11.05.2013 - 02.06.2013 18 °C
Back again, but this time we won't leave Barcelona!
I have been waiting for a while for a free moment to write a little blog about news in Barcelona! Actually, back when my family was visiting in February, I found out from my roommate Matteo that he was going to be moving out of the flat. That left Thiago and I with two choices. We could either stay and accept a small bump in the price, and take on the responsibility of the bills and things, and find a new roommate, or we could move out too. So Thiago and I started looking briefly for flats for just two people, but they are hard to find since most people want either one free bedroom or lots. In the end, we decided that we would just look separately.
Thiago found a single studio in a neighborhood near where he is working now, so he is a happy camper, and I have found myself in a flat in the district of the city called 'La Nova Esquerra de L'Eixample'. Roughly translated, it means 'The new left part of L'Eixample', and comes from the name of a French gentleman who designed the neighborhood. It is about the same distance from work for me, and about the same distance from the beach. But the neighborhood is much different. Whereas before I felt like I was living in a small neighborhood within the big city, but now I am in the city: big, wide roads delineate square blocks of taller buildings. It is fun to explore a new part of the city, but I do miss my fruit man from Poble Sec! Here's the view looking west from my balcony and a photo of the common room:
In terms of the flat itself, it has a bigger kitchen, and the common room is much bigger, we have a big balcony, and I have three roommates! I also have my own bathroom, but honestly all that means to me is that I have to Unfortunately, my room is smaller with less light and storage space, but I hardly spend any time there anyway!
My roommates, Pedro, Miriam and Marcia range in age from 27-31 and are from Portugal, Madrid, and Angola, respectively. The first language in Angola is actually Portuguese, so Marcia and Pedro speak that together, when we are all together and when I'm alone with Miriam we speak Spanish, and when I'm alone with Pedro and Marcia we switch between English and Spanish. Quite the multicultural flat! We get along great, though, and eat dinner or go out together quite frequently. More about that in a second!
Let's talk a bit about food! I have been badgering Miriam to show me how to make a Spanish tortilla since I moved into the flat, so one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago we set to it. If you remember from one of the first blogs, tortillas are like thick omelets with potatoes, and they also usually have sauteed onions. If you get creative, you can add other veggies like peppers and mushrooms too. We decided to keep it classic for the first try though!
Seeing as how they are slightly more elaborate omelets, I was sure it couldn't be too difficult, but I was glad I asked for help, as there were a few tricks to watch out for! One thing is that the potatoes must be deep fried to soften them at the beginning. This unfortunately decreases the healthiness of the meal significantly, but as the spanish say-- 'it's olive oil, it's good for you!' Also, the flipping of the tortilla is difficult, since you have to flip the thing before the egg is cooked through. But both the small tortillas we made that day looked pretty good, and tasted even better!!
I have also been meaning for a long time to adventure into La Boqueria (the large central marketplace) to get some fresh fish for dinner. Finally I psyched myself up and went with Claudia, my friend from work, to see what damage we could do. After scoping out some of the fish stands, I chose one with a wide variety and asked the woman working to give me a recommendation. I was unprepared to answer all of her questions, but I understood most of 'em and made up answers to the rest and ended up ordering three small fish, called 'caballa'. She grabbed the whole fish, slapped it on the cutting board, deheaded and deboned it and threw it into a plastic baggie. Then, I asked how to go about cooking a (or three) caballa. She explained to bake it with olive oil (whoda thunk it?) and lemon juice and the spice 'pimentón suave'. Alright, first stop the supermarket to pick up pimentón and maybe figure out what it was! After finally arriving at home, I threw everything together and stuck it in the oven, and was mostly pleased with the result!
Finally, I got around to looking up the translations for the things I had eaten, and it turns out that I do, in fact, like mackerel with sweet cayenne pepper! It was a great adventure, and I'm already planning on doing something like it again!
Hungry yet, or do you have room for one more? When my parents and brother were visiting, they found a brochure for a bar that holds paella cooking class. Thinking (rightfully so) that I should know how to cook the quintessential Spanish meal, my brother generously bought me a ticket for my birthday! So last week I invited two visiting friends to go with me to learn a bit about making paella! The tour took us first to La Boqueria to grab the ingredients of our feast, and then to the restaurant to learn a thing or two. After being introduced to our 'local' guide... Wait, he said he's from Argentina! So he's not even Spanish! He speaks Spanish, sure... Ahh but he lives here so that makes him a local, I see. Hey then I'm a local too! Hmm something strange, but the paella was great so I suppose I'll let it slide... Oops sorry for the sidetrack, I'll get to the event itself: first they brought out a large platter of tapas-makings and did a quick demonstration on how to make things like 'pan con tomate', in which garlic cloves and tomato pulp are spread over toast before a drizzle of olive oil tops it off. Then, goodies like Iberian ham, sausage, tortilla, cheese and olives go on top to create a light and tasty open-faced appetizer. When we polished off the plate of tapas (not long seeing as how we were 15 people at the table), our chef began the Paella making!
I quickly learned that paella is quite more difficult to make than tortilla (especially when cooking for 25 like our chef)! Each of the seafood ingredients, which included clams, mussels and prawns, take different amount of times to cook, and since it is a one-dish meal, things are heated and cooled by moving them around the pan or adding cold liquid, like water or wine. There are also lots of ingredients, including the spice saffron, which is grown in Spain, so it isn't half as expensive as in the US. This spice is what gives the paella its yellowish color, although rumor on the street is that the restaurants on Las Ramblas are just liberal with the food coloring. Don't think I'll be trying that theory soon! Finally dinner was ready, and the paella was incredible! You'll have to take my word that I was taking diligent notes, and promise to practice a time or twice before I come home, and then come hang out when I get back so we can have a real spanish feast!
The new flat and lots of food-cultural experiences recently have made for an exciting couple of months! Talk to you next time!