Amanda Bennett: A Year in Zaragoza, Spain

A Weekend in Zaragoza, Home Sweet Home March 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — psychohistoria @ 7:51 am

Nurturing vain fantasies of an audience waiting on the edge of their seats for each blog entry, I will apologize for being absent these last couple of days. I didn’t do anything particularly exciting or interesting this weekend, but I did manage to keep myself busy here in Zaragoza.

On Friday, I had my busy afternoon of usual: practice violin (since the school is closed on the weekends, Friday is my last day of the week to get some rehearsal in) and then off to my vegetarian cooking class in Miralbueno. This week we made two sweet-tooth-soothing recipes, donuts (or, as the Spanish say, doe-nuutes) and a coconut mold with strawberry sauce. We used agar-agar, a gelatinizing agent made from seaweed, to make the coconut mold hold its shape. Although I’ve encountered agar-agar before, I was always too skeptical of, first, my cooking skills and second, its gelatinous properties to try it. However, the dessert came out wonderfully delicious, as did the yeast-risen donuts.

Class went late as usual and I arrived back in the Centro around 9:30, with just a few minutes to run home and drop off the donuts I’d brought home before meeting a friend to go see a Woody Allen movie at the Filmoteca. The movie, “Deconstructing Harry”, is one of the best ones I’ve seen yet, and made even better by the fact that this time I had accompaniment. Neither of us had eaten a real dinner, so after the projection we went for tapas – and yes, you can eat dinner at 11:30 at night here in Spain. We found two lovely little places chock full of ambiance, with posters of old Spanish advertisements with the stereotypical dark and mysterious Andalusian flamenco-dancing beauty and even a torero costume adorning the walls. Sitting at a high round wooden table, we enjoyed spinach-, pine nut-, and raisin- stuffed almond pastry, and then moved to another little gem of a place with similarly Spanish décor. My next delight was a mini-portion of seta (a type of mushroom) risotto…one of my new favorite foods in its creamy, tangy goodness. I had to pick out a couple of bits of jamón – I would have guessed that mushroom risotto would be vegetarian, but one never knows in Spain! – but that didn’t diminish the deliciousness of the tapa. Earlier in the day I had bought some chocolate with pumpkin seeds and vanilla from a creative candy shop near my house, which we enjoyed for dessert…and I arrived home right before our 1:30 curfew.

On Saturday morning I went to visit a nun who I interviewed way back for my school newspaper article to take a photo to adorn the page. Before the evening I also managed to skype with my parents, sister, and best friend – a grand achievement considering the various time differences involved! I had another night of tapas to look forward too – seeing as I was staying in Zaragoza, I wanted to explore its gastronomical scene to the fullest. I’ll save you the mouthwatering list of tapas, involving cream-cheese stuffed deep-fried artichokes and baguette with a slice of cheese and raspberry jam, and jump to the best discovery of the night: Meli Melo, an award-winning tapas bar right on my street. I dug into a huge slice of goat cheese encrusted with crisp onions and sunflower seeds, served with a sweet fruit sauce and wine reduction; I cannot put into words the scrumptiousness. My friend ordered a ración of papas bravas, or potatoes served in a delicious, slightly-spicy cream sauce, which she proceeded to share – and I promise you that these were the best papas bravas I’ve yet had! We also stopped at a famous and long-standing sweets shop on my street, where I enjoyed a pastry with nuts, honey, and raisins…a nice sweet break between two goat-cheese tapas.

On Sunday I met up with the 7 other students who leave for Lyon, France on Wednesday for SYA’s Europe Conference. 8 students from each of the European sites – including me! – are gathering in the central location of Lyon for a conference on historical memory. We have been studying Francisco Franco’s 40-year fascist regime and its effects, and will discuss and compare Spain’s fascist era to the shorter but similar fascist moments in France’s and Italy’s histories. We also surveyed almost 100 Spaniards to find the public opinion regarding fascism, political legitimacy, and historical memory. I don’t think I’m allowed to publish any results since I collected a couple of them on a renfe train (haha…but seriously, they would hunt me down!), but I will say that some were interesting and even surprising.

In any case, I am off to France from Wednesday to Sunday, and probably will be too busy making friends, learning French, and talking history to post. Au revoir and hasta la vista!

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