Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Italian Food, Trash and People

I wasn't going to write today, but feeling somewhat inspired after my most excellent day and even better late afternoon siesta.     Have a bunch of random, very disconnected thoughts to share.

First, let's start with italian food.   So, I thought that maybe as part of this blog I would occasionally post a recipe and some follow along pictures of the fabulous italian concoctions I am whipping up in my little kitchen.  I love food blogs, love to read them, love the photography... thought maybe I'd try it out on my own given I am here and have pretty much nothing else to do at the moment.

So last Friday, after that wonderful trip to my new central market, I decided that it was time to give it a shot.  My dad had left, it was my first night alone, and it seemed like a good thing to do.   And it was... at the time.   Problem is, life got in the way almost every day since then and it no longer really felt appropriate to post something so trivial such as how I made up my very own recipe for amatriciana.   Just wasn't feeling right to me.

Every day I've been posting pictures, running across the photos of my first dinner thinking, maybe today is the day.    So, turns out, today is the day.    I'm tired of seeing the photos in my queue and had a revelation that makes this a little more interesting.

I am really not going to post a recipe today.  If I did, it would go something like this.    Throw some pancetta and garlic in a pan.   Sautee it.  Add some tomato sauce.   Salt and pepper.   Cook some pasta.   Al dente of course.   Mix it all together.

That is really not that interesting.   What is interesting to me is what I am observing now that I have been 'cooking' almost every day since that first night.   I put that in quotes because I haven't really been cooking so much as throwing whatever ingredients I have together in a pan and then attempting to make it photo worthy by throwing a little cheese or fresh basil on top.   My revelation is that every single thing I made looks almost exactly the same.    Maybe a slight variation in shape or texture, but really, it is all the same.    Red, green, white.   Minus the first night, where I had zero fresh (green) ingredients.  At the start, I think I am working on something a little unique, but nope, all the same.    Take a look... have consolidated them all here for you to make things easier...

See what I mean?   Last night's dinner immediately above was my favorite.  I got sick of pasta and substituted chickpeas which made me a much happier girl.    On another note, the fact that I am eating alone means that once I make something, not only do I get to eat it for dinner that night, but actually over and over and over again until it is gone.   I am so done with cooking, and really, eating, at the moment. 

With all this in mind, I've decided to scrap the recipe posting idea until such time that I actually make a recipe that requires a little originality and is worth sharing. 

On to the trash... 

I may have mentioned the trash a day or two ago.   I know it may seem like a trivial thing, but it truly is mention-worthy.    At home, trash is pretty simple.   Either it can be recycled or it can't be.   Two different bins.   Both of which make their way out to the trash man on the same day (or so John tells me).   Easy. 

When I moved in to this flat, I received maybe a five minute instruction on every single appliance and important piece of information that I needed to know in order to make things run correctly.   Three of those minutes were probably spent on the overview of the italian trash system.   Yes, system. 

I'll try and make this quick.    There are four, yes, four, different types of trash here.   There's your basic organic, food material trash that goes in the brown bag and can simply be thrown out at the bucket downstairs on your way out the door.   Simple.   Then, there's the stuff that can't be recycled and really doesn't fit into any other category.   For this you have to find your own plastic bag (yes, the rest seem to be supplied by the italian government), fill it with your trash in this category and then bring it downstairs and throw it in the bucket which is next to the organic trash bucket. 

So far so good.  No real restrictions other than to get it into the right bag and the right bucket.   

Two categories left.   First being metals and glass.   These go in the bright blue (government supplied) plastic bag.   I can deal with that.   But here's the catch, the bright blue bags have to be hand delivered to the appropriate drop off point(s) in the city (don't worry, there is a special trash map with designated locations).   Not only that, but you can only drop them off on Tuesdays and Fridays between the hours of 9:30 and 10:30.  OK, one, lately, it is a rarity that I am even functional by that time and two, this just seems way overcomplicated. 

But I'm not done.   The final category is paper and 'card' materials.   These go in the white bag that needs to be hand delivered to designated spot (different than the ones above) on either Wednesday or Saturday between the hours of 7:30 and 10:30.   

Maybe its just me, but the whole thing just seems a little out of control.    It may be my process training and experience, or just extreme common sense talking, but really?   Really?  Needless to say, I have a little corner of my flat towards the door in the kitchen that is lined up with all of the appropriate colored bags in various states ready for the big drop off when I finally feel like making that a priority.  I am actually waiting for John I think on this one.   Don't worry... it is really just paper and glass.   Nothing disgusting.   I'll refrain from posting a photo. 

So, you can see why these "little things" are really kind of big things.    Nothing is super easy and it is certainly not intuitive.     Ah, the joys of being a temporary Roman... 

Lastly, people.    This will be quick. 

Today was finally gorgeous again.   Bright blue skies, sunny and hot.   I realize now that sunny and hot also means dirty and hoards and hoards of people.   I never thought I'd say it... but those long rainy days there were soothing in comparison.     I felt like I needed a shower after my shower when I got back this afternoon.   For pure photographic fun and cuteness factor, I'll share a couple of people related photos from my adventure this afternoon. 

Interesting that these guys had the same idea... I also wonder if that guy on the left in the top picture realizes this other guy is probably not listening... 

And, admit it,  she is just adorable...

Ciao for now.    I wonder why my spell checker doesn't recognize the word italian.   If I am truly spelling it wrong, please, someone, tell me.   

Almeria, Spain

April 14, 2010

This place was a complete surprise for me.   Was raining in the morning and gloomy and didn't know what to expect, but had so much fun wandering through town and through the fort with Reba, Don, Phil and Nancy (you have now been officially named).    Really turned out to be a very memorable day.

For anyone interested in a little context or history, I've included some background.  I can't take credit for the writing or information, only for my ability to google, consolidate, copy and paste.

I honestly wasn't looking forward to this day.   If I recall, I was way over tired and seriously thinking that hiking around an old fort was the absolute last way I wanted to spend my time.    I was very pleasantly surprised.    It would definitely be on my list of recommended stops should you ever find yourself in Almeria.

Before we get to the history, just a note on pictures from today.  I am really not happy with them.   For the most part, my lens had a really hard time capturing just how neat this place was.   My favorites by far are the one with friends I posted a couple of days back, the one looking through the cross shaped opening in the wall and the one overlooking the city with the ship in the background.   Other than that, not happy with them, so just posting to give you an idea of where I was.   Now on to the history...

Oh and a map for anyone that might be interested.    Testing out my new blogger skills here.  Now I need to figure out how to fix all of the bad formatting ... that's next on my list.  Almeria Spain Maps

The city of Almeria is Andalucia's most eastern capital.  Almeria holds a great deal of charm and is steeped in history. It is located at the foot of a mountain range which is crowned by the magnificent Alcazaba, an Arab fortress built by the Caliph of Cordoba, Abd-erRahman with three huge walled enclosures (in the second of which are remains of a mosque, converted to a chapel by the Catholic kings).

In times of war, the Alcazaba could hold an army of more than 20,000 men.The Alcazaba dominates the city and is the main reminder of Almeria's heyday when it was the major port of the Cordoba caliphate. It grew wealthy on trade and the textile industry with silk woven from the silkworms of the Alpujarras.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Little Things

My coffee is steaming, or whatever process it goes through in my little moka.   I ran out of coffee yesterday and very poorly substituted with some old tea I found in the cupboard.   That wasn’t going to happen again so I picked up some more yesterday while I was out.  I love the smell of coffee in the morning mixing with the cool city air.    Perfect way to begin the day.   And this day is actually starting earlier than the past several.  I have been up since 7:30.  I’ve been in the awful habit of staying up really late and sleeping in even later.     Regressing back to my teenage days.   I am certain a nap is in my future.

As I am writing, I hear something bubbling over in the kitchen.   Wasn’t paying attention and made a little bit of a mess on the stove.  I do have to say it was worth it though as this is probably the best cup of coffee I have ever made.   It is that good.

I am coming to understand that when you are out of your environment, your comfort zone, you begin to appreciate the little things.    You begin to see and understand things for the first time.
  • The thrill of making your first purchase at the local market, knowing that you are on your way back home to cook for the first time in your new kitchen.   Doing so with a fraction of the fancy utensils and pots and pans you normally have but still ending up with a really good result.
  • Listening to people talk around you and beginning to hear words instead of just sounds.
  • Hearing church bells ringing outside your window on Sunday morning.
  • Eating tiny little strawberries for breakfast that taste like nothing you’ve ever had before.
  • The joy of learning to make a really good cup of coffee the old fashioned way and understanding that end result is worth all of the waiting.    
  • Listening to some random guy on the street sing his heart out in Italian in the middle of the night at an hour when everyone should be sleeping.    Being okay with the fact that he woke you up.
  • Sundays.   Watching those young and old and all ages in between put on their finest Sunday attire and parade around, just happy to be together.
  • Figuring out just how much you crave connections and miss friends and loved ones when you are on your own.  
Traveling alone has quite simply knocked the confidence out of me.   For those of you who know me well, you know this is a big thing for me to admit.  You think you know who you are and how to get by and then all of a sudden you have no idea what you are doing.   Things you take for granted at home like doing laundry, sorting the trash in the right way, making phone calls or using the metro.   Trying to figure out how to find non-fat milk or how to read the directions on the back of a package of pasta.  Silly things that are foreign until the first time you do them and they become easy again.   I just want to be able to blend in.    Each day and with each new experience I feel a little more confident.   I feel embarrassed when I have to communicate with someone and I have no idea what they have said to me.

I’d love more than anything to be able to communicate, to be able to connect.  I feel like an outsider participating in someone else’s world and not yet part of it.   These are things that I suppose come with time.    The lesson for me is that there is so much more to learn in life.   So many things I have yet to see, experience, live.    Just when you think you are comfortable, you realize you are just at the beginning.    Life is never done.   It continues.     It is the hard times in life, the challenges, big and small, that allow you to grow as a person.  I never want to stop growing.

Last night I read my Italian dictionary for an hour before going to sleep.  I slept with it under my pillow in the hopes that I would continue to absorb throughout the night.

Being somewhere new allows you to see things in a whole new light.   I realize there are certain things that matter and certain things that just don’t matter.   And the things that matter, really matter.    I always knew this but it becomes much more clear when you are out of your comfort zone. 

And I’ve done it again.  I hear and smell my second cup of coffee bubbling over (aka burning) on the stove.  Too many deep thoughts for this early in the morning.

My next post will be of the lighter variety.   I’m trying to decide whether to share with you my on the fly recipe for amatriciana or maybe a little bit more from Spain.     Have to get through this backlog before I have any more deep thoughts.  I can't believe I am already on my second week here.  


Monday, April 26, 2010

Cadiz, Spain

April 14, 2010

The majority of these pictures are from a small whitewashed village called Vejer de la Frontera about an hour outside of Cadiz.    I spent a wonderful morning touring with one of my friends from the ship.   It was cool and dark as we started our day and the light starting pouring in towards the end.     The lighthouse towards the end is the Trafalgar Cape Lighthouse where the Battle of Trafalgar took place in 1805.

Sunday, April 25, 2010