What is fudge?
Oct 26th, 2011 by

How do you describe fudge? Yes, I do mean the ultra-sweet confection that sometimes has chocolate in it or sometimes has nuts or marshmellows or maple syrup. What is the texture of fudge? Sort of grainy but also silky smooth, soft but not too soft. Should it be firm or chewy or crumbly? Why is fudge so different from fudge sauce? Shouldn’t they be similar? How do you explain fudge to somebody who has never had it? In a country where you haven’t seen anything similar? How do you describe food without reference points? It’s like describing a dish as tasting like chicken to somebody who has been vegetarian their whole life, something is lost in the translation.

This situation actually occurred in class the other day, during a conversation on caramels, my professor brought up fudge as an example of a crystallized confection, but then left the explanation of what fudge is to me as the token American. I was stumped. Not only was my vocabulary for the exercise lacking, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what makes fudge, fudge. It just is fudge. Of course this lack of words doesn’t mean that I don’t distinguish good from inferior fudge. Eventually it was decided that I should just make some over the weekend and bring it in so that I could stop rambling in broken Spanish and my follow students could decide for themselves what fudge means for themselves.

Life here isn’t really that hard: we eat many of the same foods and the kitchen staples are very similar; still regional specialties are very intriguing.  I find it fascinating, how even simple conversations with my German roommate about how we eat oatmeal or what our families eat at holidays can morph into larger discussions that show the disparities between our food traditions. Or for another example, in class the other day I was informed that one of the defining characteristics of brownies is the walnuts, and that blondies are brownies made with white chocolate instead of dark. As far as my sense of Americana goes these statements are factually untrue. I mean I know some Americans do like to ruin a perfectly good brownie with walnuts but the walnuts are not what makes it a brownie. I love American food and especially old-fashioned American desserts. These are the foods about which I am culturally aware, but there are so many amazing regional foods of which I know nothing, like my roommate’s beloved chocolate kuchen or Spanish paella. It is to expand my cultural horizons that I am in Spain. There is a whole world of old-fashioned European desserts to be explored and disseminated, and I am very excited to learn about them.

So what is fudge? I believe it is an American confection made with crystallized, cooked sugar and usually chocolate or some other thick substance that provides body and texture. However, when I brought my fudge to class the instructor commented that it was not grainy enough to be fudge. Why would I want grainy fudge?

Columbus Day
Oct 16th, 2011 by

For reasons I have yet to fully comprehend Barcelona loves Christopher Columbus. We even have our own monument that was erected to commemorate the spot where Columbus reported to Queen Isabella after his first trip to the Americas. While no doubt a feat, I’m just not sure why this deserves a two hundred foot monument of Columbus pointing west instead of east. (It does make more practical sense though as he is pointing at the water.)

(Picture stolen without permission from Wikipedia because my pictures didn’t come out as nicely)

This past Wednesday was Columbus Day here just as it was in the States, except here everything closes. It’s a complete national holiday and apparently most people go to the beach. Therefore, I was also looking forward to some beach time after a productive and virtuous morning of studying; however,  as I was getting ready for bed Tuesday night my roommate, Carolin, asked me if I wanted to accompany her and some of her German friends on a morning walk to Montjuic which is a lovely park near our house with amazing views of the ocean and the city. That sounded really nice especially since I’ve been trying to find more ways to meet people here who aren’t in class with me. So, I agreed and was ready to go at 9 the next morning. I was a little confused when Carolin asked me if I had my metro card, but I figured the plans had changed and we were going to Tibidabo which is a lovely place for a stroll and is a short metro ride away. I guess I should have maybe asked Carolin where we were going, but I just wasn’t quite ready to handle Spanish that morning. Therefore, I was again surprised when we got out of the subway and were picked up by her friends in a rental car. At this point I gave up on my virtuous plans of studying and decided to enjoy the day. It was, however, not the peaceful park stroll I was expecting as we were actually bound for Montserrat, a beautiful mountain formation that translates to “serrated mountain.” Which is exactly what it looks like.

We parked at the base, near from where the Funicular leaves, and walked to the highest point called Saint Jeroni. We spent an hour at the top eating a much deserved lunch. photo courtesy of Carolin

Glistening on the top of Sant Jeroni.

Beautiful view

We took the longer panoramic way down and stopped briefly to check out the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat.

photo courtesy of Carolin

Seven hours later we made it back to the car, exhausted and exhilarated. We may not have “discovered” a new world but we certainly enjoyed this one. Happy Columbus Day!!

My new apartment
Oct 7th, 2011 by

After much angst and heartache, I managed to secure a very nice room in an apartment with two Argentinean guys and the German girlfriend of one of them. The process of finding a room in somebody else’s apartment is much like getting a job; there are interviews and résumé tweakings.  There are exaggerations and the nervous waiting period before you find out if your application will be accepted. In my case there was also a number of disappointments when deals were cancelled at the last minute and things didn’t go according to plan. It all took weeks longer than I thought it should have, but it all worked out very well. I really like my new roommates and the room is far more lovely than many I viewed. I only wish it were a little closer to my school, but that will be solved very shortly when I acquire a bicycle.

My apartment building is marked by the the red arrow  with some of Barcelona behind it. The population of Barcelona (1.6 million) is about the same as Manhattan’s but spread out over 1.5 times the land (39 square miles). However, the suburbs of Barcelona spread out to the size of all of New York City (310  sq miles) and contain 5 million people to NYC”s 8 million.

This is the living room with a small balcony off the end. The closed door leads to my bedroom and behind me is a small hallway that leads to the kitchen and the apartment door.

This is the kitchen. It is pretty small but functional except that the sink in the corner underneath cabinets is not ideal for somebody my height.

My room with my lovely huge window. Luckily for me pretty much every room in Barcelona comes prefurnished.

The view from my window. Last weekend there was a concert and skateboard competition in the square below.

If you stick your head out the window and zoom out all the way with your fancy new camera you sort of see the ocean from my window.

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