Now that Carnaval has been over for a solid month, I figured I’d talk about it. So much of Galician culture is expressed through food, and Carnaval is no exception. Due to some enormous generosity, even my gluten-free stomach got to partake in the festivities. There are two recurring elements in Galician Carnaval cookery: pigs and anis (a liquor made mostly in southern Europe). So without further ado, here are three staples of Carnaval cuisine in Galicia. Warning: staple two contains graphic images for vegetarians.
My ever-lovely carpool chauffeur shared this tradition with me. “Orejas” means “ears” in Spanish, and these pastries are so called because they are shaped like pig ears. The dough is fried in pork grease, which gives it its distinctive flavor. The taste of these light, crumpled triangles is accented with sprinkled sugar. Doing orejas gluten-free, however, was quite the challenge (to the surprise of everyone except me). In typical gluten-less style, my dough clung to the rolling pin like a toddler to his mom’s leg. When triangles were finally cut and stretched, they promptly broke in half. “Es otro mundo!” (It’s another world!) was the refrain of the day. As a result, my gluten-free orejas were a good deal thicker (and more troublesome to fry) than their toxic, wheaty counterparts, but I still managed to pack them away.
Once upon a time, I ate pig face. This act of barbarianism is a keynote of cocido, the Galician tradition of boiling and then eating all parts of the pig. Like every single part – ribs, ears, shoulders, etc. I experienced this tradition thanks to the professors of my school, who planned cocido as the “comida de entroido.” The meal was accompanied by boiled potatoes, grelos, chickpeas, and chicken. There was so much salt that I was dehydrated for a full two days after.
Filloas are similar to crepes – sweet, soft, floppy, and round. They are served plain or with powdered sugar, honey, or a dash of chocolate syrup. The madre of one of my celiac fifth-years was kindhearted enough to make me a box of these, gluten-free style. We’re talking light-speed consumption, people.
There are days when your newsfeed works against you. Yesterday was one of those days. Three of my friends are headed back for another term at my hallowed Oxford without me. And both BuzzFeed and the NY Times decided to gang up on me and remind me why nothing, nothing can compare to my semester in the City of Dreaming Spires.
Oxford is hard to describe to people who don’t know it. I’ve tried to explain it by saying “the air smells intelligent,” which doesn’t make any real sense and, instead, makes people doubt how I ended up at Oxford in the first place. But I stand by it.
There’s a cool edge to the air that quivers with potential. I breathed it as I walked down cobblestone lanes, trying to wrap my brain around the fact that 800 years of students had strolled them before me. I breathed it as I biked down Banbury Road with my dinner gown flapping in the wind. I breathed it as I ate potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes in a Harry Potter dining hall, sitting next to some of the smartest people in the world, who will go on to be neurosurgeons, composers, writers…leaders of the modern world. I breathed it deeply as I ran along the banks of the Isis and watched rowers’ oars beat like butterfly wings. I breathed excessively it as I hyperventilated about paper deadlines and my increasing sleep debt. Oxford was the deepest, most scintillating breath of air I’ve had. Try going back to standard oxygen after that.
If you happen to have the glorious good luck of still being an undergraduate, I urge you to check out this program to study for a term in Oxford. (And no, you don’t even have to be a UGA student!) It absolutely rocked my world. Three years have passed and I still see it as the best three months of my life. Now please, I’m going to go happy-drown in memories.
This past week has been brimming with sun, and I have been eating it up like chocolate. I have been positively glued to my Chacos, froyo, shorts, and the park. The Spanish do this odd thing where instead of dressing for the weather, they dress for the season. So even though it was sunny and 70 degrees outside, coats and scarves were everywhere, and my attire was met with choruses of “fresquitaaaaa!” (“chilly,” more or less). Because I care. Anyway, last week, I
- Scandalized the teachers at my school by wearing Chacos in March. The temperature of my toes was of grave concern to everyone.
- Cheered Escarabote on to second place at the Annual Boiro Primary School Smackdown (a.k.a. student foot race on the beach)
- Witnessed a riot
- Learned how to make gluten-free orejas (a typical Carnaval food) with a teacher from my school
- Guided a couple of visiting auxiliar friends around Santiago
I would categorize yesterday among the oddest of days. Why now? Yesterday, I witnessed my first riot. I kid you not, I was photographing daisies in Belvis Park fifteen minutes before I was photographing burning trash cans. (And, speaking of photographs, what even is the protocol for posting pictures of riots to Facebook? I legitimately googled “wrong to post riot pictures to Facebook” and there doesn’t seem to be a strong precedent.) I followed a cloud of smoke up a street bordering Santiago’s parliament buildings, and found myself in a scene of heavily armed police, smoldering plastic, and wayward flying glass bottles.
So what was the issue here? From what I’ve gathered, it was a protest of marineros (sailors). The European Union has imposed certain quotas on how many of each species of fish sailors can catch. They left it up to Spain to divvy that quota up between the different regions. Galician marineros are unhappy with that allocation. It’s politics, people. The sailors say the Spanish government screwed them over and gave a much bigger cut to regions like País Vasco, which doesn’t have nearly the amount of shoreline as Galicia. If the amount you can fish is cut, so is your salary, and so is your ability to live. Spain in crisis.
It’s sad. People are desperate.
Tonight in one of my English conversation classes, we discussed the riots. Hearing the opinions of the students, who are Ph.D. and Master’s students, I am starting to come to terms with how shattering this economic crisis has been for Spain. Though the majority of them are against violence in general, several of them also expressed that there was no other alternative. The democracy, they explained, was not working for the people.
I came away startled. I’ve always, always accepted that violence is never the answer, and I assumed every other rational person was on board with me. It’s times like these when I realize how both insulated and blessed I’ve been. It’s one thing to see riots in the paper and on TV and judge violence from a distance. It’s another thing entirely to listen to your students grapple with and hesitantly accept violence as the last course of action for a very real situation.
Anyway, just so no one is worrying, I am fine, and Santiago is perfectly safe. Tuesday was an anomaly, but a weighty one at that.
THE SUN IS OUT.
Are you as confused by that as I am? This week, Santiago’s rain decided to cash in its vacation days. I had no idea so many people lived in Santiago until I saw them overflowing from the terrazas outside every restaurant, café, and bar in sight. I scrambled for my sunglasses (that antiquated word for the things you need when there’s, like, sunlight), and celebrated with a picnic in Belvis Park. There were bare feet and strawberries and even tinto de verano with lemon slices. And to cap it all off, last weekend’s rain meant Pontevedra moved their carnival parade, so a few friends and I headed there to catch the festivities and some rays on the beach (pics to come). It was a total contrast to Santiago’s umbrella-clad affair. Fingers crossed the sun is here for keeps.
To Vitamin D!
Getting to Santander from Santiago de Compostela without a car is a deep, deep struggle. It took me two BlaBlaCar voyages to get there, and a ten-hour bus ride to get back. If I didn’t have a friend awaiting me there, I probably would’ve shelved the trip for keeps. But wow, was it worth the pain.
After suffering through two months of rain, I arrived in Santander to skies a-blazing with sun. I was squinting like the (wet) hibernating bear I am. We spent a sizable chunk of the weekend outdoors, hiking along the coast, watching waves, and commandeering playgrounds from small children. And there was also some rabbit paella involved. Big ol’ stamp of approval from this girl.