I did not cook a trifle in Spain, but I cannot upload pictures for some reason, sob, so just pretend this is a ham sandwich or something.
My mother has a rule that if you cook in a country, you can say that you’ve lived there, which means that we lived in Europe with rather a lot of gusto, because we did a lot of cooking. I still haven’t gone through my pictures, so maybe I’ll come back and add some in, who knows, maybe God will work a miracle. In the meantime, here are five things we cooked in Spain and Portugal.
One—3 kilos of Sardines in Faro
Somehow we didn’t manage to make it to the fish and vegetable market early enough on the Sunday we were there (because we were going to church), and so instead bought out the supermercado of all the rest of their sardines around 1 pm or some other very hot hour. Roasted on a bed of leeks and garlic (it’s Biblical and delicious) and consumed with a vast amount of bread and butter, I think it was a pretty good dinner. The thing about bony fish is that they take a long time to devour, and that’s really the whole point. You sit around drinking wine and eating fish in a concentrated way that helps you forget all your troubles.
One minor inconvenience about most of the Airbnbs was that we never seemed to have enough seating. Usually, there was something called a “tv room” that was so small only one person could be in it at a time. Then there might be a miniature table in the kitchen. For this particular dinner, we cleared out an unusually large bedroom and arranged all the available bedside tables for all the children to hunch over, picking through their fish, while the older people sat at the rickety kitchen table—all arranged in some sort of medieval feudal scene. A very high table, as it were, with very low ones around the periphery. It was a strange arrangement, but delicious.
Two—Ham and Bread and Butter and Cheese Everywhere
What you do is, no matter where you are staying or what time of day it is, you pop into a tiny shop and buy out the rest of the smaller-sized baguette and whatever wedges of cheese and ham are left over (why am I always late?) and drag it all outside to a bench and cut the cheese with a plastic spoon you find at the bottom of your purse and hand it around to everyone who is starving. You don’t know what the cheese is because you can’t read the label, or what kind of cured meat, but it’s delicious every time. Plus Butter. Then you go out for Ice Cream.
Three—Chicken Breast Stuffed with…
Sob, I can’t remember what I stuffed it with. I flattened the chicken out as much as I could and baked it filled with, gosh, was it cheese? I can’t find the pictures. What a disappointment! I have never tried to do that before, not being a huge fan of the breast part of the chicken, but something about being in a foreign country, or the wilderness, or a crisis always provokes a complicated culinary feat for me. It’s a way, I think, of striving to gain control over the universe. I don’t have control, of course, but if I can spend ten hours precisely slicing sweet potato, or layering a trifle, or frying crumpets over a campfire, I buy the illusion of order. It’s exhausting, but cheaper than therapy.
Four—Savory Rice Pudding in Seville
It’s been a long day, and everyone is tired and starving, so you take the rice you cooked the day before for some reason, and you sauté an onion and slice a lot of cheese and ham that didn’t get eaten at lunch, and then pour over a lot of less-than-whole milk that you accidentally bought because you couldn’t read the label, and you let it go gently on the stove for a while until it is unctuously creamy, and then you eat it out of a bowl with a spoon while watching YouTube clips with your children, waiting for the cool of the evening so you can go back out for more ice cream.
Five—Fish and Chips in Malaga
Malaga is full of British holidaymakers, and so what you do is, you go to the big touristy overpriced market and get suckered into paying way too much for some gorgeous fish, you carry it home and laboriously batter and fry it, and then you bake two or three bags of pre-fab French fries and then everyone gorges on fish and potato and then you go out for more ice cream. The next day you add the left-over fish to the paella you had in a restaurant—seriously, you did your best, but it was a colossal amount of rice and you ate until you almost felt sick and so you didn’t feel bad about taking the rest away home, even though that’s not really done. The paella was even better the next day, and you had the fish left, and so no one was ever hungry again until the next morning when you felt you could, after all, attempt another big “toast,” as in, half a baguette toasted and then lathered with more butter and jam. Because it isn’t true that you can’t eat breakfast in Spain.
You can fry up a lot of bacon and eggs if you want in your Airbnb, which is totally delicious, or you can go out for toast and coffee, or, why not throw caution to the wind and do both.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go on a long walk because I am fatter than I was a month ago, but it was all worth it. See you on Sunday!