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El albergue

El albergue

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mind-blowing


Alright, hold on to your taste buds, my friends.  Because I am about to take you on one of the most amazingly mind-blowing, drool-inducing adventures you have ever had.  First, let’s step back to Saturday night, when I had spent the whole day at home and was in one of those comfy, couch and movie-type moods.  You know, when all you’ve been doing all day is veg, and all you want to do that night is veg some more, when all you’ve been eating all day is cereal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and all you want to eat that night is something warm, gooey, and guiltily delicious…  Yes, it was one of those nights…

So, as I sat curled-up on the couch, staring at the ceiling and fiercely procrastinating on certain things I needed to do…certain things that are in fact necessary for me to continue residing in Spain under any semblance of legality…I remembered this most astounding recipe I’d seen on one of my favorite food blogs for a little bit of grilled heaven utilizing Gouda, bacon, and PEACH.  YES, PEACH.  The bacon probably doesn’t seem too far afield for most of us, I mean, who can’t imagine the additional perfume of crispy bacon wafting about in elegant combination with the already tantalizing odor of molten cheese between two buttery and oh-so-delightfully toasted pieces of bread?  But peach?  For some reason, the idea of putting something fruity and sweet smack dab in the middle of all that savory goodness just seems downright WRONG…and yet intriguing, quite intriguing…

I realized the suspense was killing me (WHAT WOULD THAT TASTE LIKE???), so I decided that a lazy Saturday night would be the perfect time to take the plunge and leap out on this culinary branch.  Residence papers ensuring my continued legal status here?  Nah, those would keep until Monday – the REAL pressing issue was definitely this tasty test just begging to happen.

And happen it did.  Oh man, did it ever.

The first experiment of the night: Brie, plums, and candied walnuts.  I kept the sandwiches in a warm oven until they were all made, so by the time the burner got turned off and this first sandwich made it onto the plate, sliced and ready to be devoured, the plums had turned to melty plum jam.  Wow.  It was so cool.  The walnuts though were slightly unimpressive.  That might possibly be due to the fact that I got impatient and didn’t really candy them correctly.  Maybe.  Just maybe.  However, with really well candied walnuts (or even almonds!) and a bit of cinnamon and spice, this baby could rock your world.

The second experiment of the night:  Gouda, Emmental, and onion sautéed with a dash of Balsamic.  Ok, so this obviously doesn’t include any fruit…my co-investigator aka friend thought one simply savory sandwich might be nice…but I remain convinced that this combination would be fantastic with fresh plums…or peaches…or even ...gasp! ...strawberries!  …my mind is drooling all over the place.

The third experiment of the night:  Gouda, banana, and blueberry preserves.  I was unconvinced at first, but my friend was certain that banana and Gouda cheese were made for each other.  And man was he right!  Especially with the extra punch of the blue berry preserves.  It.  Was.  Delightful.

The fourth and final experiment of the night:  Brie, banana, plum, and honey.  This was by far my favorite one.  The banana kind of melted into sweet amazingness, a perfect pairing with the creamy brie and piping hot plum.  And then the honey?  Wow.  It soaked into the bread, lending it own distinct touch to the overall symphony of flavors serenading my tongue. 

At most points of this adventurous meal, it kind of felt like we were eating straight-up dessert rather than anything that could possibly qualify for a meal – guilty sense of sweet seduction and all – but really, the only ingredient that might possibly be considered to be fully on the desserts only list was the honey.  Everything else was just bread, cheese, fruit, nuts, and butter!  (Can’t forget the butter…)  Although, to be honest, on those lazy, comfy, couch and movie-type nights, who really cares if you do eat dessert for dinner? 

And now, to finish those papers…

Oh yes, and if you want to see the original recipe, go check it out at:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Madrid in summer


It’s cool in the morning.  That’s when you have to go out to run.  Try any time after 10:30, and you’re toast.  Literally.  Toast.  Because it’s hot.  More than a tad bit on the warm side.  If you know what I mean.  As the day goes on, the heat accumulates.  The sun beats down on cement and cobblestones alike.  And radiates back into your face.  Kind of like when you open an oven that’s been preheated to about a bajillion degrees.  And the heat continues to accumulate.  The whole city falls under the spell of lethargy.  The whole world slows to a crawl.  Or a complete stop.  Bodies are littered about the parks.  They seek relief in the grass and trees.  Others are strewn around the public and private pools.  They seek relief from lethargic splashing about.  Slowly, so slowly, the sun begins to fall.  The temperature begins to fall as well.  Slowly, so slowly, the bodies lying dead come back to life.  About 8 pm, the streets are looking alive once again.  The populace emerges from its various hiding places and goes out and about.  Friends meet up with friends.  Family the same.  Just about everyone is outside.  On restaurant and bar terrazas.  On apartment patios.  In parks.  On the streets.  Most nights, they stay out until around 11 or 12.  Then it’s bedtime around 1 or 2, with all the windows flung wide open.  Air circulation is a must, after all.  Good nights you can sleep well.  Others, it’s still rather warmish.  And you lay sweating in your bed, wishing for some sweet breeze to lull you to sleep.  Still other evenings, the storms come.  The sky closes in overhead.  All of a sudden, sharp winds blow your hair about your face.  Flowers from trees are blown onto outside diners in veritable showers.  Drinks, food, and clothes alike receive the floral abundance.  Then the muggy air releases the downpour with a bright flash and a loud clap of thunder.  Lucky you if you’re inside.  If not… You might as well stay outside.  Because chances are the rain will be done by the time you make it inside.  Or if you’re already in bed, leave the window open.  That way you might get a few kisses of rain on your feverishly hot skin.  Thank the refreshing coolness that comes after the storm.  And sleep.  It starts again tomorrow.  But don’t worry about it.  Just enjoy the moment of coolness and sleep.  Sleep…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Highlights from camp


Now, when most people think about summer camp, they think about crazy games, water fights, and shenanigans out the wazoo.  Well, this camp I was at for the last two weeks wasn’t completely like that…it was an English summer camp, so there were five hours of English class a day.  Yup, five.  Outside of class the kids did indeed have crazy adventures with their counselors, but I didn’t really see much of that free spiritedness because I was one of those English teachers that taught those five hours of English class a day. 

As an English teacher, my life at camp consisted basically of these four things: sleeping, eating, teaching, and preparing to teach.  It was an unrelenting cycle with scarcely a let up for anything else.  It wasn’t all bad though.  There were, in fact, a number of great things that happened during those two weeks…

~  The first night, the entire camp hustled together into the auditorium to watch the Eurocup soccer final, in which Spain was playing Italy, and in case you never knew before, the Spanish are VERY into their soccer…VERY.  In fact, some parents were calling the week before camp to make sure their kids were going to be able to watch the game.  So, even though I understand very little of how the game works, it was fun to be in there with all the screaming kids and the counselors riling them up with chants and noisemakers and such.  And of course, everyone was super excited when Spain won!

~  About an hour a week, I got to go with the kids to their Chinese class, which was more like a small workshop to introduce them to the exotic world of Asian culture and language.  It was interesting, and the kids loved it – I can’t tell you how many times I got asked every day after the first Chinese experience when we were going to Chinese next. 

~  During one of the many activity brainstorming sessions we teachers held, I learned about this amazing game called Guns, Bombs, and Angles.  The kids LOVED it.  It was the perfect way to trick them into speaking English and reviewing the material we had covered in class.

~  The second week, my level used Going on a Bear Hunt as a sort of launching point to teach prepositions, “can” and “can’t,” and habitat vocabulary, and one day I decided to steal a fellow teacher’s idea and do a sort of chant with the kids to act out the story as a class.  For the first bit, not everyone was really that into it, but in the end, when the bear is chasing the children, everyone was running around the room in ecstatic abandon.  A little chaotic, but fun!

~  Our last evening at camp, we teachers participated in the students’ talent show – we danced to “Beat It” by Michael Jackson.  It was a simple dance, but so much fun!  And the kids were excited to see us out there performing : )

~  At the end of her last Daily Diary entry, one of my littlest students wrote “I love you, Laura.”  By that point I was so tired and it was so sweet that I basically started crying.  That will probably be one of my favorite memories of my time at camp this summer.  For sure.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

CAMP!!!!


Hey all!  I’m at summer camp right now, teaching English to lots of little kids.  It’s kind of crazy, with lots of organizing and implementing and all such important teachery stuff, so I won’t have time to write much of anything until after I get back home to Madrid and can catch my breath.  In the meantime though, feel free to check out the camp blog to see what’s going on!  Check it out at: http://blogs.forenex.com/gredos/