The Potaje Problem

Don’t you love that satisfying raw carrot crunch?  Or the way the juice of a raw red pepper splashes with a big bite?  Or how about the scratching sound of teeth peeling a fibre of raw celery down the stock?  Food needs texture.

That is why baby food is so gross.  When I see a Spanish Mom spoon-feeding her four-year old jars of baby food I always feel for the poor kid.  They are texture deprived.

I’ve been eating outside of our regular routine since Río was born.  When Yago was born I kept up the cooking, but with two kids, Rogelio decided we should exchange pride  for comfort.  We have temporarily joined the line of adult children with Tupperware containers that mooch off his mother every day.

Lunch courtesy of a Spanish mother-in-law means traditional food.  Potajes (stewed legumes),  Guisos (stewed meat, potatoes and veggies) or Cocidos such as Puchero or Caldo Gallego (boiled veggies, legumes, etc.)

There are so many variations of these three basic dishes.  Every region has typical version and every home has its own interpretation.  But they all have one thing in common:

No texture!

We have eaten potaje, guiso or cocido everyday now for nine days and the only sound I have heard is slurping.  Not a single chew, chomp or crunch.  It’s like being six months old again.  My molars are going to fall out from disuse.

Now, beggars can’t be chosers, especially when those Tupperware containers magically refill everyday at 2:00pm.  But I must supplement the mother-in-law diet with a big dose of raw fruit and veggies. I even find myself craving pasta al dente, which would seem downright chewy today.

I have questions:  Do I live in a texture phobic society or is it just convenient to throw everything in a pot and boil the crap out of it?  Or, can boiled food actually have texture but my mother-in-law forgets everything on the stove for hours at a time?  What are the long-term dental ramifications of potaje overdose?  Is the potaje problem the reason why kids here are not allowed to chew until they start school?

It is arguably handy to just throw another cup of water in the pot if last-minute folks show up expecting to eat.  For example, lazy adult children who arrive at 2:00pm with their Tupperware containers.



  1. I too, am perplexed by all the boiling going on in this country. Perhaps it explains why we´re bombarded with with Actimel commercials every 10 minutes on Spanish T.V.

    Eat some raw veggies, people!

  2. Your post made me laugh! As a working mom with with 2 kiddos sometimes we shamelessly send our tupperwares to my mother-in-law for filling. It’s a nice break when no cooking is going on in our house. Also, congrats on your new baby. You have a beautiful family!!

  3. How interesting! One of my closest friends is from northern Spain, and she is the best cook on the planet. She makes everything from croquettes to Basque chicken, Spanish chicken, Morroccan chicken, and, of course, tortilla. But now that you mention it, she does boil things I would never think of boiling. She has a fussy hubby, though, so even her boiled stuff comes out with taste and texture.

    I’m so glad for you that you have a mother-in-law to cook for you right now. It was as hard for me to adjust to the second child as it was to adjust to the first. It has to be a great help to have magically-filling tupperware.

    You know, this post of yours has got me thinking about my friend’s food. Think I’ll go make some Basque chicken right now. Loving your blog, as always!

  4. Hi there – this made me laugh which on a gloomy Tuesday was a great gift! I also wonder about the boiled to death pappy food. Christmas is the worse with several courses of over cooked vegetables in a watery sauce and boiled lumps of various animals to go with it. My man and his son like their pasta squidgy, and all their fruit, and so on and so on….Long live al dente! K x
    Lovely baby – lucky you – what a gorgeous family

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