Andalusia

Redefining “Air Mail”

I have many stories about the snail-mail here in Andalusia.  Packages disappear.  Strange taxes appear.  Our mailman became the Mayor.   But our new mailman in Tarifa has taken bizarre to new heights.  3.37 meters high to be exact.

When I arrived home from the school run Friday there was a large package on the ground inside my locked patio.  How exciting. How strange.  How did it get there?

No one witnessed this mystery unfold so I can only assume this chain of events:

  • Mailman arrives to deliver a package.
  • Mailman rings bell, no one answers.
  • Mailman decides carrying package back to truck would be labour intensive and unsatisfying.
  • So, mailman throws large package 3 meters and 37 centimeters over the wall where large package drops onto the cement floor of my patio.

I measured. He threw it 3.37 meters in the air. That’s a little over 11 feet for those of you who don’t speak metric.

I can picture Mr.  Mailman looking at the wall, looking at the package, looking at the wall.  He probably turned the box around, searching for clues of its contents.  He gave it a little shake, muttering, “Doesn’t sound breakable”.  Then he took one last glance for witnesses, declared,  “F@&% it” and he pitched it over the wall.

My only question is whether the box made it over on his first toss, or if it bounced back onto the street a few time before clearing the wall.

Given my history with the Spanish mail service this experience leaves me elated.  The package arrived. It arrived in a timely fashion with no additional charges.  I did not have to stand in a line.

Thank goodness it was Lego and not a new laptop.

 

 

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Run Rea Run. Because life is a box of chocolates and I keep eating them.

Although I live in Algeciras, the blogosphere has yet to see me in leggings and thigh high boots.  I considered fishnets, (in the name of my art), then I said naaaaaaaah.  That’s so 2011.  What my public needs is to see my Not So Spanish ass in sweaty lyrca running tights.

Have you been wondering where I’ve been?  I’ve been running.

As my brother would say, “Running?  Why?  Was a bear chasing you?”

Today I ran my very first race.  (Elementary school doesn’t count, does it? )  6.5 km in Tarifa.  It was really fun.  Once it was over.

Here I am doing my warm-up (aka:  running late, the form of running I do most often)

Getting suited up with my team.

One final consultation with my trainer.

And we’re off!

These are fast guys.   I am not in this photo.  There are no thigh high boots in this photo.  Must be one hell of a bear back there.

Fast.

Slow.

Winney the Pooh is gaining ground.

Really slow.

“Or maybe I’m first!  I’m alone, in front of the pack!  There’s no one around.  Oh shit.  I’m actually lost.”

“Wait, I’m saved!  It’s the Red Cross.  And better yet.  A bar!”

Actually, I came fifth!  Well, fifth in my category.  Ok, so there were only eight people in the old lady category.  But they were really fast old ladies and I was faster than three of them.

“Give me a break!  I survived!  Now, quit taking photos of me when I am sweaty!”

Viva La Pepi

Twice a year I’m reminded that my husband is Spanish. Not that I forget, but today, for example, Rogelio is deeply immersed in cultural activities that I can appreciate, but will never truly understand.

During the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona he adjusts his morning shit/shower/shave just to watch the running live every morning for a week.

Then this week, during Carnival, Rogelio spends every night listening to the Chirigotas from Cadiz, the capital of our province.  Even my Facebook feed is dominated by Spanish friends involved in the same.

Chirigotas are tough to understand if you aren’t from around here.  Cadiz has its own peculiar vocabulary, sense of humor and obsession with Carnival.   Chirgota lyrics are social and political commentary, and always have been.  As early as 1523  King Carlos tried to ban the celebration.  The dictator Franco tried to shut down carnival but he only managed to change the name.   Now, democratic politicians have to clap politely as the Chirigotas take the piss out of them on national television.

My favorite group this year didn’t win.

They are called “Viva La Pepi.”  I thought the concept was ingenious and timely.  2012 is the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of 1812, the first free constitution of Spain. At the time Spain was ruled by the French, every corner of Spain except the city of Cadiz.  The document, extremely liberal for its times, was signed on the day of  San José and was thus known as “The Pepa”, which is the female nickname for José.  Pepa, or Pepi, is also the most stereotypical Spanish cleaning woman name ever.

I doubt many of you will understand the video’s lyrics.  I can’t.  But these men do a fantastic characterization of the typical Spanish woman from my neighbourhood.  Right down to the two-inch ash hanging off the cigarette.

The lyrics are full of vocabulary, double meanings, and historical and cultural references that I just don’t get.  But the message is, politicians are idiots and that cleaning women like Pepi keep the world turning.

Happy Carnival

More of that healthy Mediterranean diet

When you go for a picnic in Spain, you don’t just take any old food.  You take tortilla.  There are rules. Variety is not encouraged.   Going to the country or the beach without a tortilla may be punishable by law.  There are other picnic foods that can be debated regarding rank, relevance and regional variations.  But around here, if you go for a picnic this will be the menu:

  1. Tortilla (fried potato omelette)
  2. Pimientos fritos (fried green peppers)
  3. Filete empanado (breaded, fried meat)

Heavy on the fried.

Tortilla is a fried potato omelette, for lack of a better translation.  But where as omelette sounds light and fluffy, tortilla is anything but.

It’s part of Rogelio’s kitchen repertoire, not mine. I don’t even like to watch.  Tortilla involves peeling and frying a sack of potatoes.  Not a light saute in a splash of oil.  We’re talking sizzling potatoes in litres of olive oil.  Then you add just enough egg so that it all sticks together.  There is an art to flipping this huge mass over in the frying pan.  You can’t burn the bottom, but you need enough coagulated egg to glue it all together.

This sucker weighed in at 2.7 kilos.  That’s 6 pounds for those of you who don’t speak metric.  My kids weighed the same as this tortilla at birth.

(Yes, those are my filthy old Crocs next to our lunch.  This is how I cut down on cooking for company obligations.)

Although the whole deep fry issue grosses me out, tortilla is the classic attractive food;  bland, full of carbs, flavored with salt.  Come on, admit it.  You love big greasy chunks of fried potato, glued together with egg.  It’s scrambled eggs plus hash browns that you can pick up in one hand.  The perfect picnic food.

Add a few olives and beer and VOILA!   More bum padding for that lawn chair. 

“Hey kid!  Quit pinching my olives!”

Pet therapy and plant repellent on sale now!

Agrogardin is a plant warehouse in our area.  Given the huge concentration of wealthy British expats, they identified their target market and wisely had all their signs printed in both English and Spanish.

Unfortunately, their business strategy bombed.  They have replaced 4000 square meters of plant nursery with a sea of giant bouncy castles and ball rooms.  The birthday party business is booming.

I guess even the expats were not willing to spend a lot of money on plant prevention and entertaining the cares and whims of animals.

Healthy Mediterranean Diet, My Monkey Arse

After scanning the fridge for this weekend’s menu I was completely uninspired.  Luckily, Rogelio spotted a couple of turnips, leeks, celery and two seen-better-days carrots and exclaimed,

“Perfect, we have everything for puchero.  Except for the most important thing!”

Puchero is common in all of Andalusia but particularly in Algeciras which only has Fried Sea Anemones as competition for the title of local culinary specialty.  Rogelio reports that he knows families that eat puchero every weekday.  Puchero isn’t my favorite; however, husbands with plans to use up wrinkled turnips are not to be discouraged,  so off we went on a family excursion to buy the missing key ingredient.  Fat.

Yago and I watched with interest as Rogelio fussed over his purchase.  We followed him home to document the big event.

The Ingredients, professionally styled at Yago’s play dough station.

Basically, we have some garbanzos, grungy veggies and a plate of dead animal products.  Shall we investigate?

The chicken is easy to identify, but these three require some explanation.  We have tocino fresco (new fat) tocino añejo (dry rancid fat) and costilla salada (salted dry ribs, read: fat and salt).

At this point in the process Rogelio was slapping his forehead because he forgot to buy a piece of white bone.

Not sure if this is part of the official recipe, but the fat we bought came with the bonus of hairs.  Attached hairs.  Still growing out of the fat type of hairs.

The Recipe,  throw it all in a pot with water and boil the bejesus out of it.  You don’t even cut the veggies.  Also, you peel some potatoes and chuck them in whole too.  Let the whole works stew for at least three hours.

At which point you have… VOILA, fatty chicken broth with garbanzos!

For presentation and serving, the meat and other lumps are removed from the liquid, as shown in the professionally styled photo below, (taken on Yago’s car table which has the best light in the house).

  • First course:   A scoop of the broth with some little noodles added.

  • Second course:  The soggy potatoes, chicken, garbanzos and salvageable veggie debris.

I made the mistake of mentioning to Rogelio that I didn’t think puchero was the highlight of Spanish cuisine.  He launched into his monologue about over-stimulated North American taste-buds unable to appreciate the subtle flavors of pig fat and potatoes.

We agreed to disagree, but I did snicker when my garbage disposal of a Spanish son pushed it away.  However, Rogelio will have the last laugh tonight when he subjects us to the third course.

  • Third courseRopa vieja (old clothes.)  Fry the left over dry parts and enjoy with a slab of new fat spread on white bread.

Then call your cardiologist.

Pom-poms and man-tights save US economy.

One of the blogs that I follow is The Sartorialist.  It is eye candy for the fashion impaired.  He takes gorgeous photos of beautifully dressed people, often fashion industry types, but also just average folk on the street.  I love it because he regularly features elderly European men.

Recently, the Sartorialist was in Madrid catching gorgeous Spaniards styling up the streets.  So wasn’t I impressed to see him feature a Spanish baby boy!  I have something in common with a famous blogger!  Can you guess what that now famous baby boy was wearing?

Exactly what the little tykes in my neighbourhood wear.  Impossibly clean white things, formal shorts and pom-poms.

Beware North American Moms.  The Sartorialist was selected as one of Time Magazines top 100 fashion influences.  What he says goes.  Pom-poms and man tights are coming to a playground near you!

Photo via The Sartorialist

Here Comes the Rain Again

The first big rains of the season are coming.  Four days of rain in the forecast.  Just in time for a four-day long weekend.  We are going to Cordoba regardless.  We might as well be walking the streets and drinking coffee in a cool city atmosphere instead of hunkering down in the apartment.

I am glad to see the end of summer weather finally.  I get tired of the heat and the dry landscape.  And to be honest,  my belly is hanging out of my summer T-shirts and I need to get this gut into some big sweaters.

So I leave you with some final dry images.

Bring on the rain.

Bring on new growth.

Bring on the green.

Have a great weekend, whether long or short, wet or dry.

PS:  Does anyone get all my 80’s song references?

First Not So Spanish Contest

Help.  I am at a loss with this photo.  Can you believe it?  Me, all out of  wit and sarcasm.   I need your help.

What remark, jab or imaginary conversation does this image deserve?

This outfit is not just a “Not So Spanish” kind of look, it is more a  “Holy crap, they would take away your Spanish passport” kind of look.

I can actually relate to this girl and probably we should be best friends.  She is obviously concerned about comfort and convenience.  I doubt she would dress her children in starched white ruffled blouses and leiderhosen. But for all my lack of good taste I have never been tempted to highlight my belly roll by squeezing it between a thong and a bum bag.

So please, dear readers.  What witty title does this fashion FO-PA  deserve?

The grand prize winner will receive my express permission to flop on the couch and drink a cold beer.