Everyone has read The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin by now, right? Did you love it? I loved it. I feel kind of nerdy for loving it, but it was just so accessible and natural and above all, SO easy to relate to and become inspired from (Thanks Gretchin!). I just now pulled it off my “reference/frequently-used books” shelf when I saw that the founder of one of my favorite design blogs, Grace Bonney, of Design Sponge, was interviewed on the Happiness Project webpage. I immediately thought “this woman and I have SO much in common (aside from the fact that she is AMAZINGLY successful, talented, stylish, and creative, and very short)”. When asked about a simple activity that consistently makes her happier, she responded “Sleep. It is the thing in my life that’s most lacking right now, and when I get a decent amount I am a completely different person. I’m happier, more energetic and better able to tackle just about any problem that comes my way. Also, spending time with animals. I’ve always been someone who felt more comfortable around pets than people and spending time with my cats always calms me down and makes me feel at ease. Something about the way they blink slowly instantly relaxes me.” Reading her interview was virtual serendipity for me this morning. Sleep. And animals. (And I learned that Gretchin Rubin is working on another book called Happier at Home coming out in August of 2012. Woohooo!)
(This is Rogelio, my sweet, grey, not-to-be-confused-with-a-mop cat. He is abundantly friendly, vocal and opinionated. He prefers not to use his cat box to go number 2)
What’s a simple activity that consistently makes YOU happier? Do you feel that you are happy most of the time? Take a sec, let your eyes water up, and watch this quick photo video by Gretchin Rubin to remind you about how we really need to appreciate the NOW www.theyearsareshort.com/
(Note: someone needs to start a website/blog about humans that like to give important-sounding human names to their pets, with funny pet pictures)
I’m at one of those points in life when I can feel change coming. Something is rumbling right under my skin. My heart is beating to a new rhythm and a proverbial case of Jimmy Legs has set in. I cannot read or define this new path as of now, but the energy is there.
This change that I refer to makes videos like this bring tears to my eyes…
Here is a fun video about how English sounds to non-English speakers.
Here in Cádiz, the locals have a good time making fun of how the “guiris” (a half-endearing, half-derogatory term for foreign people) sound when they talk. It is not rare to hear “Gwatch E Nay” when a blue-eyed, blond-haired person walks past a group of construction workers, mimicking the sound of “what’s your name” that they have heard over and over. Or to even refer to someone or something foreign as a “Gawtch E Nay”. My husband (who is fluent in English, with a slight British accent, grrr), does an amazing non-English English imitation with lots of -nation, -ization, schwe-, and-then-I-was-like- (influence from his stays with my family in Southern California?), hey-, and shwa-.
Here is another video from the Morancos, two comedian brothers from Sevilla, imitating how American’s speak (and dress, and analyze insects) with their George Evan character and a lice bug, in a skit called Doméstical Geografic: el Piojo.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I LOVE uniforms. I ran upon this project this morning and had an “ah-ha!” moment. I love it! I love this project as much as I love uniforms, and its all about uniforms (and sustainability and helping others!!)!
“Uniform Project was born in May 2009, when one girl pledged to wear a Little Black Dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Designed to also be a fundraiser for the education of underprivileged children in India, the project acquired millions of visitors worldwide and raised over $100k for the cause. U.P. then continued into Year 2 with a monthly series of select Pilots taking on the 1-Dress challenge for causes of their choice. Today, women around the world continue to take on the 1 Dress challenge and wear U.P. LBDs as an expression of socially conscious fashion.”
I feel very strongly about reducing our belongings, taking care of what we have, making conscious purchases and supporting sustainable behavior in all aspects of our lives. That said, I find it difficult to follow this in a coherent, constant manner. I purge my closet, but then “things” somehow creep back in from moments of weakness (I’m a sucker for shopping when traveling, for example…). I get distracted by life. I get lazy or seek convenience (it’s easier to buy imported, non-organic fruits and veggies at the local produce vendor than driving out to a nearby farm). I get suckered in to the occasional new beauty product, chemical-filled sweets, using the car when public transport or the bicycle can be used, or purchasing yet another white tee-shirt. I use disposable diapers. And I feel bad about it. Sigh.
Obviously, I’m having a hard time finding my balance regarding these issues, my uniform that works with my life, my capability to commit to sustainability in as many realms as possible in a realistic manner. When I read about projects like the Uniform Project, I am inspired and become newly excited about executing some of the same principles inside my home, in my life. I also get that sick feeling in my stomach when I turn around from my little desk here and see all the clothes I have. All the things. Where is my coherence (I was just peeking through the Anthropologie website as I thought “I NEED those bright green skinny jeans”…busted!)?
I’ve already talked about how great having a daily uniform feels, about the benefits of purchasing less, and appreciating more what we already own, but also, imagine what a great example this would be for my little girl?
I will leave you with this 1989 Brazilian short film, Ilha das Flores, by Jorge Furtado, that has stuck with me over the years following the path of a tomato from the tomato farm to the dump as a social critique on poverty, highlighting the contrasts of those with purchasing power and those without, and the use-and-toss nature of so many. A writer from www.reverseshot.com, an independently published film journal, writes that ”it distills the logic of exchange in contemporary, capital-driven societies to reveal the nearly perverse economic inequality and social discrimination that forms its backbone” (the rest of the description of the film can be found here).
(The English version of the video)
Last weekend I was in Paris for a blogging-photography-photoshop course given by Bri Emery, from Design Love fest, and photographer Angela Kohler (who shot this fun picture). Just fifteen minutes in THAT room, at THAT studio (Studio Vermes near the Bastille), in THAT city would have been more than enough to make my little new bloggy brain swoon. After two whole days in that location with about 20 other amazing, diverse and inspiring women, led tenderly by Bri and Angela (almost holding our hands at times), not only was my new bloggy brain swooning, but it was about to explode! We learned SO much in our two-day program and quotas of inspiration and excitement about new skills, and being with really artistic, stylish, creative and über talented beings (like photographers Elizabeth and Anne, or NGO founder Sarah with Sanejo, or web designer Emily, to name a few) were matched, eye to eye, with high levels of intimidation to keep this little ol’ blog trudging on. Somehow, signing up for and attending a class like this, with people like them, taking time away from my 11-month-old daughter, my husband, and my real job, makes all of this that much more serious…and therefore threatens to hamper my creative process with attacks of perfectionist daggers and zooming bullets of mediocrity. However! HOWEVER! I, Anna Frandsen, pledge to dredge on with my musings while trying to improve my design, my photos and my content. BlogShop Paris was amazing!
Tomorrow I am leaving for Paris for the weekend! Paris, France…not Perris, California…I’ll be attending a REALLY neat course that I will later tell you all about! I will continue to post everyday, in accordance with my post-a-day challenge, from my little mac book air, in my little wifi-enhanced hotel room, with photos if you’re lucky.
I will give you a hint: I have never traveled with so much technology!
Eating a balanced, healthy breakfast is probably one of the easiest ways to feel better on a daily basis and improve your performance or output throughout your busy days (whether at work, with your family or to pursue recreational activities). After sleep, your body needs nourishment, and before expecting our body vessel to behave properly moving swiftly from one task to another over a span of some 16-18 hours, it needs fuel. Eating a quick bowl of sugary cereal with a giant cup of coffee is like adding water to your gasoline and expecting your car not to notice while cruising at 80 miles an hour on the freeways surrounding Los Angeles. Too much sugar, not enough good fats, too much caffeine, not enough slow-burning carbs, not enough protein…these are obvious recipes for feeling blaaaa some 45 minutes after consumption, not to mention the lack of vitamins and minerals. Where are you 45 minutes after breakfast? And what are you expecting from your body at that point?
Before living in Spain, fat at breakfast meant bacon or fried eggs or butter, all of which were off-limits in my “healthy” diet. I ate oatmeal or homemade yogurt shakes with fresh fruit, or my dad’s famous homemade multi-grain bread with peanut butter. Not bad. However, I still felt hungry or sluggish soon after eating. Since I’ve been here, I’ve found that incorporating good fats and less to no sugar (including that from fruit) makes me feel better for longer in the morning. My all-time favorite is a good, freshly baked “heavy” multi-grain bread (with visible seeds and nuts) topped with olive oil and avocado slices with 6-8 walnut halves on the side and a large half-caffeine soy latte (no sugar). When it’s not avocado season, I have tomato slices. The “good” fats from the olive oil, avocado and the walnuts (and the seeds/nuts in the bread) keep me going for hours and the lack of anything sweet helps me to avoid any sugar cravings later in the day. The slow-burning carbs from the multi-grain bread also propel me through my activities without any glucose peaks and valleys. The walnuts, the seeds and the soy milk provide proteins, and the avocado and the seeds provide essential vitamins and minerals.
I used to fear fat in all its forms, but following Spanish traditions, I’ve learned that olive oil dripping from anything is a good thing (extra virgin please).
What do you have for breakfast? Would you try my breakfast? Does your breakfast make you feel full for various hours after eating it? Do you feel light and energetic and ready to face your day? What do you give your children for breakfast?
With temperatures still soaring at mid-August highs, I feel this post is quite appropriate. When I first moved here to Cádiz, in the year 2001, I had the typical exchange-student-local-foreign-boy romance (sorry Cariño, pero lo tengo que contar). He was oh-so-Spanish, his mother ironed his underpants (not that I really know about this from personal first-person experience, but he told me…and I don’t think he would lie). This boy taught me Spanish, in all its bad-barrio versions, and showed me tenderly through so many painful processes of acquiring a new language and adapting to a new culture. He was too handsome, too romantic, and…well, he was a rock star. Really. Seriously.
So, let’s get to the point. Bathing suits in Spain. When this boy wasn’t too busy rocking out or teaching me Spanish, he had time to meet me one day at the beach, early on in our relationship. I had already been to the beach several times with my fellow exchange students from the University of Washington (think North Face polar fleeces, Asics running shoes as daily footwear, big techy backpacks, granola for snacks, pale skin and healthy, American values). During these previous visits to the amazingly beautiful beaches of Cádiz, my classmates and I had spent good amounts of time strengthening our abdominal muscles as we laughed pretty darn hard about Spanish men in black speedo-like bathing suits. We were not ready for this in our 20-year-old Pacific Northwest minds. We wore baggy garments (even the girls) and bathing suits were large and long for males. The small black underwear-like items were astonishing to us, along with the hair, skin and body type that became visible from lack of coverage.
Today I ran along these same beaches to my routine Tuesday Pilates class at 4 pm and I saw many a man sporting black speedos and I blinked not an eye at said sighting. It doesn’t frighten, surprise or catch me off guard anymore. 8 years is enough to get used to these kinds of foreign nuances. However, as I trotted along the wet sand, I did remember how truly, deeply and darkly frightened I was on that first beach encounter with my rock star Spanish boy…was he going to appear in a black speedo? and what would he look like in it? Would it be small and tight and shiny (albeit ironed, of course!)? Would it have some wild print on it? Leopard skin or the Spanish flag? What would I do? How would I react? How would my classmates react? Would I ever live this down? Would our budding relationship survive such a moment? Would I ever be attracted to him again if he did show up in such clothing? Rock stars, even if Spanish, cannot wear black speedos, right? I felt ridiculous and so shallow, but I was so, so, so scared. It was a make or break moment.
He showed up in trunks. We dated for another year.
I can’t help but include this skit of Will Ferrell from SNL…it’s USA day at the office! Everyone has to wear a small patriotic item! This is similar to what I was fearing…
Tell the truth. Who do you get dressed for in the morning? Your boss? Your partner? The pretty girl (who is always dressed to the nines) at your office? The chance that you might run into an Ex? Your door man? The cute guy at the fish market? What would you wear if you lived in a solitary world where nobody was going to see you except yourself? What would you wear in Spain?
Bear with me here. When you have a baby, whether you like it or not, nursery rhymes and lullabies become a regular part of your daily life. Flies in buttermilk and old women that perhaps might die aside, my task of singing lullabies and nursery rhymes to my daughter has been complicated by adding another language/culture/country to the repertoire. Some of the time I get by with singing songs by Queen or the Red Hot Chili Peppers in funny tones, but sometimes, when the going gets tough, I have to break out the infantile chants of strange fairy tales and long-forgotten customs. And when the going gets really tough (read three pajama changes in one night, leaving the house without a bottle/baby food at feeding time, vaccination-induced fever, etc.), I have to break out the local, Spanish-language tunes…(somehow the Spanish songs have a superior calming effect than the English-language ones…the reason for this is up for grabs? Anyone?)
So I stumble and stutter through them. I’ve done internet searches, I’ve paid close attention to my Suegra (Mother-in-law), my nanny, and the “older” women on the street. I get the tunes, I mix the lyrics, and I throw in some quirky improvisations. And through my research, I am baffled by one song in particular. The CincoLobitos. Five little wolves. Oh yes, five of them. Little, fuzzy wolves with pointy snouts and beady eyes. This song goes with a hand gesture–opening up the five fingers of one hand and moving the wrist as if screwing in a light bulb. The hand gesture is always the same. The lyrics, however, differ greatly from one Spanish person to the next. Here are some of the variations I’ve captured:
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos debajo de la cola. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves, underneath her tail). Weird. No comment.
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos debajo de la alcoba. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves under the bedchamber). I consider myself VERY fluent in Spanish. I even know obsolete terms from past colloquial times including economato and manolete. I know the lyrics to the National Anthem (hehe, little private joke with Spanish people – let’s see who catches this), entire Camilo Sexto songs, random engineering terms, surgical instruments, local sayings, all swear words, the names of all the players of the Spanish soccer team and some aeronautical emergency landing gear vocabulary. I am a professional translator, don’t front. I dream in Spanish, and when I stub my toe, I swear in Spanish. When I have road rage, oh yes, its in Spanish. And….I had to look the word alcoba up. Bedchamber. Hm. This doesn’t make sense.
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos usando la escoba. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves using the broom). Child labor laws? These don’t apply to baby animals? After slavery was abolished, maybe baby wolves were used to complete housework?
Cinco lobitos detras de la loba, cinco lobitos conduciendo un eskoda. (Translation: Five little wolves behind the mama wolf, five little wolves driving a Skoda). Spaniards pronounce any word starting with S as ES, hence Skoda is Eskoda and rhymes with loba. Škoda is actually a Czech car brand…you haven’t heard of them? That answers your questions. Nothing remarkable.
And then there’s Shakira with her she-wolf song (about a she-wolf coming out of a closet and wanting a domesticated he-wolf)….with some very strange choreography and wardrobe action going on…maybe some kind of modern mating call that I don’t understand because I’m already married?
And another version that I think I understand even better about an old woman in a cage:
And finally, sometimes it sounds like:
Cinco globitos detras de la globa, cinco globitos debajo de la alfombra. (Translation: Five little balloons behind the she-balloon, five little balloons underneath the rug).
Note: I will always remember this post as the ink from those five little wolf faces drawn on my fingers has now stained my q, w, a, shift, r and t keys on my keyboard. Collateral damage.
Babies in Spain are F-A-A-A-A-N-C-Y. Girls wear pearls from day one. Boys are dressed in dresses, bows, flowers and ruffles until they’re thirty
years old months old. Clothing is fancy. Strollers are fancy. Crib bedding is fancy. They even wear baby perfume on a daily basis. My baby is half-American (thanks to my XX chromosomes) and she therefore can wear hand-me-down sweats from her American cousin half of the time. And she does. My baby, however, is also half-Spanish (thanks to her father’s XY chromosomes) and she therefore must be fancy at least half of the time (especially when we will be seeing her Spanish grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins or friends with babies around the neighborhood).
Yesterday she attended the 1st-birthday party of her boyfriend, in her fancy birthday party dress (this dress cost as much as an Alexander Wang T tee-shirt, or an entire adult woman outfit from Zara…good thing it was a gift!). In Spain, (maybe in America, too?) groups of siblings wear the same clothing, or at least clothing from the same line. This may make things easy on the parents (go to one store, buy the same outfit in 3 –enter number of children from same family– sizes), but does it affect the individuality of each child?
If you have kids, how do you dress them? How do you shop for them? Do you think their early fashion has any affect on them later? If you have half-nationality children like me, do you feel obligated to dress them per country-of-residence standards?
Crisis de armario. Sigh. Closet crisis. Do you have these? Here’s the situation: you just showered, you have 10 minutes to get out the door (and feed the dog, cat, baby, clean up, dust, write a short autobiography, pick up the cat poop on the floor, do 100 sit-ups, and fix the washing machine), what do you wear and how do you get dressed? When I have crisis de armario, I basically try everything in my entire closet on and proceed to take it off and hang it over my desk chair, forming an Everest-size mountain of sad, limp outfits. Nothing looks right, nothing feels right, huff. Its too hot, I’m too cold. Puff. My blood pressure raises, I start to sweat, and I’m bothered by all the clothing I will have to fold and put back later. Am I totally crazy? Someone out there please tell me this happens to them too. I usually end up in something with birds on it, a bit disheveled, and inevitably late to wherever I’m going (ok, only 2 minutes late, I am a pathologically punctual person).
This is where that uniform would come in SO handy. And if I only had a few garments, that Everest-size mountain of sad clothing would only be a non-intimidating hill, and instead of 2 minutes late, I would be early as usual.
What clothing makes you feel really, really attractive? What clothing makes you feel the best? Is it a great pair of jeans? Is it a low cut top? A hoodie sweatshirt? A fun, frilly, frock? Made-to-kill heels? Do you have crisis de armario like me?
And what do you usually migrate towards and purchase when shopping? Another great pair of jeans? Another low cut top? An outrageous feather boa?
Do you just not care? Do you not go shopping? Do you have any secret shopping resources that you want to share with me?
Ladies Lunch. Lady’s Lunch. It’s just something we do. I’m not going to tell the real story of how the name of this event came about, but me and another persona-sin-patria (aka “expat”) girlfriend get together once a week, sans babies, sans partners, and we have fancy tapas and a drink or two too many, and we talk, like chickens in the coop, for hours. This lunch is as important to my health (albeit with its excessive alcohol and calories, cholesterol and sodium) as any other activity that I intentionally carry out to be “healthy” (insert run, sleep 8 hours, Pilates, brush my teeth 3 times a day, take deep breaths, keep my home clean, fight stress, etc.). I cherish my Ladies Lunch, as I cherish my Lady that I have Lunch with. My husband, el Doctor, is curious and somewhat skeptical about Ladies Lunch. He will never know (he may just think that we get naked at bars or do some other similar inappropriate act). He cannot come. He makes fun of it. Our conversations flit from politics to lip gloss to yoga asanas to diapers to sex and back again. I leave inspired, comforted, sassy, happy, giggly, a little bit tipsy, and feeling understood. We always dress up and put makeup on (well, not always…). We cross our legs and bat our eyelashes at nobody but ourselves. We probably talk too much and too loud about things that are too intimate.
All mothers should find the time and resources, as meager as they may be, to separate a small window of special time with a good friend on a regular basis, without their offspring. And if they don’t currently have that good friend that is a good Ladies Lunch partner, its time to find one. It’s easier than you think. Smile. Open up. Ask where they’re from or how old their child is.
Do you have a weekly girls-only ritual? Are you thinking right now that I’m mean and sexist and a bad mother? (Am I that obvious about my insecurities?) What “rituals” really relax you and make you feel better? Do you NOT do something like a Ladies Lunch because you feel like you don’t have enough time or money or someone to watch your children?
This is it! Here it is! I’m finally revealing the identity of this name that keeps popping up in all my posts! (I think my first sponsor of this blog is going to be….drum roll please….CRUZCAMPO! That would be dangerous). Cruzcampo is a clear Pilsen lager beer from Seville that has somehow infiltrated itself into my life…Here in Southern Spain, it’s part of the culture. This fresh, light beer can be consumed at any time. It is not unusual to see people drinking a small glass (una caña) at 10 o’clock am, or anytime thereafter. My favorite time for a Cruzcampo is at 1 o’clock pm, before lunch, sitting at a little terrace, looking out over the sea, with a few olives. The first sip of that Cruzcampo is indescribable. This beer, when on tap, is served at -2º C (that is COLD and REFRESHING). Spaniards drink Cruzcampo with food, without food, while watching fútbol, while cooking meals for their families, with others, alone, reading the newspaper, in their homes, at bars, in restaurants…
How do you feel about drinking little beers at one o’clock pm? On a workday? With lunch? Do you think Americans have a healthy perspective about alcohol and social drinking? What is your idea of how Europeans drink? Is one beer a day healthy? What about 3?
Nothing like a few poor-quality blackberry camera pictures to portray our experience in the Carrera Nocturna de Sevilla (see previous post). What is the saying? A photo is worth more than 392 words? We did it! We finished the race! 12 k in about 1:15. It was fun, long and warm. People. People everywhere. Funny people. Nice people. Fast people. There was even a man dressed up as a cruzcampo (who completed the 12 k faster than I did…). Only in Spain. There were also two men, dressed up as oxen, pulling a carriage (as per tradition for the Rocio pilgrimage). Very funny.
I love to laugh. I feel like here on planet earth we need more laughing, more good humor. However, and probably due to my love of laughing, I am known to make awkward jokes to random, frequently unknown people. This afternoon, the poor victim was a man who lives in my apartment building. He’s a nice man, but he seems extremely shy. I coincided with him while waiting for the elevator to take us to our respective floors. He was carrying a very, and I mean VERY large black, canvas bag (he is a soccer/football/futbol coach for a third division team). I chuckled and said “ha, lugging the ol’ cadaver around, are you?” (in Spanish: “cargando con el cadavar, no?”). He didn’t laugh. He didn’t chuckle. He didn’t really say anything at all. And the worst part wasn’t his lack of empathy towards my awkward comment, but the fact that we had to climb into a tiny Spanish-size elevator (big enough for 1.5 Americans) and rise 7 floors together. It seemed an eternity. What will I say to him next time I see him?
Do you also make awkward comments or jokes? Have you lived similar, embarrassing experiences? Do you live and elevator-dependent life? Please share!
Tonight is the 23rd Urban Night Race in Seville! Last year 20,000 some crazy people hit the streets and completed the 12 kilometer race that snakes through the city, ending in the Olympic Stadium (I wasn’t one of them, sadly, I was 9 months pregnant!). I did, however, run in 2009 and it was a blast. Doing anything with 20,000 people at the same time (positive things here, people) is energizing and powerful! One, slight, tiny, little problem: I forgot to train. I’ve been running about 12 k per week (in the runner’s world, that is completely wussy), just my little trot along the beach to and fro my pilates classes twice weekly (this, my friends, is major QoL–Quality of Life, and I’ll explain more about this little routine and its benefits in another post). But hey! I’m healthy, and I’m willing! Hace mas el que quiere que el que puede! Olé! (I’ll send a dollar to anyone who can translate that correctly into English).
Have you ever ran any races? Do you run? Do you exercise? Do you run for pleasure in 90º F weather between thousands and thousands of stinky bodies of people you don’t know on purpose?
Also, side note about running in Spain (that I LOVE): beer is an acceptable recovery beverage (like Gatorade, only better!). Hahaha.
It’s finally autumn!! I love autumn! Its decadent, nostalgic and cozy. Yesterday I bought myself new sneakers, as if I were going back to school. It might just be the first year in my 30 years of life that I’m not going back to school. And it feels great. And I still wanted my new autumn sneakers. These are them:
They are the same shoes that Umma Thurman wore in Kill Bill. On her they were sexy and
ass bum-kicking. On me they’re just bright yellow and appropriate for the hundreds of kilometers I walk everyday (part of Spanish life). This glass recycling bin near my apartment building is the same color as my new autumn sneakers!
I’m really (REALLY) into uniforms (as in wearing the same thing, more or less, everyday, having little clothing but feeling well-dressed daily, etc–it’s a work in progress) and these bright yellow kicks will be part of my daily uniform this fall (this is what freelance life brings you to, no pretty Lanvin heels or Chloe boots…).
Do you do any “back to school” shopping for yourself? What about for your kids? Do you do it all at once? Does everything match? Favorite brands? What do you purchase? Do you wear sneakers? Do you become deeply attached to them like me?
(My grandfather, bless his 90 year old pumping heart, has always called this type of shoe “tenny runners”. I got a real “kick” out of that from a very young age. I think of him every time I lace them up.)
(Before reading this post, please listen to this to get you in the mood and actually feel like you’re in my kitchen with me–as if you want to be in the kitchen of some strange girl making fish for lunch…but whatever, just listen!)
As per “Meals and Market Mondays“, here you go!
Red snapper is a tasty, white fish that inhabits the sea waters found right outside my windows, in the Atlantic ocean. Here, it’s a pink, friendly looking fish. I believe its pink because it feeds on mollusks and crustaceans that pass their pink-pigmented somethings onto the red snapper. Somebody back me up here. I am no expert on marine biology.
This meal is VERY easy, pretty quick, and oh-so-healthy. The fish provides us with a great amount of protein without much fat. It is easy to digest and leaves you feeling like white cotton sheets hanging from a clothes line on a Tuscan farm, blowing in the wind. Or, um, something like that.
Today I’m making it with a typical tomato, green pepper and onion salad called picadillo (it’s even yummier with some shrimp cut up into it, but I don’t have any today). Here are the ingredients for the fish and the picadillo:
- One bay leaf.
- Two cloves of garlic, smoooooshed (pop!) and de-skinned (I’m sure there are more eloquent terms, but you understand me).
- Extra virgin olive oil (I use about 1 tablespoon here, eyeballing it).
- A splash of dry white wine.
- Sea salt.
The fish vendor, (see photo–who wouldn’t want to eat lots of fish when this is the man that sells it to you!) de-guts and de-scales my red snapper for me. I really appreciate this as both tasks are pretty gross. When I’m ready to prepare this meal, my fish is gut-free, scale-free and whole, with a large opening along his/her belly where his/her guts used to hang out. I turn my oven on to 200ºC, which is approximately 392ºF. I wash the fish with cold water, especially inside the opening, to make sure there are no more little stragglers (bits of spleen, liver, etc.). I squeeze any extra water off of him/her. I place the fish in a glass, oven-safe dish, large enough to hold the fish without any tail or fin or fish arm parts hanging over any sides. I sprinkle some sea-salt ON the fish (about a teaspoon) and IN the fish, on both sides. I pour the olive oil over the fish (again, both sides). I pour the wine over the fish (ditto on the both sides thing). I place one clove of garlic in the belly opening, and the other I chop up and place on top of the fish (no more both sides action). I place the bay leaf inside the fish’s belly opening.
(my little helper sin pantalones)
When the oven is pre-heated, I place the fish in its dish in the oven. I let it cook for about 30 minutes (until you stick a fork in and see the meat is flakey throughout). Voila! So easy. Facil. Facilísimo.
And, while I’m chip-chop-chopping away, this is my view…
- Two big red, ripe tomatoes (here they ask you at the market what you will be using them for so as to give you the proper kind of tomato…big ones, small ones, red ones, orange ones, rotten ones. We avoid using any names of species or varieties, I will talk more about the intricacies of market communication in another post, quite funny).
- One Italian green pepper.
- One quarter of an onion.
- About one teaspoon of salt.
- About one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
-About 1.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
I chop all three ingredients. I leave the tomato in larger pieces (like the size of a marble) as the green pepper and the onion have stronger flavors. I toss all three ingredients together in a bowl. I then sprinkle the salt on the vegetables and pour both the vinegar and the olive oil over the vegetables. I then move the mixture around a bit with a spoon (don’t move it around too much, it gets bubbly, and that’s not attractive).
(My camera-shy clean-up crew)
As you can see, this meal is almost too simple if it weren’t for the quality and nobility of the ingredients. Yes, nobility. A good fresh fish needs LESS dolling up. And what better than some farm fresh vegetables, their flavors mixing to enhance each other and accompany said noble fish. A complete meal in every sense.
What do you think? Will you try it? Do you make something similar? Do you want the fish vendor’s telephone number so that he can, um, show you how to gut fish?