What happens when, while living abroad, you make one of the most American foods ever, which happens to be the most important side dish of the dinner of the second most American holiday in existence¹, for a quantity of no less than 30 people from six different countries, in a house in the mountains, where eating, boozing (repeat and repeat), laughing, hiking, and fighting the dog for stolen turkey bones from the garbage commence for approximately a weekend? You get zero pictures of the finished product in all it's magnificent glory, and are forced to steal any photographic evidence of its cooked existence from other people's facebook albums. And contrary to what you may initially have thought, your Thanksgiving in Spain is pleasingly similar to Thanksgiving at home, with the hilarious exception of the entire "family" getting plastered and the addition of a resplendent mountain backdrop and a pool. Basically, my Thanksgiving in Spain was amahzing, but more importantly my Spanish rendition of Linda's (mommy) famous macaroni and cheese was a success!Read More
If you speak even the smallest smattering of Spanish, I assume that you might find the title of this long overdue blog entry a bit contradictory to the blog's new namesake Sin Mayonesa, Por Favor. But I assure, it's not.Read More
So after much preparation, and absurd last minute drama, I finally embarked on my journey to Spain. In the year preceding my decision to move abroad (2011) and the last weeks leading up to my move, however, I felt incredibly lost. In both these instances it felt as my life was in endless turmoil. With respect to year preceding this decision, I felt that every decision I ever made was wrong, and despite my best laid plans, the world insisted on stomping them into oblivion. In the weeks leading up to the move, the significance of my departure started to weigh on me like a ton of bricks and there were three tearful breakdowns. The first at my going away party, the second and most physically significant being fueled by a massive amount of vodka, courtesy of table service at my favorite strip club, and the last was brought on by a series of unfortunate events, including, but not limited to Kona being incredibly sick the day of our departure. As I sat in the vet's office that morning, giving them my tearful permission to run whatever tests were necessary, it was in that moment I was convinced that packing up my life and moving to a new country was the WORST IDEA EVER.Read More
So the time is coming. In just 19 days I'm boarding a plane with my poodle, my passport, way too many shoes and boots that I'll surely be paying for extra for and my older sister (she's accompanying me for the first two weeks) and MOVING to Spain. (And yes, if you just did the math, that means I fly on September 11th...from JFK ...a bittersweet day it will be indeed)
Needless to say I'm way effing excited and a little bit terrified, but I'm also slightly depressed. This past Saturday I had the most amazing going away Churrasco (post to come) and a ton of my family and friends came, and amongst the eating, laughing, boozing and reminiscing, there were more than a few tears that I just could not hold back. The fact is, I'm packing up my stuff and my dog and leaving behind the life that I've known for more than 25 but less than 30 years. So it goes without saying that there are people and things I'm going to miss about home. But it wouldn't be any fun if I didn't actually say who and what I'll miss, so here we go...
1. My sisters.
I mean, I'm going to miss my entire family in general, but my sisters and I have a special bond. Even though 6-7 years separate each of us, as we've all gotten older, we've found a way to bond. We don't physically resemble each other, but when the three of us get together, people know we're sisters, and usually try to join in our fun. This summer my younger sister Amanda spent the stayed in Baltimore with my older sister, Odichi, so we could spend more time together making it the first summer since 1995 when the three of us lived in the same city. Amanda and I even waitressed at the same crappy restaurant in the inner harbor, and as united sister front manipulated and purposely challenged/irritated the creepy/incompetent/jackhole managers while befriending the only two mangers who didn't suck. Cuz we're awesome like that, and non jackhole manger #1 even said so. This summer, as a collective ,we rescued a kitten. He followed Kona home when sisters were poodle-sitting for me and I now have a nephew cat named Raja. We frolicked, movie hopped, road tripped, and ate and drank all the summertime long--well as much as possible given all of our hectic and conflicting schedules. I can't believe my neither of my sisters will be a simple phone call (must figure out how to phone by skype) or short drive away. I can't believe I might not be here for us to go see the new superman movie in 2013 (Because we take our comic book action movies very seriously). I've been in utter denial about how much I'm going to miss them. I'll stop typing now before I start crying all over my keyboard.
have been the women I've been closest with in this world. Together and from multiple points of the New York through Virginia area, we've cut the f*ck up, laughed hysterically, cried, talked till we're blue in the face, drank till we could drink no more, vowed to never drink bottom shelf vodka again, said hilarious things that should qualify us for our own reality show titled "The Sunday after D.C.", said terribly mean things that make us slightly awful people, done absolutely ridiculous things, watched relationships become marriages, stood by each other when relationships failed, become mother's to children (Toya), become sisters to each other, traveled the globe, danced on stages and streets, danced on poles, swung from construction scaffolding, and engaged in various forms inappropriateness and tomfoolery all with mischievous smiles on our faces. I've also been in denial about the significance of my departure from my friends and have forbidden the girls from speaking about it all summer. Cuz I'm bossy like that. And I just can't face the reality of it. Again, I must stop typing before I start to cry.
I never did get around to typing up a post about why I love Wegman's so damn much, but I literally LOVE this place. If you've never been to one, all I can say is that it's like the Nordstrom of grocery stores. And I say Nordstrom and not Bloomingdale's or Saks, because unlike the former two, Nordstrom/Wegmans is upscale enough to make you feel special and offer you an amazing shopping experience, but won't break your bank like Whole Foods. In fact, Wegman's is cheaper than Safeway (not sure about Giant) and since it's outside of the city, I don't have to dodge homeless people and walk around the cop car that remains parked out in front of the Safeway near my apartment. I'm that person who drives the 25 minutes to the county for Wegmans, with my grocery list, assembled, organized by aisle and printed from wegmans.com--with the total price I should expect to pay. I've heard wonderful things about the produce available in Murcia and expect to have an amazing food shopping experience, but at the end of the day nothing can replace my Wegmans. Nothing!
4. 7% Sales Tax
Anyone whose shopped in the EU or Canada knows about sales tax sticker shock. In Spain, the value added tax used to be 18%, but now thanks to this motherfucking economic crisis (which still has me on edge honestly) it's been hiked to 20%. I dare not ask what shipping from online shopping might cost, lest I fall out from shock and change my mind about this move all together.
So obviously, I'm not shipping my Honda to Murcia. I was going to sell it, but given the insecurity of the Spanish economy, I thought it best to be prepared, and am storing it in my mom's garage. And this will be the first time in six years that I won't have a car of my own. I don't like driving a lot, but I despise waiting for public transport, and I'm going to miss riding in the bat mobile, windows down, blasting Ke$ha, shifting gears and cursing at people. I've been told that the bus and tram system in Murcia is reliable and easy, but still I'm going to miss being the captain of my chariot. And what I wouldn't give to take my 5 speed manual on the winding roads of the Spanish Countryside. But then again, that's what boyfriends with cars are for...
6. American Breakfast Food.
I live for pancakes, french toast and waffles with real maple syrup. While I know I can easily make these things in Spain, what I can't easily do is find maple syrup. It turns out maple syrup is more of a North American staple and is a foreign luxury that's about 20 euro for a few ounces in Spain. I honestly might have my family bring me a jug or two when they visit for Christmas, because I cannot live without the occasional pancake feast.
It's not that I'm not excited about being thrust into Spanish immersion. It's just that I know that the struggle to communicate with people can be exhausting. So I already know, I'm going to be that person, who upon hearing another English speaker in midst in Spain, will probably run to them and demand to know where they're from, what they're doing here, and talk their ear off for the sole purpose of speaking and listening to my native tongue. This doesn't make me an ugly American does it?
8. American TV.
So even though I can access Hulu Plus in Spain, Netflix hasn't quite caught up with the times, and foreign TV is well just that. Foreign. I've been attempting to observe American TV with a "foreigners" eyes these last few months, and honestly most TV seems strange to me these days. Either way, I'm going to miss the hell out of random interesting stuff on PBS, American commercials, and any and everything that I can't watch on Hulu (like Game of Thrones, True Blood, and How I Met Your Mother). On the flip side, I'm also kind of excited for this respite. I have a stack of magazines calling my name, and I have yet to use my kindle with which I've already loaded with several free books off my reading list from my 30 before 30.
9. Brown people.
I grew up in Camden, NJ which is like 90% Black/Puerto Rican and a handful of Vietnamese and Cambodian. When I went to University of Delaware, I had bit of a culture shock with 92% of the student body being white, but saw enough of the 8% minority population to not always feel like the lone chocolate chip in a sea of white (well outside of classes at least). I currently live in Baltimore which is like 60% black (unfortunately 40% of them are ratchet, but I digress), so seeing people who look like me is my normal. I've never lived anywhere where the overwhelming majority of people that I will see are white--and I only spent 5 weeks in Italy so I never quite did get used to people staring at me because I look different than them. From what I've been told from other black women and brown girls in Europe, some days it bothers you, most days it doesn't, and every now and again, you may have to get to rolling your neck and cut a side eye at someone ig'nant and ratchet. Ni modo, así es la vida. I already know I'll be "the brown girl with the brown dog" wherever I find an apartment. This should be fun.
10. American efficiency.
I know we've all been told that Americans work the longest hours and get the least amount of work done, but I'm not so sure about that. Based on my experiences while abroad, there seems to be a general lack of urgency in attitude when it comes to things we Americans like to believe are urgent (like visa paperwork, and residency cards, airport check-in, etc). One of my fellow language assistants shared this video with me about what to expect when I go to apply for my residence card in Spain, and I found it to be hi-larious because I know it's true. This fact also scares the crap out of me, since my Spanish is still....lacking. Jesus be with me, lol.
So I'm sure you're thinking that a post about stew in the middle of summer seems strange. Especially when the above pictured "stew" resembles nothing of what it's namesake traditionally suggests. But you know, this is city girl food, so I can call it stew if I want to. Besides, I assure you the strangest thing about this recipe is that I willingly and purposefully cooked with and ate butternut squash. Which as a notoriously picky eater and self proclaimed hater of all things squash, is a pretty big deal.Read More
So in 3 months, I'm packing up my best boots and poodle and moving to Spain, and 6 months ago I made Coq au Vin. That's right, 6 months ago, as in January. And I'm just posting it now, because 8 month ago I started the application process for the program that's sending me to Spain, and after that there was Thanksgiving and Christmas and Miss Xpose Prelims and Miss Xpose finals and lots and lots of boozin' and jackassery in between. Sue me.
So back in January when I tried my hand at Mastering the Art of French cooking, I learned a few things along the way, that I will now list in order of importance:
1. Any dish the requires the presence of three bottles of alcohol is clear win-win situation. #Realtalk.
2. Julia Child is a God send of a woman, to whom I am thankful for her dedicating her life to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because French cooking is certainly more art than science, is a detail oriented pain in the ass, but it is damn good and well worth the effort.
3. I should really make a habit of reading a recipe in its entirety several times before starting the cooking process. On that note, it would appear that I have mastered the art of convincing my dinner guests, my roommate and my sister in this instance, to happily wait 2 hours while I prepare their dinner, after 8pm and on a weeknight. Shazaam!
4. Everything is done for a reason. So no matter how sacrilegious it sounds to boil the exactly 4oz of bacon, if Julia says so, you boil the damn bacon.
5. Because if you don't boil the bacon, its flavor will be too strong and overpower the other flavor elements. Besides, that boiled bacon goes on to be sauteed in butter, and the aroma that results from this is nothing short of intoxicating, and could probably be bottled and sold as an aphrodisiac. True story.
6. Setting food on fire is really f*cking awesome!
7. And last but not least. Pearl onions+mushrooms+butter+wine+herbs=indescribably delicious. No ifs, ands, or butts about it.
The end result doesn't look like much, but it taste f*cking fantastic. No edit necessary, recipe found here.
Having had my own Spanish adventures I can say that the transformative effect of that Barcelona air isn’t just movie magic—it’s real.
Truest. Story. Ever.
The same has been said about
, and I assume therefore it will be the same for Murcia.
I'm feeling a lot of things right now, mostly tepid excitement given the economic crisis. But ultimately, lo que será, será.