Tita Felisa

Esparragosa de Lares, Spain

Today I’m going to tell you about Tita. Or Aunty. Our daily holiday schedule in the village revolved around going to lunch at hers. In Spain, mealtimes are late and lunchtime is somewhere between 2pm and 4pm.

Aunty is the family matriarch and D’s father’s sister. She is a sprightly woman in her 80s, with a good bite to her tongue. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of her because you’ll get a telling off the likes of which you haven’t heard since you were ten.

Everyday she cooked for us in her tiny kitchen that just fits her stove and a small counter top. She has a bigger, modern kitchen but she doesn’t cook in there. In fact, her oven is crammed full of bags of potato chips. I was tickled. But out of the cupboard-sized kitchen came the magic of tortilla, ajo blanco, milanesa (breaded chicken), potatoes in tomato, fried chorizo, lentils, meatballs. Hearty village favourites, served with love and a big loaf of country bread.

Tita herself eats sparingly. But the moment you finish the last scrap on your plate, she’s up on her feet, gesturing to seconds and asking if you want anything else. She reels off the contents of her fridge – beer, wine, melon, cheese, yoghurt, yesterday’s leftovers. When we really cannot eat anymore, she tells us what she is going to cook the next day. And then points again to seconds !

During the village fair, the cooking amounts were larger. Her away children came back. Her “English” brother returned. One evening, at half past midnight, we dropped by and there were all manner of immediate & extended family and friends wandering in and out of her house, catching up with each other. From her chair, Tita was chatting and gesturing to food and drink. It made me think of my grandmother’s house when she was alive.

Enjoy the pictures. I don’t have many of the food because I was too busy eating.

~ Spotted Cow

Milanesa and chorizoTiny kitchenDining table

A Week of Un-Connectedness

Extremadura landscape

Phew! I’m re-acclimatising to normal life and working hours. I spent a week in the back of beyond in the Spanish village of Esparragosa de Lares in Extremadura. The village lags time in a wholly lackadaisical way. There is no public wifi, no traffic lights, and no cash machine. There is nothing to buy because there are no shops. Siesta hours are kept, which means that by the time you get up and sort yourself out, you can’t pop out for milk anyway because the store is shut. Plus, it’s long-life UHT milk.

I didn’t think places like these still exist in Western Europe. My friend D invited me. Her father is from the village and she spent childhood summers running wild with her brother and cousins in the arid, yellow surrounds.

We were there on the weekend of the spring fair, when everyone spills out onto the streets. There was a mini bull run, which consisted of a scared young bull running around the plaza, teased beyond an inch of its life by young men.

At the town hall, men and women in traditional garb made tortilla and ajo blanco – which is like a super-garlicky gazpacho without the tomato.

There was sheep shearing, something I’ve witnessed before, but this time I had the privilege of a full frontal of the sheep’s private bits and all. I was treated to some wonderful horsemanship in the horse show. And I partook of the Ruta Tapa, which involved a pub crawl of the three bars and their best tapas. My favourite was the mini hamburger with goats cheese.

In between events, there was a bouncy castle and music blaring from the public speakers till 5am. Still, I slept fantastically – with ear-plugs – in a room darkened by opaque blinds.

Truly, it was a wonderful week. I didn’t miss the shops or social networking, and I came home re-charged.

Next time I’ll tell you more about the people, who are warm and kind and all-embracing. D’s family took me completely into their fold, and fed me. Because after all, food is love.

~ Spotted Cow

Children's bull Bull in the plaza Esparragosa de LaresHorsemanshipSheep shearing