Rachel in Spain

Rachel is a President’s Scholar and senior majoring in political science and foreign languages in Dedman College. This fall, she will be living with a Spanish family in Madrid and taking classes at the Fundacion Jose Ortega y Gasset.

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Food and family in Madrid

I apologize to those of you who found the description of the bullfight a little graphic. The following should be milder:

Family stay

I am living in a small apartment a little outside of the center of Madrid with a middle-aged woman named Carmen and her sister, Isabel. Carmen’s almost-20-year-old daughter, Laura, also lives with us, but she is not around much.

I share a room with Amelia, a good friend of mine from SMU. I am so glad to have someone I actually know and can talk with; it has made the transition so much easier.

When we first arrived I had a lot of trouble understanding Carmen and her sister, but it has gotten a lot better. I think the family stay has been and will continue to be the single best way to improve my Spanish here.

Spanish food

Everything is cooked in a ton of olive oil and garlic, which gives it all a very Mediterranean flavor. Carmen has cooked tortilla de patata for us twice now, which is a Spanish staple. The first night she served it, Amelia and I expected some sort of flour or corn tortilla filled with something. However, it is nothing like a “tortilla” that we would get in the States. It is the shape of a skillet with eggs, potatoes and onions all cooked together into a kind of thick omelet. It is one of my favorite foods that I’ve had here so far.

We also just had paella, which was also very delicious. Paella is rice and different seafoods all cooked together into a flavorful kind of stew. There were even shrimp with the head on … a little intimidating, but delicious! Valencia (a little to the east) is famous for its paella; I am planning to travel there at the end of the month, so it will be interesting to compare. I think it is one of those dishes that can be very different depending on where you have it.

We have eaten lots of fish, which Carmen buys fresh, and I even tried tripe, which was surprisingly unremarkable; it was more solid than I expected and very similar to plain old sausage.

I am enjoying the variety of foods that Carmen has cooked for us. She really does a good job of serving us typical Spanish dishes.

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    2 Responses to Food and family in Madrid

    1. Jackie Wald says:

      Not that it would change your mind about bullfights, but there are reasons for each step in the bullfight ballet.

      The banderilleros are stuck in the bull’s neck to lower his horns to torso level of the matador. This makes it more dangerous for him because he can get gored more easily. Young bulls trained for the ring never see a man on level ground with him until the last day of his life when he emerges into the ring. They are cared for by people on horseback.

      The bull is going to die, true. The contest is found in the superior strength and brute force of the animal vs. the strategy, daring, and intelligence of the man. I don’t love the bullfights, either, but the elaborate dance goes back centuries, and it is well suited to the Latin macho figure.

      I spent my year in Spain, too, 30 plus years ago … I am not at SMU right now since I am in the Peace Corps in Panama. I blog once in a while, too.

      I hope you enjoy your time abroad to the fullest! Suerte …

      – Sra. Wald

    2. Rachel says:

      Sra. Wald,

      Thanks for the comment and for your insight into the bullfights. Actually it’s funny because we just learned bullfighting recently in class, and you are right; there is so much history and culture in the practice.

      Also, I read a little bit of your blog. Wow! It sounds like you are really making a difference. I feel very strongly that the quality of education, whether in the US or abroad, is always vital and rarely sufficient. I would love to do something like that someday. Good luck with everything!


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