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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Note To Self: Stop Eating!



Note To Self: Stop Eating!

I had my first cocido prepared by a real Spanish person today. Everything was almost ready when I walked in and the first first thing that I noticed was the absolutely huge stock pot on the stove. I immediately had a serious case of stock pot envy which I attempted to translate into Spanish and was then lectured on the finer points of Freud´s views on male and female roles regarding phallic motifs. Whatever dumb joke I has brewing in my head with regards to my stock pot envy was erased by a five minute discussion on psychoanalytic theory.

Something everyone learns when living and eating in Spain are the names for the different meals throughout the day. Desayuno is breakfast and consists of coffee and perhaps a piece of some sort of bread-based product. I´ve never been much of a breakfast person so I just stick with coffee. I drink about twice as much coffee as the average Spanish person and would give my left (insert vulgar body part here) for a 20 ounce cup of American brewed coffee in the morning. I should just break down and buy and American coffee maker but it´s a little late now; I am quite sure that I would now find American coffee to be too weak for my tastes—even in the morning. When I order coffee in a bar or restaurant I order a “cafe americano con leche, which is an espresso with almost double the normal amout of water and milk.

After breakfast comes almuerzo which means “lunch” in Spanish but in Spain it means a mid-morning snack, usually a sandwich and a beer or soft drink. This meal is taken between 10:30 and 12:00, más o menos.

Lunch is called la comida here so don´t let anyone catch you calling it almuerzo, or lunch. This is the biggest meal of the day. This is when normal Valencianos have their big rice dishes such as paella or baked rice. This is also the time when any self-respecting Spanish person would dine on a heavy dish like cocido. Make sure that you always wear loose-fitting pants to this meal.

Then comes the merienda, or the afternoon snack. If you haven´t noticed already, the Spanish eat a lot, or at least they do in theory. We have already had four meals and it is not even six in the afternoon. The merienda isn´t too well defined and only serves as a designator for whatever you shove into your fat pie hole in the time between lunch ( la comida ) and whatever you wolf down during before-dinner drinks. I need to take a meal break in just the amount of time it takes me to describe what these people eat during the course of a day.

Tapas aren't a big part of the culture in this corner of Spain but it´s not like Valencianos will say no when someone places a bit of food in front of them along side whatever it is that they have ordered to drink. I was actually quite disappointed when I learned when I first moved here that they don´t really have tapas here. After living here for a year I can rarely even look at food during this time of day that is set aside for tapas in other parts of Spain. Eating four meals previously in the day tends to weaken my appetite.

Late in the afternoon comes la cena, or dinner. I say late in the afternoon but what I really mean is really late at night, at least as far as dinner is concerned, dinner for an American. The Spanish don´t stop calling this part of the day "afternoon," so en la tarde (in the afternoon) can mean twelve o´clock at night. They usually only say buenas noches when they are going to bed. The evening meal is usually of a lighter fare than in the afternoon, at least in their way of thinking. “¿Arroz en la noche?,” Valecianos will recoil in horror when you tell them that you ate rice for dinner, yet they will eat a loaf of bread with their "lighter meal" and think nothing of it. Their views on diet and nutrition are more ruled by tradition than science or logic so I wouldn't bother trying to tell them otherwise.

For today´s afternoon meal I was having cocido. It is called puchero in Valenciano, or pagan as I kid my Valencian friends about their language. Puchero has most of the same ingredients as Cocido Madrileño except they also throw in meat balls which can contain pine nuts as a nod to their Mediterranean roots. Cocido/puchero is more of an event than a menu item. The cooking and eating process is highly regulated according to family and/or regional exigencies. Valencianos like to serve a first course of rice made with the stock of the boiling stew. Other people make noodles using the stock.

Echar una cabezada means “To take a nap.” This phrase comes in very handy after eating more than I can lift in one sitting.

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