As the food pornography pictures have piled up on my camera, and my blogging time was nonexistent last month, I have gone just a hair past stir-crazy! And so I will slowly update on all my travels and findings one by one. What a wonderful trip I had in Spain two weeks ago! We were in Malaga on the Costa del Sol for most of the time, and then took the train in to Madrid for 3 days. It was an enlightening experience, as I had never been to southern Europe. The things that surprised me the most:
1. Being in Spain screwed up all sense of time for me. When did it ever get dark? Not a day passed on my trip that the sun didn’t set before 9:30pm. No wonder the Spanish are infamous for their nightlife and late night noshing.
2. Wine flows like water and is, in many instances, cheaper. On many wine menus, a glass of house red was ~2 euro, while bottled agua was slightly more. Andalucia, the southern region of Spain, is famous for its sherries.
3. Pate! No longer a French culinary mainstay! Pate is everywhere, no doubt to be found on any tapas menu and in between freshly baked baguettes to make a perfect bocadillo.
4. The perfect cup of coffee, smooth rich and dark, is ubiquitous, even at a highway roadside diner and rest stop, where truckers enjoy a steaming cup with toast, drizzled in olive oil. Brewed coffee is unheard of; every cup is made to order. Beans are ground, pressed, and run through the espresso machine. Here is how to order a cup of coffee:
Cafe solo: black coffee
Cafe cortado: coffee with a dash of steamed milk
Cafe con leche: coffee with half steamed milk/cream
5. Food comes from the land and is made by the hands, rooted in tradition and values. Nowhere was this more evident than in Morrocco, where agriculture is a large part of the economy. Fresh dewy produce and glowing piles of oranges and nisperos line the street markets of Tangier; wives and mothers peek out of their doorways to buy fresh baked flatbreads at lunchtime; traditional Berber women take a breath of air in between selling fresh goat cheese, wrapped in palm leaves, during the midday sun. Its a way of life that is truly organic, with no one, but the farmer and the seller, dictating what food is sold and how its sold. Buyers are simply there to feed their families. In our culture, the American consumer has more control over the market, and actually dictates what foods should be sold. Its a thin line, but I believe that we’ve already crossed it.
6. Costa del Sol is the playing ground for many British expats. The boardwalk in Fuengirola was filled with British pubs and eateries. There were groups and groups of Scots and Brits at the resort where we stayed, namely to play golf, but also to enjoy the everlasting sunshine and bright beautiful weather that is a rarity in the whereabouts of their home.
7. Must make the most of every moment of life. This is the most valuable lesson I take away with me. Americans, as a society, value workaholism, and forget to re-evaluate every now and then the priorities in our lives, be it our families, our friends, our hobbies, or ourselves. The Spanish live life at a leisurely slow pace (by our standards) but at least they set their own pace. Things still get done, businesses still run (maybe not at set hours), life goes on, just not at the frenetic pace that we are so accustomed to. So, make everything you do in the day count for something, really value each minute and find some ounce of pleasure that you can derive from it, because it’ll matter in the end.