Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Across the Diagonal
The street lights have finally been lit! 

I've been eagerly awaiting the holiday lights since the city started draping the lights across the streets several weeks ago.  Each neighborhood has a different pattern... and I'm gonna photograph them all.  Well, maybe not all... but most... or as many as I can.

Looking down the Diagonal

Felices Fiestes!  The small El Corte Ingles at Villaroel & Diagonal
Looking up Calvet from Tranverserra de Gracia

Calvet @ Traverssera de Gracia

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Kitchen

My little Spanish kitchen is very different from all the kitchens I'm used to using at home.  Oops... this is home.  I mean back in L.A.

First off, my mother was never much of a cook, so the kitchen tools are seriously lacking.  All of my accumulated bake ware, mixing bowls, ramekins, wooden spoons, measuring devices, etc. have been left behind... some I put in storage, some I gave on indefinite loan to friends, some I just gave away.

How many times have I cursed myself out saying "damnit!  I wish I had my ______"? 

Secondly, some of what I would consider to be "staple pantry" ingredients are hard to find.   Brown/molasses sugar?  took me 3 weeks to find it.  Now I know of 2 locations that sell it.  Vanilla extract?  I'm not picky - I find that imitation vanilla works just as fine as the pure vanilla extracts... but just finding any liquid form vanilla extract is a challenge in itself.  My local walking distance markets don't sell it.  That's why when I found this bottle, I had to buy it, no questions asked.

as if this little bottle will last me into 2012?  yes, i got in the habit of dating my spices
After I bought it, I asked myself - would a label like this be considered acceptable in the USA nowadays?  I'll file this under "lost in translation".

Baking now requires extra planning.  Do I have the right sized pan?  If not, what kind of substitute can I use to make it work.  Ingredients - what do I have, what do I need, what have I not found yet, what can I use as a substitute for what I can't find.

If I'm ever gonna want to enjoy food here, I'm just gonna have to learn how to cook with what's available.  Who knows, I might like the new version better?

This is what I made today:  Smitten Kitchen's Jacked-up Banana Bread.  I sorta did a hybrid of her recipe with a technique I'd read about in Cook's Illustrated - regarding using overripe bananas that have been stored in the freezer, then cooking down the watery liquid into some thick, flavorful reduction... Amazing!

well, it tasted much better than it looks... damned lighting.

not much better in the photo department... just look at smitten kitchen's pictures - she's a pro. i'm using an iphone

 Speaking of photographing in the kitchen.  Some of my friends might be wondering why I'm not photographing my food as much anymore.  Well, for one thing, the lighting's all wrong.  The backdrop is rather hideous as well.  My Ridgeley apartment had decent light.  The Windsor house had amazing lighting, and a great backdrop - everything looked better there.  Same with the Dahl house.  Of course I took tons of food pictures there.

But here?
60's era harvest gold with an 'updated' granite countertop.
I love old kitchens.  I also enjoy some modern kitchens.  Sometimes updated kitchens can be tastefully done.  But a "modern" black speckled granite countertop in a 60's harvest yellow kitchen?????  If you are only changing one aspect of a kitchen, don't fight against what you're given - work with it - install some countertop that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb... Mind the context, please!  Oy.  And with the unflattering fluorescent lighting, and no natural light... well, I hope I've made my case. 

Alas, my favorite cheerful red and white cherry patterned oven mitts also don't fit in this kitchen.  My old tendency toward all things green and orange will work, however.  Too bad they're all in California.

Will this rain ever stop?  It is chucking buckets right now!  Maybe this is why I'm writing:  I have a sore case of cabin fever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

All this Catalan is killing my Spanish!

Why hasn't my Spanish improved much over the past few months?  Because I'm not immersed in the language. 

I thought I moved to Spain, but what happened, in effect, is that I moved to Catalonia.  Or is it Catalunya?  Whatever... I think they're making the rules up as they go along. 

Why, then am I not improving in my Spanish?  Because EVERYTHING is written in Catalan.  From the frozen foods section in the grocery store "Congelats" instead of "Congelados" <--- i'm not even sure that is right.  Because I'm not seeing Spanish in the written form on a regular basis.  All I know is that I'm vaguely understanding the signs without knowing how the words are pronounced.  And then when I'm trying to have a conversation in Spanish  - I get so tongue tied - I freeze up... I say the wrong words.  or the right words in the wrong language.

Case in point - I was telling my mom that I needed to go down to the Tabacs to get a targeta to add more minutes to my phone.  All wrong.  Despite the fact that all the cigarette stores are called Tabacs, that's not the Spanish word (which is something similar, but I can't remember it because it's not a word I see written anywhere).  Also, I pronounced targeta like "tar jetta" instead of "tar hetta".  Here I am, thinking I'm speaking in Spanish with my mom, but no.  I'm speaking some bastardized combo of Spanish/Catalan. 

I'm just about at my wit's end in trying to speak the local language.  I spend most of my time speaking English with my American friends here, or my mother... or French with my Aunts and cousins. 

Think you might get some lessons on a menu?  Well, you might get a laugh...

Varied Kitchen? Lids? Embers?  

This English language menu was full of mistakes.  Whoever they hired to edit it only translated the words and didn't take the context into account. 

What are lids
I think they mean charbroiled.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Displaying the Seasons

There's this gourmet food store down the street from where I live, called Semon.  They sell a variety of goodies, from baked goods to delectable, savory side-dishes, to wines, cheeses, and gourmet pantry items like spices and fancy mustards or crackers. 

I love walking by there and checking out their window displays.  These pictures were from October. 

The crown of the centerpiece

I kept hoping for a shot when I wouldn't get a glare, but that never seemed to happen.  Either they were closed, or I didn't have my camera on me.   

The base of the same centerpiece

What you do see are Sweet Potatoes (called Bonitos, or something like that), chestnuts, bay laurel, cookies called Panellots (again, i'm killing the spelling, sorry), and other stuff that I can't quite identify.

They moved on to their Xmas display - at the beginning of November.  Well, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here, so I suppose it's acceptable.  Their current display is kinda meh, so I'll wait and update it when it gets interesting again. 

Speaking of x-mas, I was walking down the street last week when they were testing out the xmas lights in my area. 

looking down Bori y Fontesta

Looking down Pau Casals toward the Diagonal
Each neighborhood has a different design.  But we're gonna have to wait another few weeks to see them all lit up.  These have been dark since I took the pictures last week.

Maybe Shoegaze Originated Here?

 What is "Shoe Gaze", you might ask?  I'm not quite sure about its origin... 

From what I gather, it refers to a type of music genre in which its fans are just all mopey, and are staring down at the floor, wallowing in their own self-pity.  I could be wrong. But that's what I envision when I hear the term, accompanied by said-music.  But that's not the point of this post. 

I was at a party this past Saturday night - at a flat in a grand, old apartment building in a fabulous part of Barcelona (somewhere on Pau Claris near Gran Via)... my attention had been drawn down to the floor due to some nearby spillage of wine.

Hello!  Someone (me) had a major double take.  I mean, I've seen some great tiles in these residential buildings - but this one was impressive.  Not only did it have a beautiful pattern with 3 colors/tile... it had a border too! 

The other rooms had different tile patterns as well... but I was at a party - I couldn't just ask people to step out of the way so I could take pictures. of the floor. 

Besides, my short attention span had me quickly dropping my "shoegazing" ways as I moved on to some conversations en espanol, with a glass of vino tinto in hand.

Window Shopping

Sometimes I just don't feel like taking pictures...

But other times, the display is so striking that it needs to be recognized, appreciated, and shared.

On the Paseo de Gracia.