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Hello Goodbye: The Spaniard’s Impressions of the US

15 Sep

Welcome to Massachusetts Little Spaniard!

The first time my boyfriend husband visited the US was last summer. He came for three weeks and it was the longest he’d ever been away from home. Luckily, he also came with an open mind, doubting that the images and stereotypes he’d seen in movies could possibly all be true, and was actually surprised to see that some really were (high school prom, red solo cups, beer pong tournaments…) But last summer was a whirlwind. In three weeks we visited over ten different cities and stocked our wardrobes at different outlet malls. We practically force fed ourselves to make sure to “try everything” and managed to gain about 10 pounds each!

This summer was different. Alejandro and I were in the US for three months, exactly eighty-eight days as to not overstay his ninety-day tourist status. Besides the initial wedding related tasks we didn’t have any set plans. As my last post details, we had a great and busy summer—we were very lucky see many amazing people and places. But three months is a long time… enough, I believe, to really get a feel for the living in the US (or, specifically, Massachusetts). I was curious what Ale thought about the experience, and if, honestly, he’ll miss anything about my home country.

So here, bored in Newark International Airport, I’m going to ask him some questions about the good old US of A, a country I both praise and criticize, run away from and then terribly miss. Will I regret his honestly? Let’s see…

Before coming here for the summer what were you most excited about?

I’d say was most excited about getting married and getting to know the culture of the US.

What were you afraid of?

I was scared of getting bored there, of not being able to communicate enough and of people misunderstanding me.

What did you find you missed most from Spain beside family and friends?

I didn’t miss much… it was only three months! If anything the weather, the beach, the tapas bars, and maybe staying out late because in Spain people usually stay out much later (probably because of the weather)!

Did anything shock you about American culture?

The patriotism. I think American people are prouder of their country and they show that in many ways: 4th of July, the national anthem at sports games… Also the consumerism. You can definitely see that here. People buy many things that they don’t actually need since they have the opportunity to get them at such a cheap price. I thought that here everything was going to be more expensive than in Spain but, although the quality of life here is higher, it’s still easy to find cheap products.

What’s something Spain could learn from the US?

Businesses could learn how to offer better customer service with or without raising their prices. They would make more profits this way. People could also learn to be more respectful towards other cultures. At least in Massachusetts (which is the only state I know) people are really accepting of other cultures.

And vice-versa?

The US could make better public transportation options and should work to make cities more energy efficient.

What were the best foods you tried in the US?

Hmm… what come to mind are clam chowder, eggs benedict, and homemade burgers, but I’m sure I tried other things I loved and just don’t remember!

Were there any American stereotypes you found to be either very true or very false?

The idea that American people are cold is false. American people were so friendly once you knew them and so polite if you didn’t. It is true that Americans are consumerists. People are always buying! It’s also false that Americans don’t know how to eat… American’s love food so they have much more variety and options.

What are you going to miss about the summer?

I’ll miss staying in a big house with a huge yard, your father grilling burgers and your mother baking. I’ll also miss the beautiful places like Cape Cod and Maine. I won’t miss always being in the car though…

Do you love your in-laws? Just kidding, I know he does!

Well, there you have it. I wrote this in Newark but I’m posting it from Cadiz! Home at last? Kind of… Tomorrow I’ll post some pictures of our welcome feast—I love Andalucía!

Simple (and Cheap) Boeuf Bourguignon

19 Aug

One of the big benefits to living in Spain is the amazingly cheap and delicious wine selection. Some of my personal favorites come from the Ribera del Duero region in Castile y León. When out at night I generally pay between €1,10-€3,00 per glass, although on the lower end you never know quite what you are getting and it is usually served cold, a practice I found startling at first but soon grew used to!

A benefit to good cheap wine, besides being able to drink it whenever you want, is that you can cook with it without feeling that twinge of guilt while pouring it into the pan. There are multitudes of recipes that use wine, both white and red, but today I had a craving for something I’d seen Anthony Bourdain make once on his show: Boeuf Bourguignon. It sounds fancy, but really it’s just beef stew… and his version is really simple and delicious.

Despite not being the season for a stew, I made it tonight and it came out wonderfully. Here is my modified version of Bourdain’s recipe with pictures… bear with me while I’m still learning about my camera food photography. Bon appetite!

1. Gather your ingredients. They aren’t many for this recipe!

  • 1.5 lbs. of a stewing beef (I used chuck) cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 T flour
  • 4 large carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1-5 cloves garlic (depends on you), thinly sliced
  • Fresh herbs (such as thyme, bay and parsley)
  • 1 cup red wine (traditionally a burgundy but I use what is on hand!)
  • 1 beef bouillon cube/packet (optional)

My Mise en Place

2. Cut your carrots into 1-inch pieces and thinly slice your onions and garlic. Having everything ready beforehand makes the actual cooking very fast.

 

3. Pat the beef dry with paper towels (it will sear better) and season generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

 

 

4. Coat the bottom of a heavy pan (preferably a Dutch oven) with olive oil. When it is just about smoking add the beef, searing around 30 seconds per side or until nice and brown (not grey!) When fully seared remove from the pan and set aside. Add the beef in small batches as overcrowding the pan will not allow you to achieve the nice brown crispy sides that you want.

5. After searing all beef add the sliced onions and give them a good stir to release all of the beef juices from the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently so that they don’t burn!

6. When the onions are nice and brown add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute. Then add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 more minutes.

7. Add the wine and try to get all of the good stuff off of the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a boil.

8. Return the meat, carrots, bouillon cube, and herbs to the pot and add enough water to cover the meat by about half an inch. Bring the stew to a boil and then lower to a simmer and partly cover. Allow to simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring about every 15-20 minutes so that it doesn’t stick and burn!

9. Finally enjoy over rice or potatoes and with a big glass of wine, of course! This dish is even better the next day, so make in advance or plan extra for leftovers.

And there you have it. Cheap and easy Boeuf Bourguignon, courtesy of Anthony Bourdain and Spanish Sabores!

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