, halved and sliced
2 potatoes, halved and sliced
1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large pot. Saute the onion for a minute; brown the chicken and sausages. Add paprika, bay leaves, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Add cold water almost to cover and bring slowly to the boil, skimming if necessary. Simmer gently, partly covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas, seasoning with sea salt and pepper if desired, and simmer for 10 minutes.

To serve, remove the meats and cut into hearty chunks. Using a slotted spoon, divide the chickpeas and vegetables between four warmed shallow bowls. Arrange the meats on top, and spoon a little broth over. Scatter parsley flakes on top and serve.

Serves 4.

(I don't know if I'd ever try this, because we're not really into stews, but it could be okay. You could even try putting a little wine in it, if you like to try out recipes.)

Who in the hell is up at 4 in the morning wondering these kinds of things?!

Nobody normal, that's for sure.
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