Wednesday, December 28, 2005

photos to come soon!

I'm back from Israel!! A follow-up chapter with photos will arrive soon, stay tuned!! :)

Happy holidays to everybody, may your new year be filled with wishes coming true and renewed energies!

Love, H.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ah! Barcelona ~

A new NIKE store

a regular NIT BUS (night bus)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Market near the Cathedral

These little guys are called 'Tiós´, much like the piñatas in Mexico, which the children hit with a stick, the Catalan children hit their ´tiós´ with a stick and immediately go hide. The point is to get the ´tiós´ to SHIT sweets... (side note, the Catalans often associate themselves with the act of excretion and Christmas together. There is another dude who sits by the nativity scene and does his business, topped with the popular red hat old Catalan men wear). Once they return, the ´tiós´ have been covered under a blanket, and if the children have been good during the year, all sorts of Christmas sweets will have been ´shitted´ by the tió and can be found under the blanket, such as turróns and polvoróns, if they have been naughty, instead of sweets, they will find coal under the blanket....coal?? after all that big talk about sh*ting?

Every year, the Christmas market around the Cathedral draws tourists and locals alike to the center to celebrate the month-long chaos before the holidays. Today, we joined the crowd and fought our way around on a cold, but sunny afternoon. As dreadful as the crying babies in strollers, pickpocket experts at their busiest season, and the kitchy ornaments may be, as soon as we enter the vicinity, the smell of the Christmas pines and that special crisp in the sunny afternoon air so characteristic of the winter always cheer me up.

It seems like the stalls sell the same crap year after year and the same 'hot' spots get hit by different herds of tourists day after day. As we strolled around the old town today, a renewed sense of wonderment came over me. Yes, it has been the same old cathedral for a few centuries already, but its 'face-lift' project has led to the façade to be covered with plastic, contrasting the pointed roofs in the back which still implied its old grandeur and splendor. And this afternoon´s sun had casted a special light over the entire entrance, along with the bustling market. Although probably not what we had imagined to be ´picture perfect´ to have the great cathedral covered in pastic, it is nevertheless, a process which calls for embracing, like a bump in the road which we call life. While Nabí was too shy and embarrassed to be taking any pictures, for the fear that he may be misconstrued as a tourist, I was clicking away left and right. By doing so and ´feeling´ like a tourist, I, once again, rediscovered a city which has now grown familiar and tiresome to me.

Then it dawned on me, what I´ve been searching for all along: the delicate equilibrium between keeping traditions and discovering a renewed sense of awe in familiarity. The traditions don´t change, we do. Isn´t it the foundation which to keep us grounded since invariably, we change year after year? Our experiences bring a new sense to the tradition. The Christmas carols stay the same, at first, we sing them as children, years later, we sing them TO our children, then to our grandchildren. The same melody, but a whole different story behind every year and every generation. The beauty of it is, that we don´t even have to strive to change, it happens whether we like it or not, our constant change is the only constancy in life.

A fruitful and meditative walk, indeed. I thank the noisy children and the pushy parents, the innocent tourists and the haughty towners, for contributing to a virtual mosaic in my memory, not much unlike the stainglass window on the Cathedral.

Capella de Santa Àgata, where I hope to play a solo concert next Spring

advertisement of an exhibition by Santa Àgata

sunny street

grouchy Nabí outside the bakery

´the scene´ at Plaça St. Jaume

bustling Plaça St. Jaume

piano waiting for confession

2 cutties outside the store with products by local nuns neary Sta. Maria del Pi

farmer´s market at Plaça del Pi

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dinner at Andrea's

Someday, I am going to get Andrea to teach me how to make pasta from scratch and the perfect pizza crust, but for now, I have had the immense pleasure of trying his 'stuffed' sardines and the divine pasta sauce with the local shellfish and cherry tomatoes.

It's true, I should have thought about taking some pictures BEFORE we ate all the food, but obviously, when surrounded by the intoxicating mixture of garlic, parsley and parmessano cheese, my mind (and body) was inclined to keep vigilence near the food rather than risking losing my food to the guys.

This is the detective work I did while helping (investigating) Andrea prepare for the feast:

Pasta with Local Shellfish (Galeras) and cherry tomatoes:
Sauce: cut shellfish into 2-inch segments, fry with heated olive oil and crushed garlic. While waiting for the tails to turn into a deep shade of dark pink, half the cherry tomatoes and throw them into the mixture. 'Help' the tomatoes by gently pushing them against the side of the pan until pulpy. Ready in 5 to 8 minutes, add chopped parley and salt before turning off the stove.

'Stuffed' Sardines:
I keep on using quotation marks for the 'stuffed' part because somehow, I feel something that is 'stuffed' has to be 3 dimensional. Andrea's delicious sardines were thoughtfully filleted sardines (done by the maestro himself), and 'topped' with the stuffing, so the end result looks like a thin stack of heaven. After laying the dried and filleted sardines on a covered baking sheet, he smoothed the stuffing on top of each fillet.

The stuffing:
grated parmessano, moist old bread, chopped parsley with half a clove of minced garlic, mix all the ingredients together to a mass of 'dough', divide and spread on top of the fillet.

Since I was overly concerned with the arrival of the actual EATING part, I failed as a journalist as well as a sou-chef to note the important details, such as the amount of time and the degree of the oven. So I will take an educated guess that it should go in around 190 to 200 Celcius for about 10 minutes, or until the topping/stuffing turns golden.

Our friend José, brought over the most wonderful array of desserts to share. I plan to visit this amazing bakery with desserts from 3 Michelin stars restaurants at my earliest opportunity. I believe the bakery is called Dolsos, and is located on Carrer València, for those of you who live in town. There were three types of cakes for all of us (imagine a big smile on my face): tiramisu (but I mean, TIRAMISU, not just some wet, soggy sponge cake that most restaurants call tiramisu), a close version of Sacher, with rasberry filling, and a divine (I should really stop using that word so frequently with food) triple-textured chocolate cake with crystallized hazelnut cream. Thank you, God, and thank you, José!

The happy quintet after three bottles of cava, white AND red wine (and fancy sparkly water for me :)

Andrea, discussing the fine art of brining freshly picked olives from Cadaques

Alfred :) looking and acting much like Mr. Bean

Consequently, Andrea is a double bass player from Nabí´s orchestra, so here is his sleeping beauty, resting peacefully.