Poetry, Carnaval and Saffron

Spain and all things Spanish (except for the bull fights) have always fascinated me. I’ve tried to figure out why off and on over the years, but the reasons have proved elusive. This love affair seems to have started in college when I was assistant stage manager and wardrobe mistress for a production of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. I reveled in the alien culture, watching the rigid code of honor in Andalusian society lead inexorably to the downfall of the major characters. Lorca weaves into his tale (based on a true story of a bride who elopes with a married man on her wedding day) with the stylistic twists of flamenco dancing and gives full rein to the poetry for which he became more famous. Elements of surrealism lend an other-worldly quality to this otherwise pretty bleak and gruesome tale.

A few years later I encountered the warm notes of the Maja line of toiletries. Body wash, lotion, and eau de toilette exude a combination of cinnamon and earth tones. Maja appeals to me because it is not the least bit sweet. I see fall colors – reds, yellow, gold when I smell it. I like the scent of the Magno line, too, but black soap is a bit creepy.

As for the food, tapas seem the perfect way to eat. Lots of little plates of shrimp or other seafood, marinated olives or onions, mushrooms, almonds, eggs in various forms, potatoes, cheese – and for those who eat such things, ham and little slices of sausage. Of course one must accompany tapas with a glass of sherry, or sangria in the hot weather. My friend Maria made the best white sangria last summer. I’ll see if I can get the recipe from her for the spring.

Paella is my favorite Spanish dish, though I prefer the Americanized version of jambalaya with its flavors from Africa, France, and Louisiana.

All of this wonderful stuff comes together at La Tienda. It’s set up to sell products, but each month Tienda owner Don Harris writes a marvelous essay about some aspect of Spanish life and culture in which he captures the old Spain and lards it with a bit about the new. This month he featured the celebration of Carnavál in Cádiz  where the men spoof current events, sort of New Orleans crewes without the bare chests and bead-tossing along the parade route. February’s essay, “Supporting Local Artisans,” showcased Andalusia where Harris finds olives, almonds, cookies and saffron, which sells for $15 for 0.035 ounces!

Now if I could just teach myself Spanish without having French come out of my mouth every time I try to speak!


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