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Monday, December 03, 2007

I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can!

As I write these words I am listening to the sounds of the Spanish, flamenco-influenced group, Ojos de Brujo which I highly recommend to everyone. I try to listen to as much Spanish music as I possibly can although I have been on a bit of a Beatles bender after listening to a Caetano Veloso CD at a party the other night where he covers the wonderful Paul McCartney song from the Revolver album called For No One. What I’m trying to say without going off on a three page detour about The Beatles is that I am trying to insinuate myself as much as I can into the music of this country.

Besides what I read on the internet, I read only in Spanish. My shelf of books I have read in Spanish is growing. I keep a notebook where I put definitions for the Spanish words I have to look up for every book that I read. I like to go back and reread the book soon after I finish to further beat this new vocabulary into my head. I read the local newspaper here in Valencia called Levante. It is a treat to be able to read Calvin and Hobbes in Spanish. I also like to read the Madrid daily, El País, if there is one lying around on top of the bar.

I have mentioned that I share a place with two Spanish women and we speak only in Spanish. With this sort of living arrangement that I have forced myself into, there isn't any room to hide, linguistically speaking.

The only time that I ever speak anything other than Spanish is when I go to a local pub here in Ruzafa. It is owned by two brothers from London and the clientele includes a few British and American expats. I like to go here because the owners are terrific guys but I also speak more Spanish when I go here than when I go anywhere else by myself here in Valencia. The place has a true community feel to it and everyone knows each other. It is one of the friendliest places I have ever frequented. I almost always end up talking with the Spanish customers for most of my time in this joint.

I went to a birthday party over the weekend where I was the only English speaker. Talk about a night of Spanish overload. On a side note, if you are at a party in any country where Spanish is spoken and a lot of dancing doesn't break out spontaneously, check the address because you are obviously in the wrong place.

I rarely eat anything other than Spanish food. I heard somewhere (probably in a movie) that the Viet Cong could smell the Americans in the jungle because they ate American food while they were in Viet Nam. If anyone is trying to pick up my scent all they are going to get a whiff of is pork products, tortillas de patatas, or whatever other local dish I happen to be obsessing over this week*.

It may seem from all I have said so far that I am rather proud of myself. The truth is that I think my Spanish sucks. I can’t believe that I still struggle sometimes with some of the most basic things in Spanish. Learning the language has been a slow, uphill struggle with no end in sight. The good news is that I love it here and I’m having the best time of my life.


This is another typical Valencian dish of dried cod and roasted peppers. Speaking of learning Spanish, I had to buy the dried cod for this dish at the stall where I usually buy my olives. I ordered a fistful of the shredded fish (un puñado de migas de bacalao) and the guy complimented me on my Spanish. I could have kissed him.

Dried Salt Cod
Red Bell Peppers
Olive Oil

Depending on the cod you buy, you may have to soak it in water to remove some of the salt. I bought what they call Bacalao Inglés (English cod) which is low in salt and really tender. I only soaked it for a few minutes and it was ready to eat. You may also have to boil it for a bit depending on what you buy.

Next you need to roast the red peppers in the over until they are thoroughly cooked and then remove the skin. On a side note and to steal a joke from The Simpsons, if you aren’t roasting peppers in your oven every time you turn it on, you are wasting more energy than Ricky Martin’s girlfriend. Roasted peppers in olive oil is a staple dish all around the Mediterranean.

The guy in the olive stall told me to then marinate the peppers and cod in separate dishes with plenty of olive oil. You also add very finely minced garlic to both dishes. Both the fish and the peppers should be cut into tiny nibble-size pieces. A bit of bread and some wine and you are on your way.

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