The next morning, I set out to continue working on my journalism report on the nuns of Zaragoza, this time visiting the Missionaries of the Eucharist, who live in a small monastery attached to a church next to Pilar.
What a history (deserving of another post, although if I’m lazy I might just copy and paste from my journalism article, which is in Spanish, so I’m not sure how the comprehension on your end will go)! In any case, I left after a wonderful interview, and headed to the center to mail my letter and see if my friends had finished the SAT yet. They hadn’t, and I headed back home for lunch and to work on some homework. Around 6, I went to my trademark haunt, the bank-run fair trade café about 5 minutes from my house, to Skype with my parents.
There is always background music playing in the café, but today there was a documentary projected onto a screen I’d never noticed before. It was about 4 years old and covered the American involvement in Iraq…very interesting to see it from a foreign point of view. I bantered a bit with the man behind the counter: “Soy estadounidense,” I told him, “y me encanta mi país. Pero por supuesto hay algunas cosas con las que no estoy de acuerdo. Pero me gusta muchísimo.” He laughed.
As usual, my computer died, but I had brought some homework to put in time out of the house.
Upon arriving home, I called a few friends to try to set up a nighttime coffee soiree – with success. We agreed to meet after dinner. My host mother was still captivated by my potato of the night anterior, so I made the sauce and enjoyed the Canarian dish yet again (not at all bothered – I’ve already decided to add this to my imaginary café menu of the future).
Our coffee meeting ended up turning into a chocolate-and-churros meeting, but lots of fun all the same. We chatted about topics from the SAT to Atlas Shrugged (which inevitably involves economics, love, and how we imagine Hank and Dagny and John Galt), our host families (mostly complaining that they wouldn’t let us have more than one or two friends over at a time when they are home, despite the fact that we know it isn’t what Spaniards do: when they want to spend time together, they don’t get together and cook or watch a movie while sitting on the couch, they go out to a café or the cinema), the quality of the churros (not overly impressive), and my new purple and green plaid shirt (true to my only-used-as-a-joke-nickname which comes from the plum-tree man in Candy Land).
I arrived home right before our midnight curfew (which may be moved to 1:30 in the near future…) and slept well to prepare for my weekly host mother outing the next day: bicis.
After finishing up the roscos for breakfast, we drove out to my host aunt and uncles apartment, where the bicycles are stored. We took about an hour’s ride around the Parque de Agua, designed as part of the 2008 Expo, down to the river, and back up to the apartment again, arriving home in time to prepare not only lunch but a loaf of zucchini bread – we were having guests for coffee, and I wanted to prepare something unique for them.
After my host mother recovered from the fact that I was using zucchini in a sweet quick bread, she had another shock when I measured out the chocolate chips. “They come already cut up?!!” she exclaimed.
That’s right. Carmen had never seen or used chocolate chips before. I’m sure she has eaten things containing with them, but surely she hadn’t seen a bag like those that are a staple in my house in the states (we keep at least two bags of Trader Joes’ Semi- or Bittersweet Chips on hand, always). There is some sort of problem with her oven, so even though the top was cooked, I discovered when the bread collapsed that the bottom was not (but I did the toothpick test!). I quickly put the pans back into the oven to try to redeem what I could, and after another half hour of baking at a higher temperature, the bottoms were no longer raw and we could serve the cake to our guests, two former medical students who had interned under Carmen.
Chocolate chips were also new to them. “How did you get the chocolate all throughout the cake like this?!” one exclaimed. Not quite sure what she was asking, I explained that I mixed in the chocolate chips before baking the batter…but Carmen intervened and explained that the chocolate came already in small pieces.
Now, I am equally ignorant when it comes to the employment of pine nuts in pastries…but I never imagined I’d encounter the scarcity of chocolate chips as a major cultural difference!