We’re home from Spain, where I discovered that blogging with WordPress on an iPad was more technologically challenging than I could deal with on a regular basis. Or maybe it was the huge quantities of wine we had with dinner every night, dinner that normally began about my regular bedtime and ended about midway through what should have been an REM sleep phase.
Since this is not a travel blog (I leave that to my friend Jackie of Travelnwrite) I have thought of themes I can use to tell the story of our eighteen-day trip to Spain and Morocco, and since I still am waking up at two a.m. dreaming of the various streets and alleys we got lost in, I chose to tackle an easy theme for today: food.
Food in both countries was tasty. Since we returned home, I have been searching the internet for recipes I can use to recreate certain dining experiences. I learned on day one that ham is the mainstay of Spanish meals, not just the slices you find in our grocery store delis to slap between two pieces of bread and call a sandwich, but two other specialties: jamon Iberico and jamon Serrano. Spanish ham is a gourmet delicacy and is priced accordingly, but that doesn’t keep people from eating it, a lot of it. According to ask.com, “Every Spaniard eats about 5 kilograms [11 pounds] of cured ham per year.” Along with ham, Manchego cheese and crusty loaves of bread are all part of the basics of a meal. Ham, chorizo and cheese on a piece of bread are tapas, that is snacks, which, when combined with other snacks, can make a complete lunch or dinner. We also sampled tapas of fried squid; chicken on a skewer; broiled asparagus; shrimps on a skewer; paté, a plate of marinated red peppers, onion and eggplant; olives in oil and vinegar with garlic; Spanish tortillas and other dishes I have already forgotten. Could it have been the wine?
We also ate various types of fish, some known and others unknown, including a few little ones who looked up at us through glassy eyes, octopus, and croquettes of squid in its own ink. One night we ate paella, a dish of rice, usually seafood, sometimes chicken and chorizo, and always, saffron. Oh, and did I mention we had wine?
I later confessed to my husband that I was happy to spend two days in a Muslim country (Morocco), because that meant two days without ham. Memorable dishes there included harira, a hearty soup with chicken, lots of spices, tomatoes, lentils and garbanzos. I also liked a mystery fish in a dish called fish tagine, a stew simmered on top of the stove in a special pot at low temperatures. You’d think that in Morocco, we would have had to forego wine, which we did one night, but, as it turned out, there were two stores in Tangier where we could buy as many bottles as we wanted, one on a busy thoroughfare and one in a poorly lit neighborhood where shoppers could keep a low profile and perhaps avoid the raised eyebrows of their neighbors. Since we had no neighbors to shame us, twenty-six of us took over the small beverage store on the high-traffic boulevard under the large Coca Cola sign, loading up on three kinds of Moroccan wine. We’re confident the shopkeepers hadn’t seen any women in their store since the last tour bus passed through town, as they seemed to be amused at the sight of the fourteen in our group. We drank the wine the following night when we ate in our hotel in the casbah. (We filled the hotel, so there were no guests to offend.)
I tried to create a fish tagine at home last night, but missed the mark. Maybe it just needed a bit more wine.