Monday, October 21, 2013
It is, evidently, not difficult to get Spanish kids hooked on a holiday they've never previously celebrated. I should have known this. People just like to party. And if those people are too young to drive and the party involves lots of candy and plastic fangs, its like dear Halloween WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LI-I-I-I-I-IFE? I brought a pumpkin home the other day for carving purposes (cradling squash on the metro, very normal), and after my brief description of other festive traditions was met with genuine interest and curiosity, I toasted the seeds.
Toasted pumpkin seeds are a Halloween gateway drug. One minute you're minding your own business, gutting a pumpkin on your kitchen floor, and the next you're fiending for candy corn with a previously undocumented ferocity. We were decorating the house within the hour. Today we watched like 17 Nightmare Before Christmas clips in a row. I created addicts.
This was a great guideline, but as always, make the thing you wanna eat. I subbed in nutmeg for the cumin, vanilla for the ginger, said no to the cayenne entirely, doubled the cinnamon and went the brown sugar route. So basically didn't follow the recipe at all. There is one non negotiable thing: you MUST completely dry the seeds in the oven prior to coating. This is the key to crunch, which is the key to addiction. I know all about this.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Nine days is not nearly enough time to be able to have solid opinions about anything so massive as a European capital city, but somehow I feel very certain already of my feelings about living in Madrid. I spend my mornings in a language class, my afternoons exploring, and my evenings playing with two wild and hilarious niñas aged 8 and 6. My room has a sloped ceiling and a wall of cubbies. There is really good coffee pretty much everywhere. People wear boots everyday. They speak a beautiful, crack-fast Spanish. If nine days is premature then I don't want to be right. I love it here.
Which is not to say that there aren't challenging aspects about living in a foreign country, because duh. I'm not gonna lie to you, I think pretty much once a day about how much easier everything would be if there was just one Target. I'm still learning proper cafe etiquette. The English books I read on the train garner many stares. Today I bought a fig and almond bar from the supermarket that looked exactly like this thing I buy at Whole Foods, and it had paper on one side and was wrapped in plastic, and after I removed the plastic I found that the paper was actually a bunch of separate little pieces of paper fit together, so that you couldn't peel it away in one fell swoop and instead had to pick at these hundreds of shapes no bigger than my pinkie fingernail...so I ate the paper. Problems, right? Probably a Spaniard would have known exactly what to do.
AND THIS, amigos, is the point. I am not a Spaniard. Every day I find myself -- less and less now, but constantly during the first fews days -- concerned that I am doing something wrong, something blatently tourist-y or foreigner-y or worse, American-y, and that I am going to be discovered as a fraud. That my actions are going to clash so massively with The Way Things Are Done In Madrid that everyone within a six block radius is gonna point and laugh, roll their eyes (and their r's) and say to each other, "That poor girl. What a dumb outsider." What I realized, sort of all at once while writing my sister a letter, is that complete acclimation just ain't gonna happen. I will never be a Madrileño. I am fooling no one with my oft-incorrect verb conjugations. I will never totally master the pronunciation of the train stop for my language school (Argüelles...ugh). Nine months is a long time, but even after nine days I am sure that my inability to maneuver a cobblestone sidestreet in stilettos is not going to be magically, Spanishly reversed.
I write this so that I remember and embrace it: I have no choice but to be a stranger in a strange land, because that's just the truth. And as long as what I'm doing is not offending anyone and only makes them think I'm weird, then I'm gonna let myself be a stranger. I study, and I watch, and I google a lot of things. I try to learn the traditions and the habits and the tricks and the shortcuts. I strive to be as small an amount of foreign as is physically possible for me, the least amount of strain on the metro ticket salesmen and the cashiers and my family, because I am in awe of their culture and respect it like a crazy person. But I cannot alter my heart of hearts, which yearns a little bit for the wide white aisles of a Target megastore, even if it also swells at the sight of Parque Retiro at sunset. I'm an American in Spain. And even if it ups my foreign factor to 11, I'm gonna marvel at the architecture and Instagram the old people. This is the way it is.
RIP skim milk, but there are 3 jars of Nutella in the pantry. So like, I think I'm coming out on top.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Pumpkin pie spice
+ I may have burnt the outer edges in the oven but
Damn the middle was really good
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
BREAKING NEWS!!!!! Nutella cookies.
I tried to write a substantive paragraph about how good these cookies are, but I'm sick and congested and feeling blerrrgggh so my wit is pretty weak. The paragraph ended up super weird, like weirder than usual, like the word "peasant" was in it. So.
Suffice to say these bad boys are light and crispy and have a subtle funky-nutty-chocolatey thing going on that makes them mildly addictive. You could take my word for it or you could make them yourself. Spoiler alert: the latter option tastes better.
Nutella (&& Peanut Butter) Cookies
adapted from Joy the Baker
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup Nutella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cream butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add peanut butter and Nutella and mix until blended. Continue to mix, adding sugars and each egg individually, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate fully after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients all at once, and mix until just incorporated.
Using a spoon (or a lil melon scoop situation -- I'm at home, my mom has a lot of cool utensils for me to cover in cookie batter when she's not paying attention), scoop batter onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Batter will spread, so leave a good inch radius around each mound. Sprinkle with a little bit of granulated sugar to finish.
Bake for 12 minutes, flipping baking sheets top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the 6 minute mark.