According to dictionary.com: “any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.”
According to me: “Life, culture, an experience of a lifetime within a bite, a thousand words swarming without being able to pick a single one, an escape from reality, …” you get the point…
I love food. I love everything about it. The taste, the presentation, the company, the setting… I’d call it my guilty pleasure but I don’t have to because it is one of the greatest necessities of life! I had a lot of people tell me before I left for Spain that I was going to experience a vast change in food… Some said it was terrible, some said was incredible, others said I shouldn’t worry because they have “American stores” (what is American food anyway….), and the saddest send off was that there would be no “Mexican food.” Hey, that’s ok. While I will honestly say, I miss my favorite Mexican restaurant, Villa Corona, my taste buds haven’t suffered a single day. As I sit here and write, I’m munching on patatas fritas, extra crujientes. Extra crunchy potato chips. Can I get any more American?
My host dad, Salva, loves to cook. He told me that he wanted to open a restaurant with his mom but she denied his request. I told him I would eat there every single day. Claro!” he said…. Well clearly… He knows he’s good. Tonight I ate curried chicken and I
do believe that it was my favorite thing he has made so far. “That? It was so easy! I could do it in my sleep!” Lucky me. Every bite had flavors of cinnamon and spice, the chicken cooked so tender, I had to keep myself from crying when I finished. All I wanted was more…
Another of my favorites is Russian Salad. It’s similar to potato salad but different. It’s made with boiled potatoes, tuna, mayo, and a bunch of other secret ingredients.
Spanish Omelete. This is divine. Potatoes and eggs somehow mixed, somehow cooked, somehow turns out to be served like a quiche, and is literally life changing.
Gazpacho. We all know what this is. But have we all experienced the art of this soup!? I
have it every day for lunch. It has become a drug for me and I’m not the same without it. The cold soup with the perfect spice. When I’m feeling frisky I’ll throw in some
croutons, tomato chunks, onions, or any other freshness I can find.
Spanish bananas are weird. They’re like half the size of a “normal” one but taste the same.
The list goes on but I can only talk about so much without needing to sneak out for another meal. Eating at restaurants has been a highlight of mine. Although I’ve had to try some awkward and unpleasant items, I always leave feeling like a queen bee. Except I have to literally walk out while a real Queen bee just relaxes as the rest of her world works for her. Octopus, duck liver, swan liver, things that look like worms… just to name a few of the “you have to try!” foods. I definitely didn’t enjoy them all but thankfully there was always something to wash it down with. The specialties are worth talking about. Last weekend in the midst of our feast, it was time for the main entrée. Beef steaks. I noticed that the waitress didn’t inquire how we wanted our meat cooked. I didn’t think much of it until they brought out fire.
On the fire they put a hot plate and next to it was a tray of raw meat. We literally took each steak and cooked it ourselves! And to perfection I might add… It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a restaurant. Hands on gourmet. I was the chef and the consumer. My two favorite parts of a meal. It was beautiful. I won’t tell you how much I ate but let’s just say that Salva told me I needed to run 10 km everyday for the rest of my life to burn all that off. Every bite was worth it. Then dessert and café and blah blah blah, the dinner continued for another good hour. Welcome to Spain.
I’ve found it… comforting, that the nutrition facts just don’t make sense. It’s all in this strange code within the metric system. Long story short, who knows how many calories are in anything! And how can I enjoy eating anything in Spain if I care about those calories. A gift in disguise.
I suppose there is more to Spain than food and I’d be honored to share it as well.
The other day I was walking to the metro and underneath the freeway there was a taxi stopped on the side of the road. The driver was outside with the door open, facing me behind the door, with a puddle at his feet. Oh my gosh is he peeing?! As I got closer he looked to be “zipping up” and went to the other side of the car and got in. I guess when you’re driving around all day, you’ve gotta go at some point! After I had past a hundred meters I turned around to see if he had left. Nope! He had gotten out again and finished up what he’d started.
Everywhere you go, you will meet a creeper. We’ll call this one, my first mistake in Madrid. No no, not like that!! All we did was talk! He offered to take a picture of me, which as you can see he showed off his fine tuned photography skills! I took the opportunity to practice my Spanish and in doing so I happened to mention to him where I was going that night. We bid farewell and a half hour later I saw him! He didn’t leave me alone the entire night! Thankfully I met a few Spanish friends who willingly stood as my protectors. The creeper’s name was Carlos. I thanked God many times that night that it wasn’t Sergio.
My trips in the metro have been feeling shorter as I’ve now joined “the metro society book club.” I’m currently reading “El niño con el pajama de rayas” by John Boyne. It’s an English book that’s been translated so I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. It’s an easy read so I’m able to understand most of it. I’ve never felt so Spanish!
The coffee here is… well… café. There are some days I crave Roco coffee. And on those days I find someone who is going or works there and make them tell me what the brew of the day is. I picture it in my mind, the flavors, the region, the smell, and then I get homesick. Haha. One day I’ll have a real cup of coffee again. But until then, I’ll
culturally adapt to my café solo.
I have a prepaid cell phone here, which most are. To charge your phone you need to go to a “chino” which is a tiny market where everything is about 1 Euro. Cheap! It was finally time for my first recharge and instead of looking up the words to say, I figured I knew enough and could just wing it. Oops? After explaining what I needed, the cashier started looking in drawers, behind him on the shelves, even yelled to the girl in the back about something. I was so confused. He ended up showing me his phone saying
something about the only phone he had. What?! I tried to speak again and used different words this time. Something about putting money on a phone so I can use it etc. Oh! I want to charge my phone! Well yes…. Apparently I said I had lost it and he needed to look for it because it was there. I thought I was making progress in my Spanish… well friends, it’s harder than it may seem.
Driving here = suicide. I don’t think the white lines in the road serve any purpose. There really are no lanes. You drive where you want to, honk when necessary, slam on your breaks when appropriate, and hope for the best! All this makes crossing the street (even in a crosswalk) more dangerous than riding a motorcycle…backwards.
I have a ring that I’d been wearing on my right ring finger. After awhile I noticed that a
lot of people wear rings on that finger. Apparently I’m more Spanish than I thought! Then one day in class I learned that in Spain, the wedding ring goes on the right hand!! Well shoot… maybe that’s why Sergio hadn’t approached me yet…
Speaking of Sergio. One day I was talking with a classmate about my quest for Sergio and that after almost a month, I still had not met him! Not to worry, I wasn’t pressed for time. Our professor heard us talking and inquired. Ah! She decided she’d solve my problems! There are two professors at my school named Sergio. One is over 30 and the other is 22. Before I could protest further she was on her Sergio hunt. Eventually she
came back, stood in the doorway with a man and said with the biggest grin I’d ever seen, “Sarah, esta es Sergio!” He said hola, que tal, and some other words I cannot recall… maybe because I’d turned bright red in embarrassment. In any case, she teacher returned moments later saying he’d be happy to talk with me. And that, my friends, is Sergio.
Last but not least. I am learning all about patience. Whoever first said that babysitting was the best form of birth control, well they couldn’t be closer to the truth! I’ve had to practice patience on a daily basis. I’m not complaining though, I appreciate each challenge and the ability to overcome it. Although today in class we were talking about jobs and the requirements for those jobs. In a fake interview I was asked what I’d do if a customer yelled at me. I responded and said something along the lines of I practice patience every day. “What?” Apparently my teacher didn’t understand. I repeated, “Practico paciencia todos los dias.” In Spanish she replied, “no… you can’t practice patience. That isn’t correct in Spanish.” “But I do! I practice!” “It’s not correct to say practice patience, it just can’t be done, it can’t be translated. You say ‘tengo paciencia.’” “But I don’t just ‘have patience’ it’s something I work on every day!” “Well, tengo tener paciencia…” Which basically means ‘I have to have patience.’ Long story short, there is no way to translate the number one thing I work on every single day. Does that mean that Spanish doesn’t cater to my current challenge? Or it’s just not important here to work on it? Or I already have the patience I need, I just use it when or however I can? I don’t know the answer to these questions… all I know is that I’m starting to adapt and “cambiar” into another way of life. I can’t take all my past with me, my idioms, or way of life. I’m a slate. I’ve been shaped, formed, and molded but now wiped clean of words.
Here, Spain, take this sharpie. Mark me. Change me. Make me one of you.