Organized Tourism? Sobremesa in Japan II

Sometimes it's not easy to penetrate into the local culture of a foreign place, either because it's just too foreign, or because, like Barcelona, the tourism industry is so overbearing that many neighborhoods in the city are designed entirely to cater to the tourists who crave the familiar (Starbucks), or a stereotypical version of local color.

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Sobremesa in Japan I: Why We Travel

Visiting Japan had been my lifelong dream; throughout my 30s, I envisioned the trip to Japan happening to celebrate my landmark 40th birthday. Not only did that not happen, but 3 months after I turned 40 we moved to the US, i.e. in the opposite direction. My sweet family, to make it up to me, simulated a trip to Japan on the day of my 40th birthday in Barcelona: they decorated the house with Japanese paper props, made a Japanese dinner, and even sat me in a chair and made me close my eyes and pretend I was on an airplane headed straight to Kyoto. 

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More Lingering in 2017

I recently got back from a 5-week trip to Spain. It was an intense time, spent teaching (mostly here but also here), doing research (for this and this) and, in between, squeezing in as much time as possible with my dear friends in Spain.

As soon as I landed in Barcelona, it felt like home. And yet when I returned to the Bay area a few weeks ago, I was so happy to be home! It's funny how that works; once you have lived a long time in different places, home is a moveable feast, and yet you can never truly go home again. These thoughts were on my mind all the time as I walked the streets of Barcelona, streets I know so well and yet, there have been changes (both external and internal ones) in the 3 years I've been gone. 

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Camila is off to Spain!

I am about to leave for Barcelona, to teach the second yearly round of the Mediterranean Food & Culture program for University of California EAP.

The upcoming weeks will be quite busy; the followers of Desayuno con guisantes, the company I ran when I lived in Spain, want to hear from me as well -and learn about some of my California cuisine tricks. I have been invited, while in Barcelona, to teach a series of hands-on cooking classes and nutrition talks for Obbio and Still Cooking. It's a good thing I absolutely love what I do! 

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Blessings in Disguise

Our unpredictable human lives don't play out like a neat, well-composed work of fiction. Though we may attempt to read events as good or bad for us, the path will teach us otherwise, as things just don't stop twisting and turning. Awareness and acceptance of the transitional nature of everything around and within us is the only way to make peace with our place in the world.

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Alice Waters and sobremesa

A few days ago I was fortunate enough to attend a session of Edible Education 101 at UC Berkeley guest starring Alice Waters and The Kitchen Sisters. No matter how long I live in the Bay Area, I hope I always live it as a newcomer, and take advantage of the many exciting events this place has to offer, without just settling into the fact that famous people I am interested in happen to be local, around and about.

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Salmorejo vs. Gazpacho

Everyone around here knows gazpacho, the (originally tomato-based) cold soup with has infinite variations. Is it fair to even call them gazpacho, though? I've heard of many sweet versions: melon gazpacho, strawberry gazpacho, peach gazpacho, etc. It's as if the term were being used to describe almost any fruit-based (or watery vegetable: there's also a cucumber gazpacho out there) cold soup. 

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The Connection between Tapas and Tea

Tea is, as many of you already know, one of my absolute favorite worldwide things. Or moments, I should say. Before daylight breaks every morning, I purposely and happily wake up in the wee hours,  the house still quiet, knowing I have a while to sit, contemplate, and pour myself cup after cup of Gong fu-style infusions. In the summer it's usually a green tea (these days, one called Fragrant Leaf from Peter's shop); in winter a dark roasted Oolong or an earthy Pu-ehr (warning: this might change in the Bay Area, where the coldest months are the summer ones; foggy days go well with more warming teas). Nothing beats the silence of those waking moments, when the evolution of the flavors in the successive infusions of my tea leaves balances the changing light of another oncoming day. Each day it tastes and feels different, and yet the daily ritual is a safeguard, no matter where I am.

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What are Tapas?

The word tapas comes from the verb tapar, to cover, and the noun tapa, cover or lid. There are many legends that attempt to explain the roots of tapas, although their true origin is unknown. One of these legends claims that tapas were conceived out of a need to cover one's glass to keep the flies out. But were there really more flies in Spain than in other countries? Others state that tapas "cover" one's stomach, i.e. line it with some food, to protect it from the alcohol. (One of the most valuable pieces of advice an old tavernero gave me when I first arrived in Spain in 1998 was "always eat more than you drink and you'll never get drunk".) Yet another legend says that tapas were meant to "cover" the appetites of field workers; they would nibble on something in order to regain their strength to keep working.

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Why is sobremesa so important?

The other day, it was a Sunday almost like any other: we had gotten together for a copious Winter lunch with friends. The only difference was that the kids had been invited to a birthday party and we had to rush off sooner than later; not something we usually like to do on Sundays, but it was for a good cause. So we decided to meet our friends much earlier than usual and try to stretch out the cooking and eating part as much as our schedule allowed. Weekend lunches are a lazy affair, however, and after our stomachs were contently stuffed we found ourselves having to get up and go without having enjoyed a full Spanish sobremesa, my favorite part of the meal. Go figure, I had a stomachache all afternoon long! I am sure it was because I did not allow my body and soul the relaxed, comforting digestive time at table it likes to have, especially on Sundays. Sobremesa is a serious affair.