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Letters to the World: Spain Edition

So if you haven’t noticed, I took a bit of a hiatus from writing about my adventure in Spain this past summer.  It has taken a while to digest everything from my time there and get to a place where I want to write again (on top of the fact that I jumped straight back into my full time job and am training for a race!).  So, as the other things are a’cookin’ in this head of mine, here is a little “best of”- my Letters to the World, Spain Edition.

-Dear Gazpacho, I love your cool, tomato-ey thickness on a hot day, especially eaten on a terrace and accompanied by a crispy cold Cruzcampo beer.

-Dear Cruzcampo, I love that moment when someone gave me a glass of you, and after not having tasted your inconsistent flavor for so long, I could still tell that it was you.  I missed you and admire your chameleon- like attributes and resistance to stick to the norms.

– Dear Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Gelato,
It doesn’t matter if I don’t want sweets, I will always make an excuse to incorporate you into my day.

– Dear Barmen in Sevilla,
Thank you for letting me exercise my independence by allowing me to come up to the bar to order (whenever I want!) and for remembering what I choose, unlike the barmen in Granada who look at me strangely for not staying seated to order.  I like that you let me decide when I get served, like letting me take part in the whole dining experience apart from eating 🙂  [Ok, I know I’m going to get some opposition on this one, mainly from Cojones!]

-Dear Barmen in Granada,
I appreciate you, too! Mainly because you give me yummy treats free of charge (más o menos) when I order a drink.

– Dear Montes of Málaga,
I will never tire of traversing your wavy topography only to see the sea on the other side.  You are beautiful.

– Dear Doñana,
There are no words to describe your breathtaking beauty and the precious memories you hold in your sands.  You are my happy place.

– Dear Flamenco Dancer,
Thank you for awing me with your sharp yet graceful movements and your proud strength.  Wherever you are in your head, I want to go to there.

– Dear Flamenco guitarist on the terrace overlooking the Alhambra,
Your nostalgic tunes along with the delicious scent of the flowers, the babbling brook, and the vista of that lovely palace romanced my heart and made me fall in love.  However, I do not think I could stand that everyday- too much romance!  But you were just enough whenever you came round 🙂

– Dear Sun in Spain,
I love that you give more light to that country and the days last longer so as to enjoy completely all that land has to offer.

Many more letters could I write.  So many that I might have to do a follow up! Next edition will be Carolina Edition, though (of course!). Get ready!

Do you have any “letters to the world” you could write today? 

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Happyapples

It’s been a tradition now for about 4 years.  Once the air gets a crisp bite at night, the sun’s light has a different look as the days become shorter, and spider webs fill the pathways through the forest at my school (I literally look like a member of a LARP group as I walk through with stick in hand waving it around to combat any could-be sticky situations.  And that’s Live Action Role Playing for you folks who don’t know- see here), we head to the Carolina mountains to pick a peck (or bushel(s)!) of the freshest apples ever at Sky Top Orchard.

How tall this fall?? Did I grow at ALL?!! Notice my chagrin..

Walking through the orchard

My favorites are the jonagolds, and that’s what I filled my peck to the brim with this time round when I visited with dear Charlotte and my new pal Kara.  These are all around great apples, good for eating and baking- I plan to do both!  Maybe I’ll even post a little recipe in honor of my dear friend Julie’s blog, Willow Bird Baking. My favorite things about picking fresh fruit are the following:

1- climbing the trees
2- eating one, putting one in the basket, eating one, putting one in the basket
3- smelling the fresh air
4- did I mention eating them on the spot?
5- enjoying nature’s gifts without the middle man.
6- oh yeah, and eating the delicious, juicy fruit and having the sweet stickiness all over your hands.

My little peck of happyapples

If you have any good recipes, please send them my way!!


¡Vaya pepinaco!

My last day in the Spanish capital as Felipe’s sidekick was a lovely one. We went around on the moto to various places in the center of Madrid. First we stopped at a building, the Centro Cultural located on the Gran Via. We rode the elevator to the top to look out onto all of Madrid. What a fabulous view and a great way to orient yourself in the city.

View of Madrid from the top of the Centro Cultural

View of Madrid from the top of the Centro Cultural

We then went to the bustling, international neighborhood called Lavapies. Lots of different types of restaurants and foreigners who had come to Spain to try and make a life there. We ate at a little Indian restaurant and, I am kicking myself now wondering why I didn’t take a photo of the colorful rice we ordered, I’d never seen such a thing! Rainbow colored rice. It was as delicious as it was beautiful 🙂 We got a couple of dishes, Matar paneer and chicken tikka masala, and I ordered a mango lassi as there is nothing better that accompanies Indian food.

We spent some time walking around Chueca, the hip neighborhood that has been completely renovated due to regentrification and the arrival of some people with very good tastes.

The last night was delightfully spent with Laura and Ramon on the roof of an old university in Madrid. The space is awesome and has been converted into Gaudeamus, a restaurant so hip that you are only allotted a certain amount of time before you have to leave to make room for others. We were there from 8-10pm, but that was hardly enough time to enjoy the amazing food.

View of the terraza of Guadeamus

View of the terraza of Guadeamus

The word of the day today was “Pepinaco”. Felipe and I tried to alternate between English and Spanish he could practice. Anyway, we were on the moto and passed this amazing Ducati. If was a beast! So awesome. So, Pipe tells me that when you see something like that, you say “Vaya pepinaco de moto!” For those word-nerds out there like me, I’ll break it down for you: pepinaco comes from ‘pepino’. Taking off the ‘o’ and adding the ending ‘-aco’ to the end changes the meaning to imply something is awesome.

Que pepinaco de moto!

Que pepinaco de moto!


España, you’re beautiful.

I can honestly say there is no greater way to see a place than on a moto. The invigorating speed and the sights whizzing by; its a lovely a experience- definitely makes me feel giddy like a kid! On Wednesday, we went to a cute little town across the Sierra calles San Ildefonso to visit the gardens of La Granja. It’s surrounded by serrated mountains peppered with cyclists riding up and down the steep climbs. As I chilled on the back of the motorbike on the way up, I couldnt help but think that I was glad not to be one of them. 🙂

Lookout from a Puerto on Sierra Guadarrama

Lookout from a Puerto on Sierra Guadarrama

We ate a delicious lunch of judiones, pisto, and cordero and proceeded to walk to the palace, La Granja, to see the gardens and the fountains. They have a special schedule for the fountains in the garden and they only turn them on between the hour of 5:30 and 6:30. Tourists had packed the place to see the fountain show, among them lots of school groups. We got to the last fountain that ended up being huge. The geyser that exploded from the middle of it caught the wind and sprinkled all the spectators standing to one side. Then, whoever was manning the fountain, I imagine a little man behind a curtain kind of like the wizard of Oz, really turned on the water and shot even higher. When the wind caught it, it brought downpours of water onto the sidewalk soaking whoever was lucky enough to be standing in it’s way.  Now, think about this equation: hot summer day + cold water coming down from the sky from a fountain + about 100 schoolchildren, what could possibly be the outcome? Well, at one point, as the kids were screaming and running through the water, Felipe turned to me and said, “Was this a theme park or La Granja?”

Water Park La Granja

Water Park La Granja

It’s been quite surreal, this being back here. At times I cant get over it and other times I get so happy that I’m finally here after so much time. I had a really intense moment of complete bliss and gratitude as we crossed the Sierra on the way back toward Madrid. We rode through this beautiful forest, breathing in the fresh, green air and the sunlight peeking through the trees. All I could think was, “I’m finally here! I finally made it back. Spain, you’re beautiful.”


New Adventures in an Old Word, Part Two

Sitting on a bus heading south to Fes, watching the lovely Moroccan landscape whiz by, I got lost in nostalgia for this place that seemed, as I said, so familiar yet so new. There were fields of lush green with sprinklings of patches of brightly colored spices and picturesque lakes, farmers, mules, shacks, baskets of harvested vegetables, and kids running around avoiding their daily chores.

Nothing can prepare you adequately for getting out of an enclosed vehicle to what is “Fes”. Nothing except, perhaps, a previous visit. It was sensory overload for all 5 senses. Clusters of old buildings, little shops, people, crowded markets filled with dried fruits, meat, live chickens, nuts, bread, jewelry, shoes, leather… Basically anything you can think of is around every corner. People are always out walking around, most women cover their heads with simple scarves. I found it all extremely fascinating.

Moroccan cuisine is worth it’s own full blog. But as I have proved to be horrible at writing as of late, we’ll cram a bit into this one! As I said, all 5 senses were overwhelmed during my stay, but mostly taste and smell for me. I was greatly impacted by the new combinations of flavors I experienced there. In my opinion, Moroccan cuisine should be #1 in the world! Think amazing tea made of fresh spearmint and loads of sugar, heavy flavors of saffron, cinnamon, honey, almonds and other exotic spices and things. They used crazy contrasts of flavors to create depth in a dish.

One night we decided to splurge and visited the 4 star restaurant/hotel, Le Maison Bleu, in Fes. For about $40 each, we immersed ourselves in a complete cultural experience: they served us pre-dining spirits, appetizers, a few delicious main dishes, dessert, live traditional music, and wine. It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever enjoyed. And man, I still dream about that dessert of orange blossom cream and filo dough. Uff… and the famous pastella.. a scrumptious mixture of cinnamon, powdered sugar, and seasoned meats in an empanada style of dough (think chicken pot pie, sort of, but much much better!). I vividly remember the smells and tastes and the feeling of being in the old palace like hotel, a refuge from the bustling city outside.

So, basically, my trip to Morocco was more like a gastronomical tour… that’s what every trip ends up being like for me! No better way to get to know a culture than to sample authentic local food. It just amazes me that such simple plants give us delicious flavors in themselves, but when mixed with other plants, spices, and foodstuffs can create a divine, harmonious medley of enjoyment.
Ooohhh, thank the Lord for food and flavor!