Friday, November 27, 2009

Spain, I Introduce to You: Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day from Spain! Or, in my case: happy Scrambled Eggs and Red Wine Day!

Given that I am, in fact, an American and Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Spain, the school thought it would be an excellent opportunity to shed some light on the students of Autol about this wonderful American tradition. Needless to say, they left it up to me to come up with a lesson plan, a way of conveying the historical aspects and modern-day significance of a holiday in which the students only previously understood involves, in some form or fashion, a turkey.

What I decided was fairly simple and straightforward: boys=Indians, girls=Pilgrims.

I came to class with construction paper headbands and feathers, paper towels and face paint, and the rest is history. You see, I figured the easiest way to explain the story of the first Thanksgiving would be for the students to act it out themselves. So, I dressed up all of the boys like Native Americans (myself included) and the female teacher dressed up the girls as pilgrims (paper towel on the head, rosy cheeks). Next thing I knew the kids were running around the classroom like crazy until the boys realized that they were not meant to battle the pilgrims, but rather teach them how to hunt and cultivate food. Ultimately, we ended up sitting down at a table and pretending to eat plastic food.

I think it went well.

Whether or not they fully understand or appreciate this traditional American holiday, the bottom line is that we had a lot of fun. While many of the girls took their ‘costumes’ off after class, the boys were not about to cut their time as a Native American short. So for a whole day, in the school and around the town afterwards, boys were running around donning war paint and feather headbands, pretending to hunt and battle. I too, decided to leave my war paint on, so that when concerned parents saw me, I could explain that it was my fault their children were acting like wild savages, but not to worry, it was all part of a lesson to explain to them our wonderful American holiday: Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Potato Pancakes

So there is a very typical and popular Spanish dish that has been around forever called the "tortilla de patata", which is basically a pancake comprised of egg, onions and potatoes. Sounds a little boring and simple, I know, but it is actually quite tasty and more difficult than one might think to make. It is also very cheap to make and very filling. Last night, I successfully cooked my first tortilla de patata, after 3 failed attempts in the past. To celebrate, I thought I would post the recipe in case any of you feels like diving into some Spanish cuisine one night.


-olive oil



For one person, in a normal sized skillet, I would use one potato (about the size of your fist), 2 eggs and a proportional amount of onions, if you wish.

-First, slice the potato up into about half-dollar (or doubloons) size slices and throw them in a skillet with olive oil and slow cook them down.
-In the meantime, break your eggs into a large bowl and whip them, as if you were planning on scrambling them. Do not add milk.

-After the potatoes are finished cooking (probably about 15 minutes or so) put them into the bowl of whipped eggs to let them soak up the eggy goodness for about 12-15 minutes.
-While the potatoes are soaking throw your onions onto a skillet with olive oil and let them cook-try not to burn them, they cook fast. They'll probably be finished in a few minutes. When they are done, throw them in with the eggs and potatoes.
-After the potatoes have been in the eggs for about 12-15 minutes, pour the bowl into a skillet with olive oil (I usually just reuse the oil I have been using).
-Medium heat.
-You want to try to keep it in a circular form, lik
e a pancake. Let it cook for a good 5-8 minutes or so, you almost want to burn the bottom. If anything, you want to make sure the bottom is hard and stuck together, not gooey, or the next step will not work.
-Once the bottom is hard and solidified, SLIDE the tortilla off of the skillet onto another plate. DO NOT TRY TO FLIP IT IN THE SKILLET, YOU WILL SEND EGG-POTATO-ONION GOO ALL OVER YOUR KITCHEN. TRUST ME.
-Now, hold the skillet upside down over the plate, and then flip them so that the soft side of the tortilla (which was facing up on the plate) is now facing down on the skillet.

-Finish cooking for about 5 minutes.

*Side note, to add some spice to this otherwise bland dish you can throw some tony's into the eggs, potatoes and onions while they soak. What I did, was took some spicy red chili peppers, chopped them up and threw them in a jar of olive oil and minced garlic, letting them chill in the fridge for a few days. Then, I poured it on the tortilla, super spicy but very delicious. Jalapenos or some kind of salsa would also be pretty tasty, I would imagine.

Buen Provecho

Should resemble this, but mine was not this pretty--->

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trick or Treating in Madrid

So in the hopes of finding a little Halloween adventure, my buddy David McCoy (whom I befriended 3 years ago while we were in Argentina and who decided to join me as a teacher in Spain) opted to go to Madrid for the weekend. In order to save some money, I resolved to taking the bus which turned out to be a 4-hour journey across the Spanish countryside. I did not mind the trip, however, given the fact that I am currently reading Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, a beautiful work of literature to say the least. We were to be in Madrid for Friday and Saturday night.

I feel obliged to admit that one of the primary reasons I love Europe is that one is presented with ample opportunities to encounter individuals from around the world, a fact that certainly manifested itself this weekend. Our hostel roommates were from Australia, Italy and China, for starters. Friday night after drinking over-priced beer in Plaza Mayor, we met up with one of David’s American friends who found herself invested in a pub crawl with Ausies and a cool French kid named Jonathan. After tagging along for a couple of bars we split to meet up with two Turkish girls, one of whom David had met a couple weeks ago via Couch Surfing. They were not too much fun, however, and took us to a pretty lame bar in a very cool part of the city, so David and I made the prompt, executive decision to ditch them. It was a smart decision, because we ended up meeting a really cool group of older Spaniards who took us into their group for the rest of the night. Without going into details, we ended up at a hipster Socialist bar drinking mojitos til about 6 am; I spent my time at the bar talking to a very cute 29-yr-old who we were fairly certain was into me, while David discussed politics with her friends.

Our late-night debauchery resulted in the two of us sleeping until 5 o’clock the next afternoon, only to find ourselves hitting the ground running since it was Halloween night. Being on a budget coupled with a lack of options, David had the idea of wearing our outfits backwards with masks on the back of our heads as our costumes. My mask was Santa Clause, David’s was either Hitler or Charlie Chaplan. For the sake of not being controversial or offensive, we claimed Charlie Chaplan. As lame as the idea sounds from an American perspective, the costumes were actually a hit, many people found them to be hilarious.

After bar/tapas hopping for a few hours, we randomly met a couple Greek girls our age, named Annette and Maten, who live in Madrid and study tourism. We began chatting while enjoying the 1-euro beers Chinese people serve in the plazas around the city. Soon enough, the four of us were approached by two local Spanish girls, who enthusiastically took us to a dance club. Don’t think the Greek girls were really into it though, because they didn’t stay long, so David and I were left with Spanish dates for a couple of hours, which was fun.

*Side note: many Spanish girls find it appropriate and acceptable to dance like Elaine from Seinfeld, which is something both hilariously disturbing while also irresistibly adorable.*

However we ultimately separated when they got tired and David and I ended up strolling around the city, encountering a group of homosexual Americans from Dakota who were very friendly and later making friends in a plaza with some people playing music. David plays the harmonica and joined in while improving some New Orleans blues-like lyrical content.

All in all, I must say it was quite a successful Halloween experience in the Spanish capital. Pics are up via Facebook