It’s been almost a year since I updated this food blog! In the fall I was back to work teaching full time with two kids (one still a baby), and I honestly was in survival mode most of the year. The usual daycare illnesses struck the family, and although I cooked a lot, I didn’t have much time to be inventive. Last summer I discovered the Instant Pot and did a lot of vegan cooking, so during the school year, it was all about incorporating those discoveries and making them part of the weekly routine. In addition to the Instant Pot, another big helper was the app Paprika, which has helped keep me from being the kind of person who discovers a new recipe, only to never make it again because I forgot where I found it (which I’ve been doing for years). Paprika lets you upload recipes from the web easily into your phone, and then keep the page open while you’re cooking. I store things that I really like and also put new recipes that I want to try there – if I don’t like them enough that I would make them again, I just delete them. The Instant Pot (IP) allowed me to get away from using canned beans all the time (cans contain BPA), because I could cook a pound of beans on the weekend, then freeze them in 1.5 cup portions to use in recipes. I also made a lot of lentil soups with all kinds of lentils, because those can be done in the IP with barely a press of a button. One of my favorites that I made frequently is this kichari soup,with mung beans and brown rice, which is filling and healthy.
But it’s the end of June, and now I find myself in Barcelona, Spain. I’m here doing collaborative research with one of my students. I arrived a little over two weeks ago, and we’re looking comparatively at how migration to Spain differs from immigration in the US, specifically here for Moroccan immigrants. My kids are doing Montessori camps, which, after a few years of having my older child in a pretty intense STEM school environment, is refreshing. I feel like play disappeared from her life beginning with kindergarten, when sitting at desks, being drilled in reading and math, and doing homework took over her world. Here they take city buses to cool parks to play and eat organic food prepared by a special catering company. We laugh about the menu del dia, which is comprised of the kinds of vegan experiments I subject her to all year, which she eats grudgingly. But being exposed to that stuff has meant that she says she’s fine with eating teff cakes and chard and leek soup here, even if she still would prefer a Happy Meal.
So much is amazing about life in Barcelona, but perhaps one of my favorite things is how people are truly living life in the public space, and how much food and sociability are part of everyday life. People walk everywhere, and to get around it’s not necessary to have a car. It occurred to me that although I have spent a couple years living in Morocco, and around five months in Istanbul, Spain is catching up as the third country I’ve spent the most time in, but it wasn’t fully intentional until now. Since college, those dabblings included Salamanca for a few weeks, a summer in Madrid studying Spanish, a month spent camping and traveling around the Costa Del Sol, and then, when I lived in Morocco, the southeast coast of Spain as a place we went for vacations. I’ve traveled to Barcelona a couple times before, but this summer I decided to spend a month here because there is a very large Moroccan immigrant community in this region. Morocco has always been the focus of my research, but now I’m interested in branching out to different problems and issues, and working on my Spanish. (Learning Catalan, which is the language of instruction in the schools here, will have to wait.)
I also love how restaurants, bakeries, cafés, bars, and tapas places are so much a part of life here. For about a euro you can get an amazing cup of coffee. And I’m on the hunt for random discoveries of new foods, such as the roll pictured at the top of the post, pao de deus, which is Portuguese. On our first day here, having just arrived at midnight the night before after 24 hours of travel, my older daughter was feeling homesick and jet lagged, and we found this little bakery café close to our metro stop. They were blasting salsa music, which made me feel right at home, and the coffee was good, but the place was noisy and the donut she had chosen didn’t taste like the ones back home. We remedied all of this with a giant ice cream at another cafe, but because of this café’s proximity to the metro, I keep finding myself there.
Yesterday at this cafe, I discovered these giant, pillowy, sweet, yeasty dough rolls, covered with shredded coconut. Today I had to go back for a couple more (three puffy clouds of sweet, coconut-flaked heaven for 1.50 Euros!), and my daughter discovered another donut that she reported was “the best donut I ever tasted.” Apparently the pao de deus is part of a traditional holiday in Portugal where kids go door to door asking for bread, sort of like trick or treating, but there is speculation it has its origins in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, when people went door to door begging for bread. Bread is so central to so many cultures – in Egyptian Arabic it is sometimes referred to by the same word as “life.” In Morocco the government subsidizes wheat so that people can always have bread, which is eaten at every meal and used as a spoon for sopping up meat and veggies. At moments in history where the government has decided to raise the prices even slightly, there were major riots. Here we try different bakeries every day, looking for the best baguettes, and loving that we can find bread made with so many different kinds of grains. And since we find ourselves walking sometimes six and seven miles a day, I’m finding it’s no problem to eat all the bread I want. When in Spain… where the average life expectancy is now SECOND IN THE WORLD (America runs a disappointing thirty-first). One woman, in the article link in the last sentence, cites gazpacho as a reason for her longevity. Although gazpacho is a regional specialty of Andalusia and not Catalonia, if they say it’s the fountain of youth, I will be on a quest to find the best gazpacho in Barcelona, too.