A week in Barcelona is like nothing else. Yes, I’m on vacation, and I’m always gratified when I can fill my days with the essentials of coffee, wine, cava, agua con gas, eating, cooking, sleeping, napping, taking pictures, and lots of reading, writing, and doodling. But I can think of no better place to be completely inspired. Everywhere I look there is something or someone beautiful — giant architectural wonders and small details of purity of expression. Everything I taste is rich and full of passion. The sun is strong. The wind is clean. The purr of the diesel engines is purrier. The marcona almonds are smokier, and the salt on them is saltier.
All of the food, since it is local, is supremely affordable. Today I navigated one of the smaller markets, got myself some lamb chops (fresh cut while-u-watch), spinach (you can practically taste the iron), brussles sprouts (you guessed it: sproutier), and tomatoes (lots of lovely little ones still on the vine). And some manchego and membrillo for dessert. Total food cost: around $10. My bottle of wine (that I almost polished off myself) was around $8, for a 2007 Jumilla. (1 foto attached)
I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Although I’ve only had one other formal cooking class in my life and most of what I learn is by doing it, usually in collaboration with another chef (like my buddy Steve), the very awesome and kind people of Schwadesign got me a cooking class for my birthday, at a place called Cook & Taste. The chef was excellent and taught many things that weren’t on the recipes — typical to how I like to learn! At 10am we had a little briefing, then we went shopping at La Boqueria (the main market) for a few ingredients, meanwhile learning what to look for in dried meats (ribbons of fat!) and where to get the best razor clams (I can find it but I don’t remember the name of the stall). Around 11am, all 12 of us in the class got assigned various tasks (mine was to pour the wine and make pan con tomate), and from 11 til 4 we cooked then ate a butternut squash bisque with jamon serrano and one grilled shrimp, tortilla española, a giant paella de mariscos, and a crema catalan. (3 fotos attached) I had a nice long siesta yesterday…….
Other lovely little vignettes…
- The octagonal city blocks are called manzanas (either after the Big Apple or a reference to other latin places).
- If you say it fast enough, “vaya con dios” (tr.: “go with gods”) also sounds like “adios.”
- As I was cooking lunch today I heard Santa Baby wafting through the central exhaust shaft of the building. Sung by someone Dean Martinish. Couldn’t place it, but the local was singing along, In English.
- I’ve been dreaming a LOT. Of book covers, of old bosses, old pets, of family…. the chef said that eating lots of olives will cause you to dream more.
- Smiling opens many doors. Even if you are afraid of saying something wrong.
Today I felt like a true local when I was asked for directions and knew where to direct. The elderly couple that stopped me asked me, in Spanish, if I knew where a certain church plaza was, and I replied, in Spanish, “yes, go straight a little more, then to the left.” I’ve officially arrived.