Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Segovia and Cochinillo

With lots of visitors lately, we have been making the tourist rounds in the Madrid area. It is a definite blessing to have friends visit with us!

Monday, we took a trip to Segovia, Spain. A small town about an hour north of Madrid. It is home to a castle and a Roman aqueduct.

It is also famous for its local dish: cochinillo (roasted piglet). It is a very popular dish at Christmas time here in Madrid. As the holidays get closer the supermarkets will have meat cases with baby pigs all very nice placed together and plastic wrapped, ready to be taken home for Christmas dinner.

Neither our guests, nor Jeff and I had ever tried the Spanish dish, so we decided to have a nice meal at a Segovian restaurant called "Asi Nos Ponen Huevos como Gallinas"....I'm not really sure what exactly the name is supposed to mean.....translated it means: "We'll be like chickens laying eggs".......

Anyways, so we all tried the local dish: cochinillo. This is what arrived as my main course:

(I can't get blogger to turn my picture the right way....)

Yes, that is a foot and a tail. Jeff ended up with an ear on his piece... I will say that the meat was really tender, and didn't exactly taste how I expected, though one is defintely thrown off by the sight of the tiny foot and tail....

Monday, 13 September 2010

Quick Breakfast

The boys started school this past week. I have given myself two goals for this school year:

1. I will be at the bus stop when they get off the bus in the afternoon.

2. I will make them at least one hot breakfast a week.

The boys get on the bus at 8:00AM, and get off the bus around 6:00PM.

It’s a long day for someone so little, so I wanted to send them off with a full feeling in their stomachs. It has been a challenge to find ways to make a quick, hot breakfast that toddlers will eat when they would be happy with a daily dose of the marshmallow cereal that Grandma sent from the States.

I had discovered earlier that you can make pancakes in the sandwich maker (my new favorite kitchen appliance), and that you could refrigerate the batter for up to a week, so making just a few pancakes at a time.
I also discovered, via some comments on facebook, that you could microwave an egg mixed with a little milk in a small bowl and have perfect scrambled eggs. It was only about 2 minutes in the microwave, and they come out in the perfect shape to use for an egg sandwich (although we ate them ‘plain’). The boys love ‘em, so they’ve now become a regular on the breakfast rotation.

I think my next goal should be preparing quick, good-for-you dinners for just the two of them. Jeff and I usually eat a large meal at the lunch hour (around 2:00pm here in Spain) and then sometimes I’ll reheat the leftovers for the boys for dinner and we eat something light later on (around 10:00ish). Lately the boys have been having a lot of white rice mixed with tomato sauce, a Spanish staple. They do like this meal….but it has very little actual nutrition.

Goal for the next week (or whenever I actually get up the initiative): discover actual nutritious dinner meals that don’t take very long, and that they will eat…

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A New Beginning / Sandwicher Maker Chocolate Cake

I haven’t blogged in a while, but that is obvious. I found myself each day saying “What should I write about today?” and coming up blank. How many times could I write “Today, I went to the church…Today, I walked around Madrid…Today, I felt exasperated by my boys.”

I have a new fascination with food blogs. I love seeing things people make and eat, and especially when they tell me how I can do it too. …..So, I am going to try something. I am going to blog about our food. I am by no means a cook, but I like to try. I fail a lot, but every once and while things work out.

Sometimes we eat interesting Spanish things, like last week we had “Arroz Negro”. That is rice made black by squid ink with mini octopus mixed in.

Sometimes we eat boring things, like grilled cheese and tomato soup. Only the tomato soup is really cold Spanish gazpacho, because it’s the only thing I can find that is similar.

Lots goes on at a meal. Conversation, jokes, my boys being crazy….so surely some of that will get mixed in as well.

Some pertinent information to understanding what kind of cooking I can and cannot do:

1. I live in Madrid, Spain. While there is an American, closet sized, grocery store, most typical “American” ingredients are very expensive. So I end up improvising or making things from scratch (like Italian dressing).

2. I have 2 toddler boys and a husband. I cook so they will eat it. It’s usually not very fancy.

3. This is the size of my kitchen:

it has its limitations. (Yes, that is my washing machine next to my oven.)


I had read somewhere that sandwich makers could be used to make much more than a hot sandwich.

After making the PB&J paninni over at Weelicious, I got to thinking about my own sandwich maker. What could I do? And after some research on the internet I found out: I CAN PRETTY MUCH MAKE ANYTHING!

So, I tried cake last night.

I mixed just a plain boxed cake mix. (This one I got in a care package from home.)

I poured 2 tablespoons of the batter into each of the triangle wells. Closed the lid and waited for about 3 to 5 minutes.
And this is what came out!
They were a hit. The box mix made about 24 triangle servings, which is nice for a party but bad in the house. We ended up eating the whole plate by the end of the night.
I am sure there are tons of ways to put 'add-ins' to the cakes. But this is what happened when I tried putting marshmallows in, so I just stuck to the cake.

We’ve had omlettes and pancakes from our sandwich maker since yesterday and now I am thinking of the endless possibilities for my new kitchen friend...pigs in a blanket, pizza pockets, Spanish tortilla….

Sunday, 21 March 2010

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder...

Funerals are amazing moments of cultural learning. Last week we experienced our first funeral in Spain. And while there is great sadness in the loss, there is also the extreme curiosity on my part to absorb all I could about the nuances of Spanish culture.

We don’t all approach death in the same manner. Family, religious, cultural – each have their own input into how we deal with the passing.

For example:

  • Spanish rarely say someone has “died”, they use the word that literally means they have “failed”. It sounds very polite.
  • Up until just a decade or so ago, Spain had Catholic funerals/graveyards, and everyone else. And to this day, there seems to be a great stigma (even among evangelicals) to be buried in the “everyone else” section of the graveyard.
  • Spaniard funerals are the next day, usually within 24 hours of the passing. There is no body preparation, such as make up and hair combing. And several people found it ludicrous that we both put make up on the deceased and wait up to 4 days to have a funeral.
  • Spanish grave plots are purchased by families, and then everyone’s coffin is stacked on top of one another. I saw one tombstone with 6 names/dates engraved on top. (And the graveyard is so big that there several bus stops inside.).
  • Spanish do not have any “gathering” following the actual funeral service. Most simply go there own way after the 10 to 15 minute service.

While the approach to death may change wherever we go, there are things that remain the same. There is the pain in accepting the loss of a loved one. Sorrow looks the same in every language.

There is also the hope that we who believe have:

He will swallow up death forever!
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
against his land and people.
The LORD has spoken!
In that day the people will proclaim,
“This is our God!
We trusted in him, and he saved us!
This is the LORD, in whom we trusted.
Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”

Isaiah 25: 8 – 9

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The American lady messed up my homework...

Km Hm Dm m dm cm mm

Do those mean anything to you? … Me neither.

We have an afterschool homework club two days a week and I have been able to help out the past two weeks. I have really enjoyed the time filled with giggles, snacks, and silly questions. But it is not without its complications.

The majority of the schools in the Madrid area boast a bilingual education program. I offered to lend a hand to the program and help out with English homework, especially since several moms had already approached me about helping their children.

Little did I expect that the majority of my time would be spent on Spanish grammar homework and metric conversion math. For the past two days I have been as confused as the kids who have been asking for my help. More than once I have, in a moment of exasperation and fear of leading the child educationally astray, called over one of the Spanish speaking tutors.

Yesterday, I spent a good hour working with a boy on metric conversion charts and warned him that there may be some problems with my answers when he got to school in the morning. He said "Don't worry. I'll just tell them you are American."

I do get the chance to assist with English homework; correct pronunciation, help translate, or quiz are parts of the skeleton (yes, they are all learning the parts of the skeleton/bones in English).

And learn that:

Km = kilometer

Hm = hectameter

Dm = decameter

m = meter

dm = decimeter

cm = centimeter

mm = milimeter

Monday, 8 February 2010

What Are the Rules??

Jeff stayed up until 4:00 am watching the Super Bowl this week. At the mention of this, one of our friends commented that he must really love American football. But Jeff’s not a football fanatic. I actually can’t remember him watching much football when we lived in the States. Jeff’s response to the question was tantamount to saying “I’m an American male. It’s the Super Bowl. What else am I supposed to do?”

All of this has made me think about “culture”. The Super Bowl says a lot about American culture. (I only watched the first few minutes and then went to bed…it STARTED at midnight and there were no commercials.)

We love big competition, especially if they involve an underdog figure.

We are relatively patriotic, at least compared to most countries. What is considered normal in the States would be rendered to fanaticism in other countries.

We love buying things, and we’ll buy almost anything if the propaganda is good enough. (I watched the Super Bowl commercials online the next day and went out to buy Doritos.)

Of course those are NOT the only traits our culture has: we also tend to be very generous, we strive for success, we are funny. (Just look at our Super Bowl commercials.)

It also made me think about the other “cultures” I have become a part of and my increasing dilemma in understanding their “requirements”.

1. With Spanish culture it is customary to greet people with two kisses. But I’m never sure when I’m supposed to do so, because apparently there’s a secret rule as to who you kiss and who you don’t, and when you kiss and when you don’t. I’m positive I’m offending someone nearly all the time.

2. Blog culture is an interesting phenomenon. We’ve created this virtual space, but what are the rules? What happens with blog meets real life in a non blog related event? Oh, the things that boggle my mind…

3. Church culture: we all have different ways of expressing similar sentiments. When should we use which words? What are the “rules” of each separate environment?

4. Salvation Army culture: “The Army is the Army no matter where you are.”…or so I thought.

…I’m sure the list could go on and on.

Anyways, we spent the next 10 minutes of the above conversation explaining how American football is actually played. To which he responded “That sounds like a dumb game.”

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Poor Are Counting on It

Last week the president of Spain participated in the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. This was a very big deal here in Spain to hear their national leader read words from Scripture and offer a prayer in acknowledgement of God in a public event.

Zapatero chose to read Deuteronomy 24: 14 – 15:

Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.

It is an interesting passage to have been chosen, seeing as 465,452 people are receiving unemployment in Madrid. The fear of “paro” (the unemployment program) is a real issue for the majority of the people attending our church, as it is the fear of most people in Madrid. It is a real challenge as Christians to find a way to minister to the 465,452 people in our community who are passing through financial crisis. One can only pray that we can remember the words of Deuteronomy and that President Zapatero remembers them as well.

The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.
Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Luke 4:17 – 19