So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Hillary

No need for introductions this time. You know what this is about by now! Thanks to Hillary for agreeing to be interviewed for my series.

¡Hola! My name is Hillary, and I’m 24 years old. I am from a small town called Collierville, Tennessee, which is just outside of Memphis, in the United States. I came to Spain in September 2013, to be an auxiliar de conversación, and to help with English classes in a Spanish school. Currently, I am living with a host family in a city called Cerdanyola del Vallès, which is just north of Barcelona.

Hillary1At a club in Barcelona.

Tell us about how you met.

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Holy Week Foods in Zamora, Spain

You may have realized this by now, but food in Spain is a pretty big deal. Buying the ingredients, choosing just the right store, preparing dishes, the presentation, the first bite, talking about the food you’re eating, savoring the food, talking about the meal in general … all of these are regular practices at my in-laws’ house. Food is important. This is one of my favorite parts about Spain, because it reminds me of how fortunate we all are to be able to eat high-quality delicious food with the people we love.

I’ve talked previously about foods Spaniards eat at Christmas. Now we’re in the middle of perhaps Spain’s most important holiday: Semana Santa, or Holy Week. And, as is to be expected, food plays a major role. Of course, what people eat during this holiday season varies from region to region, from family to family. But I’ll talk about my experiences here in Castilla y León and, more specifically, Zamora.

During the Lenten season, meat used to be totally off limits on Fridays. Most Catholics (and lapsed Catholics) no longer follow this rule, but my in-laws do. So what’s for lunch on Fridays during Lent?

Potaje

Potaje espinacas garbanzosSource: Lola en Cocina

Potaje is a soup. It can be made with vegetables, lentils, or chickpeas. My in-laws eat a chickpea potaje, made with chickpeas, spinach, rice, garlic, and paprika. This recipe will vary greatly from household to household, though. This is for the primer plato (first plate). For the segundo plato, the second plate, they will most often eat some form of bacalao (cod) or another type of fish. For example, bacalao al ajoarriero, cod with braised vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic) and potaje de vigilia, which can have chickpeas, cod, spinach, and paprika, decorated with hard-boiled egg. (more…)

La Familia and Independence

Ah, la familia. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Cousins, aunts, uncles. Grandparents. Godmothers and godfathers. “Aunts” and “uncles”. The friends who feel like family. In Spain, there is a saying, or perhaps more of a refrain: Madre, sólo hay una. You have but one mother. If I’ve learned anything about Spain—and oh, there is much to learn—family is important. And mothers … well, you’ve only got one.

The stereotypes are (somewhat) true: Spanish children don’t leave the nest as early as those of us in Anglo-Saxon countries. The average age for leaving home in Spain is 25.2 years old (source). This is not seen in a bad light here; it isn’t shameful. In fact, even if a 20-something does have a job, they may choose to stay at home with Mom and Dad, just because they can. After all, why pay rent when you can stay at home rent free?

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