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Thursday, May 31, 2007

La Vie Quotidienne

La Vie Quotidienne

If you think that my other essays are stupor-inducingly boring, wait until you read this one about day-to-day concerns of life for an American in a Spanish city.

AdiĆ³s, Bloodsuckers

I can’t speak for all of Europe, but I know that apartments on the Mediterranean don’t have screens in the windows. This was the case in my beautiful apartment in Greece where I lived a long time ago. About this time of year the mosquitoes come looking for you while you are sleeping. It is remarkable how they happen to find me up here on the fifth floor, and how they crawl underneath my blinds which are pulled down to only a couple of inches off the floor, but they do. They aren’t a problem during the day or when I am up and awake at night. They wait until about 3 in the morning before they fly in and attack my arms and buzz in my ears.

I also remembered from all those years ago in Greece that there is an easy and inexpensive remedy. Back in Greece I had this tiny electric gizmo that plugs into a socket and slowly burns a tablet of insecticide. I found the same thing at my local supermarket for something like 3€. This one uses either the little tablets or burns a little reservoir bottle of fluid. I used it last night for the first time and it was a resounding success. I am using the reservoir bottle which claims to last 45 days. I’m good until July. This may not sound like such a big deal to anyone who has screens on their windows and who doesn’t have mosquitoes buzzing in their ears at 4 a.m.

Feast or Famine

I love to cook but I despise cooking for one person. I kid my Spanish roommate that whenever I prepare a meal I do it for my entire extended family, none of whom are living in Spain at the time. I would love to cook for ten people every day, but cooking for only me is not very interesting. I end up cooking such huge portions that I am forced to eat the leftovers for two or three days, or I just throw them out.

You can’t even order paella in a restaurant for only one person so cooking a single portion is out of the question. A pan for making paella is called a paella and not a paellera as my Valencian friends have pointed out. A paellera is the person making the dish and not the pan itself. This is a mistake non-Valencian Spaniards make that pisses off the locals. Anyway, my paella pan is big enough to serve five or six people. They make smaller pans but paella is so much trouble to make that it seems stupid not to make a lot of it.

I cook enough beans that I could eat them morning, noon, and night. Once again, beans take a while to cook and it seems silly to make a small portion. This means that I almost always have a bunch of lentils, black beans, pintos, kidneys, or habadas in the fridge at any given time.

I hate shopping except when it comes to food. I buy compulsively; I stock up on kilos of tomatoes if they look good; I buy meat in bulk from my butcher; I load up on olives like they are going to stop making them sometime soon; I have stuff in my freezer I can’t even remember buying just because I must have thought that it looked cool. I can’t help myself.

I am forced into eating things against my will because I have ticking time bombs about to go off in the form of over-ripe tomatoes, yogurt expiration dates, and Tupperware containers full of two day old paella. I feel like a little kid who is being punished for pelting someone with a tomato by being forced to eat a kilo of tomatoes. I feel like a contestant in the State Fair lentil eating contest, and all of this while I am trying to get lean for the beach. I know that the header to this section was “Feast or Famine,” but I’m no good at the famine part.

The solution is to get my stateside friends to come over for a visit to help me eat all of this damn food that I can’t keep from buying and cooking, either that or marry a Spanish widow with about eight kids. I would consider that option if she had a cool dog.

It’s funny but I don’t seem to need any help consuming all of the booze that I buy—also enough for a family of ten.

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