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Friday, December 30, 2016

10 Things I Love About Spain

Two more days of 2016 left and four more days of this trip. Being the lucky bitch that I am, I just went ahead and caught this delightful cold. It's actually a tactic to help me not eat everything in sight. If you can't taste it, what's the point of eating it, amirite?

Anyway, I put up my list of 10 things I hate and, as promised, here's the list of 10 things that I love...

Runner Up: The Weather

The past week has been consistently around 18/20°C (64/68°F). Sun and blue skies are a tough combo to beat. However, weather only gets runner up status, because the summer can be uncomfortably hot in the 40s (over 100°F), which is just uncomfortable.

10.) The Architecture

Málaga itself isn't what I'd call a beautiful city. That's usually a description reserved for a place like Sevilla. Málaga has "personality", which is often used as a euphemism for "ugly AF". But let me tell you, I've been in cities that are visually stunning, but where the shittiness of the inhabitants put me off forever. In that case, I'll take a fugly city with personality any day of the week.

The Arabic influence in Spain is omnipresent. In names and on roadsides, but then also in the arabesque decorative patterns found on/in many buildings. And where the Arabic style meshes with the European. Sometimes it just pops up in between buildings and I think it's so cool.

9.) The Andalusian Accent

Every country has a region in which the accent or dialect is considered low brow and a connection (however tenuous it might be) is made between speech and intelligence. The Andalusian Spanish accent seems to fill this role in Spain. Maybe it's because I'm from the South and understand this type of regional prejudice all too well... maybe it's my Duncan-bias, but I find the Andalusian accent quite adorable. Near impossible to understand, but adorable. They leave out "s" in words, whether in the middle of the word or the end. They change "r" sounds to "l" sounds". It makes it damn hard to learn Spanish in general... but it's so dang cute.

Yeah, ok, it's probably my bias more than anything else...

8.) Málaga's "Coffee System"

The whole damn city has a complex system for serving coffee. It's pretty wild. If you leave the province and use the terms above, people don't even know what you're talking about (which I witnessed first hand on a day trip to Grenada, which is only about 80 miles away). On my first brunch dates with Duncan in Hamburg, he always tried to replicate his preferred version, i.e. the "mitad doble" by ordering a double espresso with an equal amount of foamless milk. A "flat white" comes kinda sorta close and there is one little café in St. Pauli that has more or less been "trained" to do it close to properly in the meantime. Still, there's just something about getting an authentic mitad doble at any of the many, many cafés in town. It's always the very first thing we do.

7.) American Stuff

Perhaps it's a result of the South and Central American Spanish diaspora, but it's a lot easier to find many of my "guilty pleasure" products that I miss from the states. Málaga even has an "American Supermarket" called Taste of America. The markup is super high, of course, but it's how I was able to make this pumpkin pie in this mini paella pan:

But, aside from the one-stop-shopping, even regular supermarkets have stuff that I would never find in Germany. Pre-sliced hamburger buns? Hallelujah and pass the patties! I've had Taco Bell twice in the last 10 days and I couldn't be happier. I'm a firm believer that when you live abroad that you should try the local foods and establishments (and that this should comprise the bulk of how you operate). However, I'm equally firm in my belief that every once and awhile you should treat yourself to some delights from your place of origin. There's no shame in my game over here.

5.) Hospitality 

I'm not saying that Germans aren't nice or polite, but they aren't the kind of hospitable that you find in Spain. "Genteel" sort of captures the feeling, but it doesn't seem disingenuous. It's another habit that reminds me of back in Oklahoma and the south (maybe it's a typically "southern" display) where people bend over backward to not just "be nice", but to make you really feel welcome... like you've been there all along. It's a whole other level.

4.) Bidets

While public bathrooms leave a lot to be desired, home bathrooms are often equipped with a toilet and a bidet. And bidets are the best. I was kind of skeptical at first, but there's no arguing with that
fresh booty feeling. This is especially true in summer months where swamp butt can strike at any time, but a clean butthole is good any time of the year (all the time, preferably).

3.) Drugs

I've got a cold right now. It's exactly how I want to be spending the last few days of my vacation (and the last few days of the year). Ha. The bright light in this situation is that I have a cold and I'm in Spain. Gracias, farmácias. Spanish pharmacies beat German pharmacies with blindfolded and with both hands tied behind its back. I know that there's no cure for the common cold, but I want that good shit that flies my symptoms to the moon. I want those decongestants with the pseudoephedrine that make me feel like I can knock a fool out at the local fight club. And this is why we bring back three things on our way some: quicos, manchego cheese, and cold medicine (a.k.a. the "holy trinity").

2.) Non-Spanish Food

Of course, you can find pretty much any type of South American food under the sun, but, for example, I think there's also not an insignificant Chinese population (in Andalusia, at least) and you can look forward to more than decent Asian flavors. I think Spanish people just like to make sure that whatever they're feeding themselves -- as long as it tastes awesome -- they are 'bout it, 'bout it and you're not going to pay that much for it.

We went to this Argentinian grill. Had some big-ass grilled meat platters, drinks, fries, the works... 12€ per person.

1.) Spanish Food

I'm pretty sure I wrote about this before, but Spanish food is a solid hit with me. It hits all the right notes. It's tasty, affordable... and full of pork and seafood. You could say that the cuisine of Hamburg is similar, but the farther north you go in Europe, the more you're looking at kind of the fermented vinegary fish stuff that I don't really love and rich, heavy, savory flavors that I do love, but are super heavy duty. It's like the stuff you eat when you just broke up with your very first boyfriend and your grandma is making you some broken heart comfort food. It's Louis C.K.-style:

Spanish food is also quite rich, but there's something about the togetherness and ritual of eating a meal together. A bunch of different plates are ordered and everyone gets to try a bit of everything. So at the end of the meal, you do feel full (for sure) but less of that guilty "Oh I ate that entire dish by myself." It's more about the social experience of it all.

Of course, I'm probably just telling myself this because I've EATEN SO MUCH in the last 10 days... but also it's incredibly good food. So much food.

So. Much. Food.

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