Tag Archives: spain

“Spain is a Third World Shithole”

21 Nov

I received the title text from my brother a few days ago and it got me thinking about the ins and outs of travel. He has to travel for work, which he extremely dislikes. A flight we were on as children essentially attempted to land in a hurricane, and instead was forced to make an emergency ascent straight up back into the air (*this can cause an explosion).

While it was a pivotal moment for me and the start to my thrill seeking young life, it was the beginning of my brother’s desire to play it safe; both of which we still do.  But it is not only the safety issue, and the annoyance of being crammed into a steel box literally like a can of sardines, but his desire to stick with the familiar that keeps him from enjoying some of the nuances of travel, and from becoming a Traveler.

And he is not alone. I’ve had multiple friends who think they deserve biscuits and gravy for breakfast every morning in England, can’t understand why no one has iced coffee in France, demands a working air conditioner and WiFi in Greece, and are uncomfortable with all the kissing and real live human contact in Spain.

Like feral children raised by wolves, to me they have missed some vital piece of social development that can never be  attained, because it cannot be appreciated later in life.  We just get used to being too comfortable.  They missed the garbage-bag-suitcases-stay-in-hostels-with-bedbugs-share-liters-of-Cruz Campo-in-a-park-in-Barcelona-with-homeless-people phase of life, and now they have no patience for the beautiful essence of travel; inconvenience.

My last few flights have been cancelled out of Nashville (FUCK YOU UNITED/AMERICAN AIRLINES), I’ve missed multiple flights in a day while at the airport in France, spent the night on a bus station floor in Spain, used a payphone that I’m pretty sure had been smeared with excrement at some time in New Mexico, dove for dumpster donuts in Philly, get chased by an 8 foot moray eel in Cozumel, lost my keys in a boat that was falling apart and filled with can lids and something horrible (this one I’ve actually blocked out) in Portugal, “reheated” pizza on top of a radiator in Prague, get sucked into a riot after the War in Iraq began (no a la guerra, ortro mundo es possible!), thrown up into a castle moat in Scotland, bleed all over the steps of Valle de Los Caidos because I didn’t have a tampon and toilet paper in Spain is more like tracing paper, and who knows how many stitches and tetanus shots are from someone who doesn’t speak the same language as me – but I’ll be damned if those aren’t the memories I can still smell, touch and feel they are so vivid.

I’ll take the blood and guts any day.

 

10 Tapas to Try (Other Than Jamón) in Spain

14 Jul

As an American, I am dying to get my hands on the banned Jamón Ibérico (ham from black Iberian pigs that have been acorn fed) and Jamón Serrano (a dry, cured ham from the mountains) each time I visit Spain.

The thinly sliced ham is more than a cultural institution, it’s a way of life.  When you hold it up to the light, it’s as beautiful as looking through stained glass in the massive, imposing cathedral where you should be praying and hiding out from the inquisition. The jamón was a life saver of sorts at one time, as the one true way to prove your conversion was by eating pork…

BUT – there’s more to life than ham (probably).  Here are ten other tapas that are worthy of sharing the spotlight with jamón:

1. Aceitunas – Starting simply, aceitunas are olives.  Here in America, we are taught to praise Italy for their olive oil but little known fact is that most “Italian” olive oil comes from Spanish olives.  They are really the best in the world.  Many tapas bars will marinate them to be more savory, or stuff them with anchovies, as if they need more flavor.

2. Patatas Bravas – These fried potatoes are served differently at every bar you go to, but the one consistent thing is the spicy tomato based sauce covering the potatoes.  Spaniards love mayo, so it is not uncommon to also see these with a mixture of mayo and the spicy tomato sauce.

3. Pimientos de Padron – These peppers come from La Coruña and come skillet fried in oil.  Most are mild, but every once in a while you will find a spicy one.  It’s the best kind of gambling.

4. Chorizo – Spicy Spanish pork sausage that is usually pan fried in olive oil. The sausage itself is seasoned with smoked paprika and other herbs. It goes exceptionally well with a nice white wine, or vino blanco.

5. Queso Manchego – This is a sheep’s milk cheese that is firm and salty.  It has pretty serious regional restrictions, and only cheese made inside certain areas in La Mancha can be called Manchego.  Often, you will find it sliced, soaking in olive oil.  It will then be served on top of a slice of bread.

6. Tortilla – This is my absolute favorite and the only similarity it shares with a Mexian tortilla is that both are round.  Tortilla Española is made with first drenching potatoes in oil and frying them until they are soft.  Once the potatoes are soft, eggs are added and then flipped to make a frittata or quiche-like “pie.” It often also contains heavy amounts of onions and garlic and often even last night’s leftover vegetables.

7. Croquetas – Ask an Expat Spaniard what they miss most about home and 100% of them will mention food.  Some will say jamón, others will say tortilla, but most will say croquetas.  Croquetas are quite time consuming to make, which is why indulging on them at the bar is perfect.  They are made with a bechamel-like filling that is refrigerated and then breaded, mixed with jamón and then fried.  The result are little pockets of heaven.

8. Bacalao – cold, breaded cod served on bread.  I grew up land-locked and still don’t really trust fish.  Bacalao however, isn’t fishy and even at the diviest tapas bar, it will be fresh.  I only wish I could have more of it.

9. Albondigas – Meatballs.  As nontraditional as meatballs sound for Spanish cuisine, they have actually quite a history.  Spain was conquered for around 700 years by the Moors from Africa, and with them, they brought many new foods and additions to the old Spanish language. Al-bunduq (literally hazlenut, then used for things that are round) were spiced meatballs thought to be of Berber origin, then introduced to Spain during occupation.  They are typically soaking in a tomato sauce, and then served with a piece of bread as tapas.

10.  Boquerones – Anchovies.  I personally do not care for anchovies but the Spanish are wild for them.  You will see them everywhere, and tapas bars are the best place to try them out.  These are not your typical American grocery store tin of anchovies. These are larger, and always fresh.  They come fried and served with bread.

 

 

Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D.

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