Friday, April 26, 2013

Are you ready for feria?

I am! The official opening of the El Puerto feria and the alumbrado, the lighting of the portada (the main gate) was on Wednesday night. Feria is all the best parts of Andalucian culture combined with a county fair, where locals go all out with dressing up and party all night. It is oh so Spanish. So, what does an Americana need to do to get ready?

This year's portada - different than the traditional arches and a point of conversation.

Take Sevillanas lessons. A type of flamenco dancing for the masses, Sevillanas may look like a lot of arm waving, stomping and spinning, but there are specific steps. Most Spanish people learned as schoolchildren, which is why they make this look easy. If you want to join in at feria, you'll need to take lessons or at least have someone teach you some of the basic steps. I've been taking a class twice a week since January. There are 4 dances and after several months I'm confident with the first, alright with the second, not great at the third, and still get completely lost in the fourth. Practice, practice, practice! Then, realize that you will never be perfect, have a rebujito or two, and jump in!

Get your dress. The traditional traje is a must. Bold color combinations, polka dots, ruffles, lace, fringe - at any other time, it would seem ridiculous, but not for feria. What would usually be described at best as "loud" and at worst as "gaudy" or "tacky" is transformed into something vibrant and beautiful. The sight of so many women wearing these traditional dresses is nothing short of striking. I didn't have a dress last year (since we were traveling for a large part of the feria season) and I knew I would have to have one this year. So, I bought two.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Uno for me, Uno for you: Liquid Gold Giveaway!

*A winner has been chosen. Gracias to everyone for your comments!*

Olive oil, aceite de oliva, it's not just an ingredient in España, it's a dietary staple and a source of national pride. Any mention of olive oil and you're bound to hear these fun facts: More olive oil is produced here than any other country. Italy imports olive oil from Spain. Spanish olive oil is the best in the world.

Olive trees for miles kilometers...

Aceite is used at every meal, from drizzling it on toasted bread for breakfast to cooking shrimp in a dish of it for dinner. If you order a salad, it will arrive at your table with bottles of olive oil and vinegar, it is used for frying, and in some desserts. Olive oil is sold in every store, even the corner frutería, in small bottles and giant tins and jugs. It is ubiquitous. And delicious.

Typical breakfast of toast, olive oil, and pureed tomato.

I started cooking almost exclusively with olive oil several years ago, when we were still living in the States, because of the health benefits. I would buy a small overpriced bottle from the grocery store and use it sparingly. Now, we buy it in 5 liter tins, and use it for everything. The aceite here is much better quality and cheaper than what I could get before. 

Our tin of olive oil ran out just before we left for our weekend in Benaojan, so we picked up another 5 liters when we were in Ronda. I especially like this brand, Oro Natura*, and keep it in our kitchen because it's extra virgin, mechanically pressed, and extracted from organic Lechín olives that are grown in the Sierra de Cádiz. Basically, it's the best - natural, local, and flavorful. 

So, I just couldn't resist getting an extra half-liter bottle of my favorite to give away! One for me, one for you!

I love this smaller bottle, because it also comes with a pour spout and you can reuse it. I have the same one on my kitchen counter that I refill from our larger tin.

Now, I wish I could buy gifts for everyone, but I just can't. So rather than play favorites, I figured I would leave this up to chance. 

Here's all you have to do to win:

-Comment directly (not via facebook or email, although I love those comments, too!) on this post. It can be about olive oil or whatever you like. 

-Have a US address where I can send it. I know, I live in Spain, but I still use the US mail system. If you're in Spain (without a US or FPO address) get your own olive oil! Also, I'd be more than happy to send it to a friend or family member of yours in the States. Share the love!

-I'll use to determine the winner and will announce who the lucky person is on Monday, April 29th.

¡Buena suerte!

*Oro Natura has no clue who I am. I just like their product and am feeling generous. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hiking in Grazalema

Before the whirlwind that is feria gets started (¡mañana!) I just wanted to  share some pictures from our roadtrip weekend to area in and around the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema.

Our main reason for going was to do some hiking, now that the rain has stopped and before the crazy hot summer temperatures settle in. And we hiked! An 11 kilometer circular route, starting and ending in Grazalema, which offered gorgeous panoramic views from some of the highest peaks. And I'm not going to lie, at points it was pretty aggressive, especially for my the pups' short little legs. But we all made it and I rewarded myself with what else? Tintos de verano. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April catch-up

Besides lazing about, enjoying the great weather, what have I been up to lately? Lots, actually. I can't believe April is more than half over...feria season is just around the corner, summer is well on its way, and there's so much to do now that all of the dreary winter weather has been replaced by endless sunny skies, practically overnight. 

All that sun and playing outside has made me a bad blogger, so let's catch up. Here are some highlights from the first half of April:

-We met Spanish chef Angel León! He runs Aponiente, the (only) Michelin starred restaurant in El Puerto, where we celebrated our 6 monthiversary

The event was organized by the base and was really interesting - Chef León's concept is completely different than most Andalucian restaurants, focusing on the sea as a diverse and sustainable resource for creating modern versions of traditional dishes that would normally use meat. Yes, this chef is recreating the Spanish people's beloved pork products with seafood. We were immediately struck by how innovative and intelligent he is. 

Please ignore the fact that we both have terrible handwriting, like an angry 5 year old.

He explained the development of some of his signature dishes, while his team created them on the spot. Even better - we were able to taste them, along with sherry pairings! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sol = blog fail

So, I haven't blogged lately, mostly because I didn't feel like it. I know, exceptional blogger right here. 

Why didn't I want to? In a few words...glorious sunshine, finally. The weather has been far too amazing to be inside, hunched over my computer, tapping on the keys, writing posts, when I could be outside frolicking. Sure, I have a laptop, but it's pretty difficult to see the screen when it's so wonderfully bright. Also, see 

I promise I've been working on some posts and will get back to you with plenty of pictures and recaps of what I've been up to (good stuff!). For right now, I'll be doing lots of this:

Now, enough with the computer. Time to go play outside! Hope you've been having good weather where you are and that you are taking advantage of it - running, sunning, sipping, lounging, gardening, reading, relaxing, whatever floats your boat. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Olvera and Radishes

Graham and I, along with two other couples and their toddler sons, drove out to Olvera on Saturday. We had seen Olvera from the road before when making trips to Ronda, and it looked like a charming pueblo blanco. It is also known for it's extensive olive groves and olive oil production, so our plan was to get some oil from the source then enjoy a delicious lunch. Neither of those things happened. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter traditions

Our Easter was fairly relaxed - breakfast (at 2 in the afternoon) followed by mimosas (which we first attempted to order as cava y zumo de naranja) with amigos. Then we cooked dinner (a seared salmon salad, no Easter ham here) at the casa and hung out on the couch. I did eat a couple of Russell Stover marshmallow eggs that my mom sent in a care package, but other than that, I guess you say could our Easter was a bit unconventional.

Graham and I were recently talking about traditions and how, in the (almost 9!) years together, there's really nothing that we can think of that we always do for a holiday. Even Christmas is inconsistent - we even had a tree in April one year when Graham got home from a 7 month deployment. This military lifestyle, with deployments, training, frequent moves, sometimes far away from family or even to another country, means that holidays and traditions are flexible. Circumstances change but I try my best to embrace whatever our current situation is and celebrate accordingly.

Which might be why I'm fascinated by Semana Santa, Holy Week. It's so uniquely Spanish - a week of religious processions full of symbolism and traditions that have endured for centuries (makes our less-than-a-decade look like nothing). The pasos - giant floats carried on the backs of believers and covered in gold, silver and flowers, the hooded penitents, wafting incense, flickering candles, marching bands...