Friday, December 30, 2011

Grapes, New Year's Eve and Red Lingerie

If you live outside Spain and you want to celebrate New Year's Eve or Cap d'any a different way, then go out and get some grapes, good cava (or champagne) and if you're a gal, wear red lingerie for good luck. It's a fun tradition all over Spain to eat one grape with each clock chime. Families watch TV hosts begin the 12 chime (gong) count down at a major plaza with a clock tower, such as Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Twelve gongs known as the campanadas sound off, and with each gong you pop a grape in your mouth. You must finish all twelve grapes by the time the gongs stop ringing and let me tell you, it's not as simple as it sounds. If you accomplish this feat, you will have good luck for the year. The red under garments is good luck for you and the lucky person that gets a peek at them.

Tip: buy seedless grapes as they are easier to chew and swallow. Grapes with pits slow you down along with an awful grinding of grape pits that make it impossible to finish eating before the gongs stop. Or simply remove the seed before hand to ensure your good luck. Bona sort and FeliÇ Any Nou!

Visit the post for 2012  on this link New Year's Eve Underwear

Catalan cavas

You'll have to use your imagination for pictures of red lingerie.

FELIç 2012 from California Noia!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Els Dies de Festa Continue

Driving down Avinguda Diagonal at night is a reminder to folks that the holidays continue in Barcelona until the The Magi arrive on the eve of January 5th bearing gifts to children. This day is more commonly celebrated by families in Spain then Christmas. Children write letters to The Three Kings as they would to Santa Claus in America. Stores, shops and malls will continue to be a frenzy until then. Here's Diagonal Avenue at night with holiday lights that will remain until the holidays are over.

Catalan nougats,torró yummy yummy

 So I mentioned how Catalan children hit a log so that it shits nougats. I had every intention of visiting a public event for children where they get to hit a gigantic caga tió, but was caught up with  holiday shopping...that included buyng those famous nougats the caga tió is supposed to defecate. The torrons I bought are not the ususal flat rectangular shape or the usual nut flavor. These are torrons artesans, and they were so yummy yummy, molt bo! These nougats are soft and chewy like the Xixona nougats.

p.s. I bought these at Xocoa.

torró de música--cocoa butter, hazlenut, almond, pistachio, and candied organge

torró de vi perlat llet--cocoa butter, perlat wine, and chocolate

turró de coco--coconut, chocolate and  cocoa butter

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fira de Santa Llúcia

Getting to the Christmas market in Barcelona is one of my favorite places to visit in December to officially begin the Nadal season. The fira is located in front of the Catdral de Santa Eualia with ample strolling space, unlike a few years ago when it was organized along the narrow side streets of the cathedral.

You'll find crafts, artisans, and Christmas tree vendors ready to give you a fair price, making it a great place to look for gifts, nativity scene pieces, mistletoe or anything having to do with Christmas. The Gothic cathedral is a picturesque backdrop during the holiday season in beautiful Barcelona. Bones festes!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tió de Nadal, a very different tradition

If you don’t know any Catalans, reading about their traditions would inspire anyone to think of them as funny people with queer traditions. I have so far explained the figure of the caganer in nativity scenes who is slightly provocative. Here is another Catalan tradition I still struggle to understand how it came to be associated with Christmas, even though I absolutely embrace it for its originality.

Students feed the log every morning
I refer to the famous Catalan Tió de Nadal, also known as Caga tió, also known as the Christmas log who shits. Children throughout Catalonia “feed” the log everyday in good faith that on Christmas Eve the log, after getting beaten with a stick, will “shit” candy. Yes, it sounds so forward to say shit, but that is exactly how it is said by little children and adults without even wincing.

This one has a full plate...

then it got hungry and ate.
While this tradition is practiced at home by some families, Catalan school teachers expose foreign children to a different Christmas time figure aside from Santa Claus. A few days ago I walked into my classroom while the Catalan teacher was explaining how the Christmas log must be fed every day so it can shit.

 Friend wearing a caga tió pin--I want one!
 Just like that. Even before she could finish her sentence one little bright eyed girl cut her off by blurting out, “Si, hem de donar-li de menjar perquè cagui!” I cringed when she said that, but there was no offense in how she said it or how she meant it. It was all so matter of fact; you must feed the log everyday so it shits. They obviously have no hang ups in using the word shit in context of the tradition.

Student working next to the caga tió
One end of the log has a painted smiling face and sports a red barretina. The other end of the log is covered with a blanket to hide the candy on Christmas Eve when the children sing and beat it. When the song is over the blanket is removed and the log has finally defecated sweet treats for the children.
This is the song children sing to the log while beating it:

El Tió

El Tió
Caga Tió,

Shit log,
caga torro,

shit nougat
d’ametlles o pinyó,

made of almonds or pine nuts,
no caguis arengades

do not shit herrings
que són massa salades,

that are way too salty,
caga torrons,

Shit nougats,
caga torrons que són més bons!

shit nougats which are better!
Caga Tió
Shit log,
caga torró,

Shit nougats
si no et donaré

or else I will give you
un cop de bastó!

a beating with a stick!

Fins ara!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Caganer...the defecating peasant

Battery operated caganer who wipes and wipes.

I greatly enjoy translating words I use in my posts from Catalan to English. Today, this one word-caganer, said with an elegant aspiration at the beginning and middle of the word, is simply translated as the shitter. Such an eloquent sounding word in Catalan until you understand its base meaning in English. The upside of this pleasant-sounding-word-with-tacky-meaning is that  when you look at the caganer figurine found in Catalan nativity scenes, you smirk and forget about the harsh translation in English, especially when you say the word out loud in a low voice, the shitter.

No one knows for sure why this figure started appearing in nativity scenes in the 18th century. The caganer is a part of the peripheral landscape of shepards, peasants, and animals in the nativity scene, hidden behind a bush or discretely defecating between trees letting his stool fall to the ground.

I personally think it was a Catalan figurine sculptor with a fantastic sense of humor who figured that if a peasant was on his way to visit Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, he at some point had to stop along the way to squat, expose his buttocks, and relieve himself.

As a spectator, searching for the caganer in a Catalan nativity display is part of the enjoyment process in viewing such a solemn scene. Nowadays, the Catalan peasant  is not the only one squatting to take care of bowel movements. Pop culture icons are now part of the caganer plethora which include famous politicians, singers, and sports stars.  Bona nit!

Rows and rows of famous shitters...can you spot Shakira holding the microphone while squatting?

Can't really see his stool pile on the ground, no wonder this caganer only sells for 3.50.

Great detail of the caganer peasant smoking, squatting and defecating.

The Messi caganer is too expensive.

The Dali Lama, Putin, Castro, Einstein, who's missing...Obama!

Oh there's Obama! Right next to Homer Simpson.

This caganer is part of the nativity scene right in front of City Hall.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pastís de carbassa for Thanksgiving

A favorite American holiday rolls  around one more year, making it that time of year I roll my sleeves up to prepare for a Thanksgiving feast on the last Saturday of November. Yes, we Americans all know that Thanksgiving is celebrated the last Thursday of November, but since it’s not a holiday recognized in Spain, I have no one to invite on a Thursday night, when everyone is working late during the week.

I will start preparations for dia d'acció de gràcies by getting a one day head start with baking a pumpkin pie. I start by oven baking the carbassa, I never use canned pumpkin even though I can purchase it here at a specialty shop. I once tasted a pie made from canned pumpkin and it was dolent. When the pumpkin has been in the oven after 15 minutes, the smell of pumpkin roasting in the oven wafts through the house. Simplement meravellós!

For the crust: I normally use readymade pastry dough to line my pie pan, although this year I am going to try to make a homemade pie crust. In Spain I purchase hojaldre  para tartas y respostería. The hojaldre is my back up if my pie crust does not take the form of pie dough.

Preheat oven at 220° C.
Cut (tallar) the pumpkin in half and remove seeds and pumpkin string with a spoon. Cut the pumpkin 
in large chunks and place in a pan with some water, shell side up and bake for 1 hour or until the shell starts to sag. Scrape the pulp from the shell and purée with a blender. Strain overnight to remove excess water from pulp. This will prevent having a soggy filling.




For the filling:

1 sugar pumpkin  (carbassa)                                               
2 eggs plus yolk of a third  (ous, més un rovell d’ou )
1 1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk  (nata liquida o llet evaporada)
1/2 cup brown sugar (sucre morena)
1/3 cup white sugar (sucre blanc)
1/2 teaspoon salt  (sal)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (canyella)
1/2 teaspoon ginger (gingebre)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg  (nou moscada)
1/8 teaspoon ground clove  (clau)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract  (extracte de vainilla)

Next day baking process.
  1.  Preheat oven to 220° Celsius.
  2.  Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl and add to dry ingredients. Stir in purée and then stir in cream. Whisk all ingredients until well mixed.
  3. Pour mixture into dough lined pan and bake for 15 minutes at 220° and then reduce temperature to 175° and bake for another 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. I like to refrigerate my pie, this is optional. Serve with whip cream (nata muntada).
My pie is finished and no I did not make a fresh crust because all the rolling pins were sold out. I'm off now to soak my gall dindi in brine for tomorrows feast.

Bona sort i FeliÇ Dia de Gràcies