Pesto Change-O, Constipado

I’m not a magician. San Geraldo, however, has the ability to magically change (presto change-o) both Spanish and English into languages that are difficult to understand. Today after breakfast, we walked over to Triana’s Public Market to see if we could find a couple of the spices San Geraldo needs to make his Norwegian holiday pastries. We were looking specifically for star anise and bitter orange. We found star anise — the most aromatic star anise, but no bitter orange, which San Geraldo will concoct on his own (since we’re surrounded by trees loaded with bitter oranges).


Mortar and Pesto Pestle
Last year, we bought an enormous, solid marble mortar and pestle, because San Geraldo was sure he would need it for all the traditional Spanish meals he was going to prepare. He’s used it once. So, he was very excited as he held the star anise in his hand and said, “Now I can use my pesto!”


I had a major compliment when we were shopping today. After we found the star anise, San Geraldo walked up to another spice counter and asked the woman (in Spanish) if she spoke English. She said (in Spanish), “Not a word.” I then stepped up and told her that we were looking for dried bitter orange. She said she only had sweet oranges. I explained that we needed it for Norwegian Christmas pastries and she laughed. She then said, “You speak perfect, proper Spanish! Better than I do! Why did you ask if I spoke English?” Flattered, I thanked her and explained, “He cooks. I speak.” I guess my Spanish has improved.

Feeling Constipado
The other morning when we first saw Adela at El Sanedrín, I asked her how she was doing and she surprised me by responding, “Uf. Estoy constipado.” This was a bit more information than I had been prepared for, but then I suspected “constipado” was not the Spanish form of the English “constipated.” Maybe it had to do with having a stuffed up nose instead. I asked her to clarify. Yes, it was a stuffed up nose. Allergies, the weather, perhaps a cold, but not constipation. And she was appalled when I told her that’s what I thought she was talking about. full-voice, across the bar. “Hombre, por favor,” she said. (Man, please.)


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

32 thoughts on “Pesto Change-O, Constipado”

  1. Dear Mitch:
    Spanish can also betray you if you translate things literally. But think about English that is ten times worse…words that have multiple meaning in English. Spanish seldom does so you are relatively safe. Could it be that Spanish is richer than English? I don't know.
    For example: In Spanish when there is a wake we say: "El cadáver fué expuesto en la funeraria" which would translate in English as "the cadaver was exposed in the funeral home" the thought of that is somewhat repugnant…lol.

  2. constipado….I am going to say that all the time now. I can't wait to see my sister face when she asks how I am feeling, if my allergies are acting up….lol 😉

  3. A couple of years back i bought Carlos–born and raised speaking Spanish–a traditional Mexican lava rock mortar and pestle.
    To this day he calls it a mortal and pester.

    1. Bob:
      Carlos and San Geraldo would either have a great time communicating in their own way or they wouldn't have a clue what the other was saying. I love mortal and pester, by the way.

  4. Yo, también, estoy constipada hoy, pero no sabía decirlo en español– entonces, mil gracias, hombre 🙂 (I wonder if one needs to put an upside down 🙂 at the beginning? heh heh )

    Hey, seriously, CONGRATULATIONS on that compliment on your excellent Spanish!! I would love to hear you speak Spanish! You should make a little Christmas-time video with you saying a few things for us. Be sure to include words with "c" and "s", so we can hear that great Castillian pronunciation of those letters 🙂

    1. Judeet:
      Trust me, my Spanish is far from excellent. What I know how to say I say very well, what I DON'T know how to say… well… The woman at the spice shop didn't make me step outside my comfort zone, so the thought I was brilliant! (But I do — usually — get "c," "s," and "z" right.)

      ¡(: I love the idea of an upside down :)!

  5. I have found if you're "constipado" in one way, you're likely "constipado" in the other way…. : ) I second the idea of you posting a Spanish speaking video.

  6. I've been sneezing and snuffling all day… hope I'm not constipado. Be sure to post pictures of San Geraldo's creations when he gets them done. Include the aroma if you can 😉

  7. I love cooking with exotic spices; but they often mean running around town in search of them; and buying a lot only to use a pinch/have the rest sit unused.

    I am already running into Spanish problems not meaning what I want them to do; recently I asked a waitress if she had any eggs, only to have her go into hysterics. I suppose you know what I did wrong.

  8. The jokes write themselves. So I will spare you my feeble attempts. I love my mortar and pestle and use it frequently. I found it in Paris at an Asian grocery. It's heavy and made of granite. Not like the wimpier ones I had acquired previously and never use (because they are wimpy).

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      My new favorite version is Carlos's (see Bob's comment above) "mortal and pester."

      We looked at lots of mortars and pestles and, you're right, many were wimpy. I also don't understand how the charming ceramic ones are expected to survive the pounding they're supposed to take. We spent a small fortune on the one we have (very small fortune). I hope San Geraldo eventually gets some good use of it. If not, it looks very nice on the kitchen counter.

    1. Knatolee:
      I dont' know what kind of gin Paula used, but it's very fragrant. It's amazing how different gins can be (even good gins). The star anise is still beautiful. And San Geraldo found the rye flower he needed to go with it for the recipe. Now, he'd just like a fully functioning kitchen (hot water, dish washer)!

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