We are all under stay-at-home orders. We have cancelled vacations, trips to see family, regular dinners with friends, and so much more. We are eating lots of beans and rice. Rays of hope and sunshine must be sought out, and are appreciated more than ever before.
I find that food can connect me to places I have been. I love to cook recipes inspired by past vacations and adventures. Lately I have been “going back” to Spain. When we lived in Austria for two years (2017-2019), I traveled three times to Spain — Malaga, Seville and Barcelona with my family, and Andalucia with my friend Laurinda for a three day cooking course. Souvenirs include a leather patchwork Desigual tote bag, a silk scarf inspired by the colorful Gaudi tiles of Barcelone, and hand painted serving dishes. But it’s the skills I learned and flavors I internalized that really stay with me.
For two evenings, we learned how to prepare amazing dishes that were surprisingly simple once broken down by our amazing chef. I now have the confidence to cook mussels (which has come in handy now that I get mussels from Get Hooked Seafood!) I also learned some great gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. My favorites were an orange-almond cake (made with two whole entire skin-and-all oranges) and a tomato-pepper-nut sauce. I made the cake last weekend (super yum!), and I make nut sauces several times each week.
Several nights each week, I cook blistered snap peas — the one vegetable that every single member of my family will devour. Sometimes they boys actually fight over the peas! I serve them in my beautiful, colorful hand-painted tapas dish that I found in a ceramics factory shop on my trip with Laurinda. Every time I use the dish, I am taken back to the olive groves, little villages, narrow streets and beautiful church of the Cordoba region. We wandered the ceramics shop for a long time, each searching for the perfect pieces. I had to reach into the recesses of my brain to pull up all the Spanish I knew in high school — we were so far out in the country, away from tourist areas, that the cashier didn’t speak a word of English.
Even though Europe is so far from me now — in time, space, and possibility — I can go back there any time I want. I just have to look at my little treasures, and the memories, smells, tastes and feelings all come right back to me.