So this is my English essay, because I thought, what the hell? Why not blog it? but in retrospect, there’s probably some sort of nuance in my English syllabus that says” thou art not allowed to publish thine work in any other way shape or form. if thou disobeyest, thou shalt be zapped with fire from the heavens above.”

Because of this, I will fire proof my clothes for tomorrow. Pray for my soul!

 

 

Spain

Four years ago in 2007, my parents decided that my sister would spend two months in Oviedo, Spain. My cousins who lived there would let her stay with them and teach her Spanish during her stay. Of course we as her loving family could not just put her on a plane and ship her over; we decided to accompany her there and visit out Spanish family members.

Now of course there were many memorable places and things that are permanently imprinted in my memory as we drove from village to town to city, but an ever changing, but still constant variable, was the Iberian cuisine. This we experience on a personal level as we enjoyed the company of our family.

After eight hours of monotonous flight time, my family and I arrived in Madrid, Spain. My jet setting pilot father took us straight to the rental car counter, and within the hour, we were on the road headed to Oviedo. Everyone but my dad slept as we drove through the twisty roads of the Pyrenees foothills.

After we reached Oviedo, we spent quite a while trying to locate our cousin’s apartment building. Once we found it, me and my sister grabbed our bags and took our things up to the apartment where they were waiting for us. Cristina, my cousin, met us at the bottom of the stairwell and took us all up, jabbering in a mix of Spanish and English. She had not recently practiced her ingles. When we reached their apartment, many besos and hugs were exchanged, and then names and ages of all the children: Carmen, Liana, Jose, and Paulo. <Insert cheek pinching here>

Later that night (literally, it was the latter half of 9 o’ clock. Spaniards eat dinner very late.) We walked to a not-so nearby pub. I remember light, laughter and delicious scents coming out of every open door that we passed, and it seemed like we would never stop walking. We finally did, and settled ourselves into a large table by the window. Unfortunately for us culture shocked kids, my parents were ready to indulge in all that our cousins told them to order, which sadly did not include pizza. What it did include was a cider, wine and lot of seafood.  A plethora of seafood. As  in every crustacean you could think of. Thankfully, Cristina noticed the horrified faces of her younger friends and ordered a plate of papas fritas.  Potatoes cubed and fried with olive oil and salt. AKA: Spanish French fries.( And for future reference, never tell a Spaniard that it is ‘French toast.” They will get angry and rant about how, “we had it first! It is not French!”)

For the entire four days that we stayed in Oviedo, not once did we eat dinner before 8:00 pm.  This might be because of the very late lunch that is common in Spain. Very late and very large, in fact. The sizes of lunch and dinner are practically reversed there with lunch commonly having one to three meats, and dinner consisting of light tapas and a main course. When we ate lunch at my aunt’s house, she put out a spread that would rival Easter brunch in any American household. There was beef, fish, vegetables, bread cheese, and (praise the Lord) papas fritas! Along with shrimp and bacalao, there was pulpo.  I had the joy of finding this slimy sea creature sitting in a colander when I went to wash my hands in the sink. There may or may not have been shrieking involved.

Now while many people might think if white styro-loaf  and American slices when someone says “bread and cheese,” but what I think of is something that could be an entire meal, or even lifelong sustenance! In my opinion, the Spaniards mastered the art of cheese making when they produced monchego, the greatest cheese available in this day and age. Monchego  is an extraordinary cheese with a texture similar to that of parmesan , and a flavor that is comparable, but all grown up and mature. If I was a millionaire, I would give the world this cheese and artisan bread, with it’s crisp, golden crust and soft airy inside. This is not an appetizer to be mocked, and if you even consider it, I will personally call a hit on you.

Bread and cheese were also some of the things we frequently when we were on the road to discover our roots, but they were most certainly not the only thing. We are a very frugal family, even when on vacation, so when we were traveling through the countryside, we would buy lunch and dinners at grocery stores. When we went to pubs in Oviedo, there was almost always  a few legs of cured smoked ham behind the bar. This completely freaked my then 12-year old self out, and even more so when I saw them at the meat counter at the grocery store! We were definitely not in Vancouver anymore.

When we shopped in the grocery stores, we would buy the makings for simple meat and cheese sandwiches: one or two loaves of artisan bread, monchego,gouda, or some other cheese, and prosciutto or chorizo as our meat. Then, with a hop, skip, and a jump, we would get right back on the road again. But of course we didn’t forget dessert: natias, a creamy cinnamon pudding that came in beautiful clay jars that we brought home with us, became my best friend. It’s smooth and cool on the tongue, and very filling on the empty stomach of a seventh grader who refused to eat chorizo

There were times that we did not go to the supermarket, such as when we stayed the nighgt at a small motel on the side of the road. The next morning, we got up early as to get a good start on that day’s driving, and had breakfast in the small adjoining café.

Just like with dinner, breakfast is not nearly as important in Spain as it is in America. It usually just consist of a hot drink, like coffee or drinking chocolate, and a pastry, like a doughnut or churro. I remember my dad being hard-pressed to find and open shop for breakfast some mornings, but at the hotel, we came in right as it opened. This was where I first experienced the supremacy of Spanish churros and drinking chocolate.

Spanish churros are not long and twisted like the ones found at Costco, or a Mexican restaurant here in the states; they are frequently a spiral of fried dough dipped n cinnamon sugar that is as large as a small dinner plate. Believe me when I say that they are utterly decadent.

Just as Spanish churros reign supreme over those in the States, they cannot hold a candle to the dominance that drinking chocolate has over the sad concoction that is hot cocoa.  A better comparison would be a Mac, to a pencil and paper. Walking on foot, to a Porsche 9-11 turbo.  A matchstick to a bonfire. Need I say more? Drinking chocolate is thick, decadent and so deeply flavorful that just finishing an entire cup is difficult, even when you can barely stop slurping it up. And I don’t think I need to add that drinking chocolate and churros are downright nirvana when enjoyed together.

Sadly, these delicacies taken for granted on the Iberian peninsula are extremely difficult to accurately reproduce at home. I can only dream of one day replicating their glory. But one dish that my mom has mastered, is the Spanish tortilla. Now, don’t go thinking of a flat while disk of bread. I’m talking about thinly sliced potatoes and egg, fried in a pan until it’s a giant omelet. It may sound simple to make, but this common Spanish breakfast food took my mother months to perfect. Now, whenever my dad craves a taste of the homeland, he calls to my mom, “¡Esposa! ¡ hacer una tortilla deliciosa para mí!” and we’re back in the crowed pub of an Oviedo street corner, and my dad earned himself a bump on the head.

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