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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Months... déjà?!

It's been awhile since I wrote because life in Europe picked up.  I went with the flocks of French who vacation in August and visited a beautiful little town near the coast in Spain called, "Alcossebre".
I tried to do a bit of research about Spain and especially about Alcoceber before I got into the car with my French family.  Unfortunately, Alcoceber was simply a small fishing village that seems to have been caught up in tourists from Britain and France.  The culture in Spain, however, is one that is absolutely incredible.

To begin, in France it is common for people to vacation in either July or August.  The typical resort or escape is to the South, whether it be the South in Provence and Marseilles, or South in Spain.  French people drive the distance, and during this trip I was able to learn a new word: Bouchon. Traffic.

Traffic in route to a travel location is the most horrid experience.  We were lucky to leave on a Friday and cut about 4 hours of the bouchon on the way there.

Once in Spain, there are several cultural differences.. I'll try to summarize what I liked the best:

Family Style Eating
If you order a salad, it doesn't come on individual plates.  The salad is placed in the center of the table, everyone has forks ready and you dig in.  This experience was very amusing considering our salad went flying... to our laps, our tablecloths, sometimes to our mouths.  Another way to share food at a table in Spain is by tapas. Tapas is a variety of smaller dishes, ranging in prices from 4-6 € that usually consists of fried or steamed seafood, potatoes smothered in a rich cream sauce and others.  One takes their forks and eats where they wish, with a nice refreshing beer or sangria on the side.

Late Dinners
A true Spanish person would not show up to a restaurant to eat before 10.  It was very usual for us to eat early in the morning and then snack in the afternoon, and then gorge around 10 or 11.  Much of this, I assume, is due to the heavy heat around Spain.  People close shops around 2pm, which is considered the 'hora di siesta'... nap time.  Just like big babies, we all lumber into the safety of our shaded homes, lay down or relax, maybe read, patient for the sun to become less harsh.

The Sea
The sea in Spain along the coast is the most beautiful and calm body of water I have seen.  Warmed by the sun, salty and swarming with sea critters that are unharmful to humans.  I got the chance to fish watch with some big goggles... lots of little Nemos swimming around nibbling on my toes.

Spanish Cuisine
As Anthony Bourdain said, "Spain is a culinary jackpot, the best place in the Western world to eat."

Well, he is not wrong, by any means.  From breakfast to dinners, Spain has this knack to stuff you with amazingly simple, well spiced dishes that make you keep eating until you are about to explode.  Let me elaborate.

Literally a saffron infused rice concoction made in giant metal paella pans.  Stuffed with vegetables, meat, seafood- depending on the variety.  Swimming with crustaceans and fresh sea fish... made on command as you order and incredibly sensuous.  The one in the picture is a 'Paella di Marisco", paella of the sea.  Full of shrimp, mussels, langoustine, octopus and squid.  Flavored with seafood broth which only intensifies the organic structure of the seafood paella- incredible.  I could eat this for breakfast and dinner... yummm...
Arroz Negro
Similar to Paella, except made with squid ink.  I got the ability to try this at a restaurant with a 15 € menu, everything included and drinks.  This was my entrée...  The big glop of white goo is actually something called "ali y oli", or aioli.  It was so rich with flavor.  The squid ink actually adds this dynamism to the dish that makes you feel like you are really enjoying the squid.
Fresh Fish Galore
Many of the dishes I ate while there were fresh seafood dishes, the kind where it was probably alive before it was killed and eaten- as you order.  Follow the images below to read what I ate.
Salt Cod Filet with Aioli
Cuttlefish, a big-headed version of squid.

Buttery Shrimp with Baby Eels

Sole Fish with Langoustine Reduction
Fresh Mussels with my French "Brother"
Shrimp and Salt Cod, Tomato based sauce

Eating at Home: Charcuteries, Salads
Sometimes we'd stay in and eat some local produce and charcuteries.  Spain is the professional of pork charcuterie- and if you are a vegetarian, you're not going to experience the glory that is encased meats.  We ate a range of products from chorizo with the slight spicy bite, to the gooey meat called, "sobrossada".  Often served with tomato rubbed toast, garlic, queso and a lovely fresh salad.
Pan con Tomate y Ali y Oli

Fresh Salad
Local Produce: Tomatoes, Onions
Charcuteries galore.. ham, chorizo, sobrassada, sausage, and a cool rosado wine
It was a vacation I will never forget; I gained a couple of pounds to enjoy and a few shades of tan.  Now I'm back in Lyon and the life here begins again.

Which reminds me.. I need to buy a baguette for dinner!

Bri and I have decided to try to lose some weight, and let me say it is a complete pain in the butt to NOT eat the delicious fatty foods.  But I figure, since I'll be here for a long stretch, it's better to be in good shape and enjoy the food, than overweight enjoying the food.  Our daily regime is to literally not use any fats whatsoever- no cheeses, no butters.  We eat lean meats, healthy cereal for breakfast, green tea... and I incorporate an apple cider vinegar drink.

So far we've eaten:
-pork filets with spinach
-yellow thai curry with turkey and green vegetables (no potatoes)
-turkey mushroom stirfry with side of cooked veggies

Every night is a challenge, but one that is easily accessible in France.  Produce here is a bit cheaper than in the states, and much more organic so it is much easier to eat a range of fresh vegetables every day.

No booze.
No fats.
No potatoes.
No pasta.
Little bread.
Whole grains.
Leafy greens (every day).

Why did I agree to do this where there are so many cheeses and pastries in FRANCE?!?!?!  So sad.

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