Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Daytrip and Feast

This weekend started with my first Saturday off-work since January and now that it's over Jack and I (and probably Lyle, in his mysterious, doggy way) agree that it was one our best weekends (excluding visitors).

We have a couple of friends, or maybe a 'friend couple'?  Regardless, they are a couple and they are our friends.  Our friends are generous.  They are also fun. Last, but not least, they have a car and a healthy spirit of adventure.  They were having a 'visitor weekend' and invited us along for a hike and some paella in the mountains near Valencia (close to Serra, I think?).

There is nothing like being in a car, climbing switchbacks into the mountains, inhaling Mediterranean-pine breezes and listening to Jamiroquai.  The destination was somewhere that we had never been before.  We scrambled our way up to a magnificent vista where you could see over Sagunt to the ocean.  While we both fear (a lot) for his safety, Lyle appears to be quite the little rock scrambler.  We held him up for an obligatory Lion King picture.  He was not anywhere near the precipice, but I'm not sure he's forgiven me.

It was a wonderful walk around, but our exercise to eating ratio was... let's just say, we ate a lot.  We had traditional, Valencian paella, but decided to opt out of the liver and snails.  So the breakdown was: chicken, rabbit, green beans, garrafo beans.  It was all cooked in a tomato/broth concoction with saffron.   It was easily the best paella we've had so far.   This time, I think I could really taste a spicy flavor that I thought was ginger, but after Amanda said rosemary, I had to smack my forehead a little.  Of course! I really like rosemary, despite the fact that I'm never tempted by the 'lucky' sprigs gypsies sell in the plaza on my way to work.  I cook with it sometimes, but it seems to dominate the flavor of everything it touches.  This was the first time I've had a 'rosemary' dish where the herb was relatively elusive, but it definitely added a little oomph to the paprika.  

Paella is a dangerous dish.  You eat a heaping portion and then, when you can take any more... it's socarrat time.  The best part of the paella (and not just in my opinion) is the tasty part that's left stuck to the bottom of the pan after, it's not exactly burnt... but a little crispier and smokier than the rest.  The traditional way to eat paella is to have the entire family eat from the dish, maybe serving to their plates, maybe not.  This gets intense at socarrat time.  Imagine an entire family of spoons digging at the bottom of the pan.  I apparently have no shame... I got more than my fair share.  

Of all the Valencian cultural traditions, I think the Sunday paella is my favorite.  As my students enthusiastically tell me, the whole family gathers in the garden to tend paella over an open wood flame and then eat it together.  It's about family togetherness.  It's also a little about calculated gluttony.  This combination appeals to me.  Hopefully, in the future, even if I'm far from Valencia, we will have Sunday paellas.  Not every Sunday, but often enough to keep alive this memory of overlooking the Mediterranean next to Jack and Lyle, without any agenda besides savoring the moment.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Promising Days Ahead

The year has flown by while this blog has stagnated.  My bike was stolen.  We moved twice.  I gained jobs.  Other jobs ended.  It got cold (very occasionally, from our perspective) and rained sometimes.  Artichokes came in season and I feasted.  Oh how I feasted.  The town exploded (quite literally) in large and small ways during Fallas.  Asparagus came into season and I feasted. The orange trees blossomed, wafting a scent that stopped us in our tracks and led us, hound-dog style to the nearest tree.  Yes, we were the foreigners sniffing the trees in the otherwise-respectable plazas.  Friends have come to visit, and we have shown off "our city" nearly bursting with pride and felt connected in a way that distance makes all the more remarkable.  These are the people with whom you can share a comfortable silence as equally as a belly laugh, with whom you can discuss politics, music and life (even when you disagree), and people who are generally on your wavelength.  It reinforces my main goal for the future ** make Spanish friends **  Yes, we have them and yes, we are always trying to take it to 'the next level' in an entirely platonic way.  It's easy, however, to give up.  To let the silences and laughs become "awkward" and to stumble over tenses.  Something tells me, however, that all around me, all the time are these amazing potential friends and I just have to push through the little 'awkwardness' (which, as far as I know is something you can't even say in Spanish) of communication and it will all be worth it.  Beyond worth it, in fact... this is, after all, why we're here!

So, here is an entirely gratuitous picture of me and my younger sister in the plaza outside our house.  She left on Tuesday.  We had an amazing week together, even better with the visit of one of my best friends from way back.  
This visit was something special.  We caught up, really caught up and I felt so close to this wonderful, poised girl and generally proud of her.  It also seems strangely like the years are bringing us together... and by that, I mean literally making us look and act more alike.  For a while I thought Jack was going to go crazy with us echoing the same things constantly.  So many people also told us that we looked alike and that is something that we have never, ever gotten. Usually there's obnoxious jokes about the milkman and suspicious looks... but not this time.  People actually thought we were sisters and it felt so good.  I'm so looking forward to our next reunion, but in the meantime... I'm going to live each and every moment in this beautiful city up.