It’s cold today. I had to wear a jacket this morning. I know, I know, my life is so difficult.
I’m really amused by hearing people here talking about “winter,” though. On Sunday I was wearing sandals and a t-shirt. This is not winter. It’s barely autumn. I will admit that tile floors make the apartment colder, but not as cold as people act like it is.
In other news, I taught my host mother to make apple pie.
Well, I should start at the beginning. A week ago I made dinner. I was hungry for stromboli and asparagus and pie.
So I made a stromboli (needed more stuffing, especially more pasta sauce and cheese. Maybe three times as much cheese. Also the dough tasted a little odd, and I’m not sure if that was the flour or something different in the recipe (Pepi made the dough for me)), steamed asparagus with sautéd almonds (I’d been thinking of pine nuts, but Pepi had almonds. I was worried that I’d burned them (I was paying attention – I just didn’t realize that it would cook that much after I turned the heat off. Okay, I still need to work on this electric stove bit.), but they tasted amazing and not a bit burnt, even though some of them looked a bit black (also, Spain has introduced me to a new concept: esparago verde, green asparagus. If you had talked to me about “green asparagus” in the states, I would have looked at you funny and told you that yes, all asparagus is green, it grows that way, but here canned asparagus seems to be more common, and is white (I think that they strip the outer layer off. It certainly has less flavor.)), and apple pie with an oil crust (there doesn’t seem to be shortening here, and the butter crust recipes I saw used an awful lot of butter. And then I was reminded that Aprille had posted an oil crust . . . and there’s lots and lots of excellent oil here. So I tried that. The dough tasted like olive oil (I bet you didn’t think that olive oil has a flavor; it does) and the cooked crust tasted a bit odd, but I haven’t discounted the possibility that the flour was not what I’m used to, because, as I mentioned, the stromboli crust also tasted odd, and the crust didn’t taste like olive oil – and I forgot to peel the apples first. I also didn’t have anything like a pie pan, and so I had to use a really big round cake pan that was probably a good 11 inches wide . . . the dough was hard to work, and the fact that I made it GIANT and THIN probably didn’t help. But it was moderately close to pie. And I think that the oil crust was a success, though the taste was slightly unusual, and the crust wasn’t as light and flaky as it might have been. It would have been more of a success if I could have kept the crust in one piece – but the fact that Pepi doesn’t have any waxed paper (recommended for rolling it out), and that I used the last of the flour dusting the rolling glass, and the aforementioned extra-thin . . . I think that it turned out pretty well. (And I haven’t even mentioned the fun times I had measuring it. Mind you, I generally don’t measure things, but baked goods are one of the exceptions, and I can’t imagine being a grown-up and having a kitchen that doesn’t have an excellent set of measuring cups and spoons. So far as I could tell, Pepi has two. And they’re both the really big kind that hold at least two cups. Except, of course, that it wasn’t two cups, because this was all in metric. I’d converted the recipe to metric, of course, but I was still left with the fact that I needed 75ml of water and 120ml of oil, and the big measuring cups only had (hard to read) lines every 100ml. So I may have gotten too much liquid in the dough, which would have been part of why it was so hard to handle. And there’s a part of me that’s going, How can she live with Absolutely No small measures? and the rest of me points out that I haven’t seen her cook anything that would actually require exact measurements (even the rice; they stir it here while it’s cooking. Which explains why the rice is occasionally a bit hard and grainy). So that was an interesting cooking experiment.) Pepi raved about how wonderful the pie was, but I noticed that I was the only person eating the leftovers, and found myself wondering how much she actually liked it . . . but then she got me to give her the recipe and made an apple-pear pie to take the the family gathering last weekend. I noticed that there was a much larger proportion of dough to filling (I suggested that she double the amount of dough, but she didn’t use nearly as much filling as I did), and that there was more flour in the dough, but it was still pie-like. I suspect that the longer she has the recipe, the more it will become bread with fruit in the middle, rather than actual pie. But hey. The reaction of the Spaniards to my pie led me to believe that there are no fruit-filled sweets of the sort I’m used to here (I think that what I don’t like about sweets here is that they all have a confectioner’s sugar sort of quality – you know how the texture of c.sugar is odd, and it’s kind of overly sweet in a sort of flavorless way . . . sweets here are like that. And, unlike my principle of deserts, that sugar is a way to make already yummy flavors better, sugar here pretty much a justified end and means all rolled into one). I think that my next project will be pumpkin pie. I’ve heard that pumpkins are hard to find in England, but wikipedia tells me that there is limited sweet potato production in Portugal, and I know that there is orange squash here, because we had a yummy squash soup the other night.
So – anyone have a good recipe for sweet potato or orange squash pie?)
In terms of linguistics, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no good translation for “awkward.” Which is rather a shame, because so many things about being in a foreign country are awkward, and it’s annoying not to be able to say so (though I generally discuss awkwardness with my American friends, so it just means that we have to talk in English rather than Spanish). I tried asking Pepi, but maybe didn’t explain it very well; I tried using an example that an awkward conversation might be one between people who didn’t know each other very well, and we got off onto a discussion of how it can be difficult when you don’t know people (I think that she was worried that I was trying to express feelings of isolation in being in a foreign country, or something, and while I occasionally do feel like a stranger in a strange land, at this particular moment I was just trying to find a translation for awkward . . .), so I tried again, with the example that going to talk with a professor in whose class you’re doing poorly could also be an awkward conversation, and then we got off onto how sometimes people seem haughty, but you just need to get to know them, and here in Andalucía people are very loud, very open, it’s just the way the culture is . . . and I couldn’t think of any other examples that wouldn’t be more trouble to explain than they were worth, and just let our conversation peter off. I was beginning to suspect that there was no good translation, and I confirmed it the next day when I met with one of my compañeros de conversación who’s studying English, and said, okay, so there’s this english word “awkward,” and it can mean this or this or this, and be used in such and such situations, and it’s really darn useful, and is there any sort of decent translation . . . ?
The answer to which is no.
And that’s gotten me thinking. If the GFS words were Random and Blatant, I think that the Smith words are Awesome and Awkward. I don’t have good translations for either of them, which is really too bad, because I use them a good deal in English (perhaps too much, but hey, what are you going to do?). I also find myself wondering how much particular heavily-used words are attached to certain places and populations, and how much it’s a time thing (o sea, ¿was Random in rampant use at other peoples’ high schools, and is Awesome currently popular across the US?).
I mentioned that there was a family gathering on Sunday. There was pie. It was good times. We went up to a “chalé” in the hills above the city, in the really rich part of town, the Villa Norge. The house was nice in a modern/cozy country sort of style (lots of stone, big glass windows, some of the architectural quirks that I think were common to buildings built between Art Nouveau and the misguided principles that gave birth to such architectural trainwrecks as Cutter/Z). I actually remembered some peoples’ names, which I was proud of, and started work on a shawl (my first foray into knitting from a chart! It does seem that the pattern looks more complicated than it is, which is a bit of a relief, but I do need to find some good way of keeping track of which row of the pattern I’m on, and weather I’m doing A or B in this section. I’m doing the shawl in black (yes, I know, I already have a black shawl, but this one will be bigger. And black goes with just about everything.), and the pattern doesn’t show up as well as it does in the pictures (at least, not in the first 20 rows of it, but I’m still pleased with how it’s turning out. I’m going to need to find circular needles, though. The fourteen-inchers, aside from being annoying, just aren’t going to be long enough; this thing gets wide fast).
We had another pick-up fútbol game on Friday, and I scored a goal. We do seem to be improving somewhat (though I still have this feeling that I would do much better if you gave me a stick and I played by field hockey rules – I’m not so good with my feet that I wouldn’t mind not letting them touch the ball, if only I had a decent stick to use. But we don’t have any shin guards, and I don’t think that people would be happy with that, even if my stick control is good enough that I wouldn’t whack them (I think. My stick control used to be that good, anyway)), and we’re having fun, which is what really matters.
There may have been something else I intended to post about, but I don’t remember what it is. I’ll upload some archeology pictures now, and may even make another post if I don’t run out of time before class.
Edited to add: I seem to have this major problem with parenthesis getting away from me. Would people prefer nested footnotes, a la Robin McKinley, or are you doing okay with the nested parenthesis that are liable to tango with each other and forget that they were ever going to close?