Happy May!

 

Nicolas Sarkozy is the new president of France. Tony Blair has stepped down as P.M. of Great Britain. American presidential candidates begin talks, debates, and plans for the future of American politics. So what does the future hold? What is on the agenda for the next few years?

It’s funny how we’re always either looking at the mistakes of the past or forward to the hopes of the future. But the mistakes are essential to learn and grow and make the world a better place… to give us hope.

I remember in my late teens when Greenpeace seemed to be making its mark. Or at least that’s when I heard about it. I was all for it. An international group ready to take on the man? Hell yeah, I was for it. Finally, someone was here to save the day. To teach us how we were really supposed to live. To spread the word at any cost on how we were going to save the world. While every good trend must die down, so did my attachment to oversized gothic garb, as well as my thinking that saving the world would happen overnight.

Throughout the years, I’ve recycled here and there, tried not to use too much water when I thought of it, considered planting trees, and have somehow gotten away without a car. I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in some cities (Seattle & New York, for instance) where recycling is mandatory, and where folks actually make contributing to the earth’s welfare part of their daily life. But it’s never been my main priority. Why not?

The reasons most probably stem from being caught up in my own life, too busy to realize how small we are in the universe and how big our contributions to it, albeit positive or negative, really are.

While in Seattle, I worked with my friend Aimée and her sustainable furnishings store, Greener Lifestyles. I realized how little I really did know about my effects on the environment. But she’s pretty good about teaching people. And if you want to know more, and are interested in doing something to eco-friendly your home, check out her store in the downtown Ballard area of Seattle. It’s a start.

Later during my travels, when in Louisiana, I Netflixed ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ by Al Gore, and, I must say, there is something to be said about the media. Since that cozy evening, snuggled in my bed, hugging my laptop, I have decided somehow, in some way, I would like to make a change. Blessed (or cursed) with a television for the past month or so, I’ve noticed the influence of ‘Green’ on TV. Even on ‘Days of Our Lives’, Lucas and Sami were planning a ‘Green’ wedding. There are more freelance jobs posted for writers with environmental expertise. Small towns are beginning to implement greener recycling projects including community gardens. So is it all hype?

Let’s not make it that way. The media has definitely been doing a great job of putting out the word. It is up to us to change our daily lives, no matter how hard that may seem sometimes. Simply using less water by not letting it run while we do dishes or brush our teeth, unplugging and turning off electronics when not in use, and recycling are all great ways to start. If your town doesn’t have a recycling plan in effect, write to your local, regional or state officials, do some research on the Internet, and find out how to get one implemented. It’s important. Learn from the mistakes of the past, and increase hope for the future.

Eating and Drinking…

The past few months have definitely involved more soul-searching than food. Last month, I was visiting family and friends in Louisiana. Determined to stick to my low-cal and exercise regime, I don’t have a great list of eating spots to contribute. However, it is nice to know that Oakdale, Louisiana (located on Highway 165) finally has an Internet café called The Coffee Stop. Please, if you happen to be passing through that area, do stop by for a coffee and an e-mail check. I’m hoping the word gets out enough to keep the spot open for a nice long while.

Currently, I’m in Barcelona, and will be here for the next two and a half months. I’ve been to a couple of tasty bars here including Celta (somewhere on Calle Merced) and another called Casa Marcos (Bar Bodega Las Campanas – look for it on Calle Merced, #21 – tel. 315.06.09). Both offering a taste of a typical Spanish café and bar complete with Catalan-speaking locals. Our dishes of choice in the first being Pulpo Gallego – a lovely tender bit of octopus with a sort of slimy piece attached due to the avoidance of overcooking the dish; Chipirones – greasy and slightly chewy bits of squid; Pescaditos Fritos – very tasty fried fish that is eaten whole; Bombas – fried potato balls stuffed with meat hanging out in a mayonnaise ketchupy sauce with pimento and olive oil; toasted with small dishes of a wine called Reboreda which tastes slightly of a cheap white or rosé in the U.S. but fun to drink in those little bowls; and finished off with a Tarta de Santiago – a type of almond cake served with a shot of yummy thick port (a specialty of Galicia). The second was a pit stop on the way to a meeting, and something to tide us over until the wee hours of the night. There we shared Chistorra – a yummy sausage which came sandwiched in baguette slices; Bacalao spread – cod smushed with potatoes, tomatoes, spices, garlic, and onions to spread on slices of bread; Jamón de Toro – Bull ham; bread rubbed with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, and all washed down with beer.

One day while in the city, we took a beer break at Belchica, a Belgian bar. Great beers, funky décor including Barbie what-nots, and a great stop in-between others. My only request… that they start serving bits of cheese to go with the beer just to give it that true Belgian touch. Not that it’s not stupendously Belgian already, but still, a little cheese wouldn’t hurt.

Last week, I cooked up a pot of Shrimp Etouffée for some Spanish friends. They came over to the apartment to watch soccer, and it was a huge joy for me to see these young, vibrant men sopping up the remaining sauce with their baguette. One brought bread, one brought two bottles of table wine from his family’s village, and one brought homemade crêpes with bananas, a bag of shredded coconut, and a jar of hazelnut spread. These were very typical young men hooping and hollering whenever a player would even think about making a goal, but they also had a strong sense of gastronomic etiquette. It was beautiful, and made me feel sort of like a proud Spanish mother, even though I’m neither Spanish nor a mother.

Just after arriving, I met Christian’s neighbor Ramon, a writer of books on natural medicine. A great talker (in Spanish), he showed me recipes in the weekend news magazine that come out every week, delved into deep conversation about politics, and brought over a bottle of homemade gazpacho. How sweet is that?! No, no wedding bells for me, but definitely a great `welcome to the neighborhood.´

Grocery shopping in Barcelona is a gem as I’m never sure whether to apologize for not speaking Spanish (Castellano) or Catalan. I’ve now gone once to El Corte Inglés at Plaça Catalunya, and luckily had Christian’s girlfriend by my side to translate. And I’ve gone twice to a small épicerie in Llavaneres where they definitely speak Catalan. But the shop I go to is small, as is the village, and the young man, Salvador, who works there is a doll. I must have tourist spread all across my forehead as he pointed to the amount on the register as he said how much I owed. Today, I ventured out again. This time he asked where I was from. I told him, in my very broken Spanish, that I was from the United States and a friend of Christian’s. "Oh, the French guy," he replied. Indeed.

Yesterday was one of the best days so far. Christian’s girl came over, and so after breakfast on the terrace, we hit the beach for a little sun. I wasn’t quite ready to brave the cold Mediterranean… next month. The sun beat down, while I studied vocabulary for the GRE, she studied American politics for one of her big exams, and Christian flailed about in the water like a true merman swimming around the boats out at sea. After a couple of hours of frying our skin (yes, Mom, I did wear sunscreen), we headed back to the flat for a dip in the pool. Christian prepared sausages with rice for lunch, which we enjoyed with a nice Spanish table wine. Then it was time for the cheese. The best cheese I ever had was an old Cantal in the Auvergne about six years ago. Down it slid, crust and all, like a giant bit of paradise. The second best, of course was the latest Tortita de Barros from the Extremadura region of Spain. After keeping it out in room temperature (don´t refrigerate), you slice one side off and keep it like a top, then slide the knife around the inside edge creating a bowl. The inside is soft, but not too soft. And the flavor… unbelievable. After you´re done scraping out all of the ooey goodness (believe me, you´ll end up eating all of it), save the rind (aka bowl) in the fridge, clean the outside, stuff it with boiled potatoes, bake it, and enjoy yet another plate of delicious heaven. And the wine that went with it… a 6 Euro bottle of 2002 Ribera del Duero – Gomellano.
The flavors melding together was utter perfection. Of course, the good friends, sea, and sunshine didn’t hurt either. But, yes I do highly recommend both the cheese and wine… and preferably together.
I’m hoping to get out more and explore the wining and dining of this great city. But for now, I’m still enjoying the soul-searching, breakfasts on the terrace in front of the Mediterranean, and exploring a new culture. I’ll try to get you more food reports as the weeks progress. Buen provecho… (and check out the photos under Barcelona)

 

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