I’m currently in Seattle, after having spent almost two months in Barcelona. The sun is bright and shiny, Mt. Rainier is in full view, and I’m hanging out with a friend along with a few scattered bums in the downtown Seattle library, listening to some crazy guy moan like a monster. Ahhh, gotta love this city.
My last week in Barcelona was more than splendiferous as I was able to accomplish so much more than I had during the rest of my trip. I put the GRE study book aside and focused on enjoying some time with friends, family (extended), and the wonders of Spain.
First on the list, a trip to YaYa’s house. A friend of Christian, Alba, was kind enough to invite me over to her family’s house for a traditional cooking lesson by her grandmother. On the way to her house, we picked up some milk, olive oil, and beer, and then headed upstairs by way of a very narrow elevator to be greeted by YaYa with open arms. She handed me a chef’s coat to change into, reminded me to wash my hands, and began the course by telling me that she didn’t normally eat eggplant, but included them anyway just in case I liked them. Today’s four-course lesson would include Escalibada (roasted peppers and eggplant with aioli), Potaje (spinach and chickpea stew), Fidéos à la Cazuela (thickened soup with tiny macaroni with seafood), and Tortilla (omelet with potatoes).
Alba peeled the roasted peppers and eggplant, pulled them into strips, mixed both together, and then added olive oil, salt, and chopped garlic. In the meantime, I peeled boiled eggs and chopped frozen spinach into quarters, while YaYa rinsed a jar of chickpeas and placed them in a pot with chicken stock. In a separate skillet, I then sautéed garlic in olive oil just before adding a tablespoon of pimentón dulce (sweet Spanish paprika) and then placing all into the pot of chickpeas. YaYa added the spinach and eggs, let it simmer for a few minutes, and then dashed in a teaspoon or two of salt.
For the Fidéos, YaYa had previously scrubbed, washed, and steamed the mussels. First in the steaming skillet of olive oil, we placed sepia (cuttlefish), gambas (shrimp), and Spanish crawfish, then adding chopped onions, tomato sauce, and fish stock, allowing it to cook for approximately ten minutes. We then added the chopped parsley, the mussels, and the macaroni or fideuá. For a less thick sauce, we included the juice from the mussels as well. After allowing it to simmer for about ten more minutes, we set it aside for lunch.
Making a Spanish tortilla doesn’t seem too complicated. However, Alba’s father, a French chef for 30 years, told me that the more you whisk your eggs, the better it will turn out. Aha! YaYa added onions and diced potatoes to the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. After allowing it to become fairly soft, she added the whisked eggs and salt. Letting it sit for a couple of minutes, she then asked me to begin flipping the tortilla several times by placing a plate on top of the skillet. You definitely don’t want to let the inner tortilla cook too long, as it will become spongy rather than giving you the perfectly soft texture ideally desired.
Being invited into someone’s family home is an incredible honor as not only do you feel like a part of it, but you also get to hear all of the typical family discussions and arguments. During the earlier part of my lesson, Alba’s dad came home. As I mentioned before, he is French and was a chef for 30 years. What a joy it was listening to the back and forth bickering between Alba, her dad and his mother-in-law. He continuously put in his two cents on what should have been added first or second, on tasting the fish broth with a spoon before adding it to the dish to make sure it wasn’t spoiled, that the supermarket grape juice, despite being cheap, was actually pretty good, and questioning why he hadn’t been invited to the lunch and had been told he’d have to make or buy his own. In the end, he taught me how to make a rose out of a tomato peeling.
I had the best Tuesday afternoon with Alba’s family, and have included (although in French and Spanish) some videos on my day.
Wednesday afternoon, I had an exceptional lunch of pan con tomates, manchego, ham, olives, and patatas bravas as I woke up on this early, very grey day to spend it with our French neighbor Léo and his boss, Juan Lecina, in Tordera at CAEPE ranch. I would love to tell you the exact name of the tiny tapas spot, but might have to get back to you on that one, as I can’t seem to find my notes.
Friday night was my last night in the city of Barcelona, and was spent once again at Casa Marcos, or what we like to call Pacharan. Please see more photos in the Barcelona file.
Saturday night, Chris, his girl, his ex, his brother and mom, and I spent the day on the beach with a picnic of tuna sandwiches, guacamole and chips, beer, and fruit, finishing it off with a coffee from the beachside café. That night, it was a trip to the neighboring village of Caldes d’Estrac for a feast at Can Raimon (Sant Josep, 11. 08393. 93.791.04.59). A brilliant evening filled with do-it-yourself pan con tomatoes (or pa amb tomàquet in Catalan) and Fideuá (similar to Paella but made with vermicelli instead of rice). For a demonstration in French on how to prepare pa amb tomàquet (along with some silly comments), please see the attached video.
The rest of my trip consisted of fireworks on the beachside walk back to Chris’ pad, plastic cups of whiskey at the apartment complex party, very little sleep that night, and a coffee and croissant breakfast Sunday morning before heading to the airport, where I then had a sendoff of chips and San Miguel.
After having finally arrived in Seattle very early this morning, after a long wait in Atlanta, I find myself throwing French and Spanish phrases into my English conversations, having a hankering for cupcakes one minute and then fideuá the next, and setting my brain for the next adventurous journey life has in store for me. Until the next time, buen provecho, bon appétit, and enjoy your meal!