Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

Figueruelas: My European Debut February 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 9:57 am

The Siervas de María convent is located in this unassuming little church on one of Zaragoza’s busiest commercial streets!

A wonderful weekend started, like all weekends, on Friday, when I met up with Jenny and caught the bus to Miralbueno for our weekly gastronomical adventure, vegetarian cooking class. This week we made a garbanzo and spinach soup (it lacked a bit of flavor, but that is easily modified), champiñones a la plancha in parsley-garlic oil, and artichokes dipped in a velouté (like a bechamel but with broth as its liquid base) then breaded and fried. After the class I went to the tiny Filmoteca to see a Woody Allen movie, Hannah and Her Sisters. The small independent and cheap movie theater that plays almost exclusively American oldies and foreign films from the 80s is located about 3 minutes from my house and is running a Woody Allen cycle – what luck! I went alone, of course, because although I have lots of friends, none of them really want to see a movie from the 80s by Woody Allen with me.
Saturday morning was lovely – I met up with a friend under a perfectly blue sky and went to the Pablo Gargallo Museum, which features a great collection of the Aragonés artist’s sculptures, to look and to sketch.
My host aunt, uncle, and 2-year-old cousin were visiting this weekend to celebrate my host grandfather’s 82nd birthday, so we had a family lunch of huge proportions but with very good food and relative peace. I also met for the first time my host mother’s twin sister, who is building a large house near Madrid. Dinner was also a lovely gastronomical experience – after a bit of shopping, a couple friends and I picked up broccoli, peppers, and Spanish big flat green beans to make a stir-fry and curried rice. Delicious!
Sunday was another jam-packed day: I went back to one of the monasteries I visited to photograph the nuns (and they remembered me!), walked back home to another huge family lunch (this time with brazo de gitano, literally “Gypsy’s arm”, as my special vegetarian main course: thin cake rolled around a vegetable/mayonnaise filling…I still don’t like mayonnaise, but I eat it if I have to!), then I had to go to my violin concert!!! I’m playing with a mutli-aged, multi-level-of-talent group at the Escuela Popular de Música, the music school were I take lessons. We performed in a benefit concert for Haiti in Figueruelas, a small town 30 km from Zaragoza. It was a wonderful 5 hour ordeal…Jorge, aka “George”, a flautist who loves American oldies and sings them in English while driving, picked up myself, a pretty saxophonist, and another violinist. We met up with Figueruela’s informal group and practiced all together for the first time, and then loitered around the snack table before the concert began (food before playing didn’t seem like a good idea to me, nor did the abundance of alcohol there, but that’s Spain for you). The concert was opened by a great Spanish guitar group, and then the Figueruelas band alone, and then us! Playing so much at Deerfield has completely conditioned me to being in front of an audience and I wasn’t nervous at all. And nothing compares to hearing a crowd (well, the sparse audience in the little civic center) applauding you! I was in ecstasy to be performing again – I’d missed being on a stage!!! Our repertoire was exclusively popular – a few American blues and rock pieces like “Let it Be”, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, and “Go West”, and our best and most astonishing piece, “Pirates of the Caribbean”. What fun!! I only hope the audience enjoyed it as much as I did.
Last night, the school had a talent show in the basement of a local bar, la Campana de los Perdidos. The whitewashed brick walls and low arches supporting the ceiling created a great ambiance and all the student performers were wonderful – either hilarious on purpose or actually really talented. Seeing as all my violin music was for a group, I didn’t perform…but since my “talent” is baking, I decided to make mini-muffins for the whole school! After a meeting that didn’t get out until 6:15, and buying a kilo of strawberries, I didn’t end up getting home until 7 – and the show started at 8! However, I managed to crank out exactly 60 mini strawberry-chocolate muffins (I’ll post the recipe if you’d like), and they were a bit hit. Judged on the batter that stuck to the sides of the bowl, they were delicious. 🙂

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