C is for Comida en La Misión – Madrid.

Last Saturday while I was still in Madrid, I went to La Misión for lunch.

This restaurant is part of the group of restaurants (I don’t want to say “chain” because it might give you the wrong impression) which includes El Recuerdo and El Olvido (translated as The Memory and The Ommission, though olvido has a much more poetic connotation than its English counterpart). http://www.lamision.es/mision.htm

This is the second time I visit this restaurant and I can really recommend it for a special occasion. It’s not cheap, but the food is of fantastic quality and not overpriced at all. The wine is also decently priced and the desserts, at 2.75 EURO, are a delicious bargain!

My main reason for writing about this place however, is the little piece of text that accompanies the bill. I was so impressed by it that I just had to tell you about it. I don’t want to publish it on the net as the restaurant might not want it to be of public domain, but I have “booed” about it through the Audioboo platform. I’ve recorded it in Spanish and then attempted a simultaneous translation of it.

Here is the link, for your pleasure. Enjoy!

Link to Podcast about Gratitude and La Misión.

C is for Cesta de Navidad

La Cesta de Navidad – the Christmas hamper.

The way in which businesses thank their employees at the end of the year. The way in which businesses remind their clients that they exist. From large boxes full of drink, food and sweets to the more trendy fruit baskets or luscious boxes of expensive chocolates. I wonder what’s going on this year…

If you are curious as to what’s inside a Spanish Christmas hamper, have a look at the one Graham Hunt from Houses for Sale in Spain got this year…

Mission Accomplished!

Well, kind of.

The Kindle version of The A to Z of Spanish Culture is finally out.

I have also uploaded a version to Smashwords and so it will also soon be available from all e-book stores. I’m on my way to creating the paperback version, for those of you who still prefer to hold your book with both hands.

John Wolfendale in his Eco Vida blog described this blog as a “light-hearted look at Spain”. I think his description is spot on, not just for this blog, but also for the book as a whole.

So, if you fancy something light (and let’s face it, at the moment we need some lightness when thinking about Spain) to give you an insight into Spanish culture, life, history, art, traditions and even its language, click through to Smashwords or the Kindle store now. For £2.88, I hope you enjoy the trip.

P is for Paella

Paella is mainly consumed as a main dish but you can also have a tapa or a ración. It is another of Spain’s most popular and mispronounced exports. The double ‘l’ in paella (or ll – elle, as it was called when it enjoyed the privilege of being a letter on its own) has a sound similar to “y” in English, like in the first consonant in “yesterday”.

Traditional paella consists mainly of rice, vegetables and meat and takes its name from the large, typical pan in which it is made: la paella. The paella valenciana or arroz valenciano (Valencian rice) has given rise to many variations is other Spanish regions and households, not to mention the number of unpalatable versions you can find abroad. Some of the variations have become official and are expected from dishes consumed in some Valencian towns. For example, in Benicarló, they will add artichokes, while in L’Albufera, instead of chicken or rabbit, they will use duck.

Cooked in Beniganim by Sonia and Pachi

A paella valenciana can only carry that name if it has the ten ingredients which give it its Protected Geographical Status (its Denominación de Origen) which it has enjoyed since 2011, although it can still claim its name if the variations are along the lines of those mentioned above.

So, how do you know if you are eating the “real thing”? A paella valenciana will have rice, oil, chicken, rabbit, tomato, water, salt, saffron, ferraura (a type of green bean) and garrofó, a type of white kidney bean. However, the Spanish are far from purist in this respect and the paella mixta (“mixed” paella, with both meat and fish) or the paella de mariscos (with seafood) are also popular.

If you are more of a fish person or are not too keen on rice, you might want to try the fideuá, which is a fishy version of the paella-style rice, arroz abanda, but with pasta (chifferini) as its base. This dish originated in the city of Gandía, where I spent many a happy childhood moment as it is my father’s hometown. It has fish such as monkfish (rape), various mollusks such as cuttlefish (sepia) and shellfish such as prawns (langostinos).

The urban myth extended in the internet about the origin of the fideúa (possible thanks to Wikipedia) is that it was invented by a ship’s cook in the 1930s, who usually cooked arroz abanda for the crew. As the Captain was a greedy man who often ate much more than the rest of his men, the cook decided to change the main ingredient of the dish to pasta, hoping the Captain would eat less and leave more food for the rest of the men. Unfortunately, the Captain liked this new version just as much as the old one as it was so delicious that it was soon adopted throughout the port.

Though this is an unverified tale, it is a much more romantic than the one I’d always heard: that the fideuá was invented by someone who had no rice in stock but plenty of fideos (chifferini pasta). In any case, the best experience for eating either paella or fideuá, is to sit around the paella with your fork and eat directly from the pan – but first use a wooden spoon to scrape the grains of rice that have become crispy and stuck to the pan. They are my favourite bits: the agarraet. (Which comes from agarrado, that which has stuck.)

¡Qué aproveche!

(This is an extract of the chapter ‘T is for Tapas’ from The A to Z of Spanish Culture.)