The Spanish Betty Crocker

Jerry’s sister Linda has taken her share of ridicule over the years for her limited skills in the kitchen.  When her sons were growing up, Linda was known for cooking up a delicious — really delicious — lasagna (which is more than I can do), but that was the extent of her culinary powers.  She couldn’t understand why egg whites and egg yolks needed to be separated if they were just going to get mixed up with everything else in the end.  And it made perfect sense to her to just turn up the oven temperature if she needed something to cook more quickly.  Interestingly, since her sons left home, Linda has actually become a very good cook.  It probably just wasn’t worth the effort with two growing boys who inhaled four boxes of cereal at a sitting.  In fact, many of the meals Jerry served up in recent years were recipes taken from Linda’s kitchen.  But, the joke has lingered.

“BETTY” NOW AND IN 1936.
LINDA WOULD BE A MUCH BETTER MODEL.

Over the years, Linda began to refer to herself as Betty Crocker (cultural icon, as well as brand name of mega food corporation General Mills). Betty Crocker was not a real person.  She was created by the Washburn Crosby Company in 1921.  The name “Betty” was selected because it was considered cheery and all-American.  The name Crocker was the last name of the director of the company.

In the 1990s, our cousins Inger and Jan Olaf, and their three kids flew from Bergen, Norway to spend some time with us in San Francisco.  Linda and Tom flew out for a brief visit.  Inger is an exceptionally talented and trained cook and baker, and she was interested in American cooking.  Linda was happy to remind Inger every chance she got that she, Linda, was Betty Crocker. One day Inger said, “But I would love to know what the real Betty Crocker looks like.” Linda helpfully framed her own face in her open hands and said, “See?”

Inger has now taken to calling herself the Norwegian Betty Crocker and I think it’s time for Jerry to claim Spain as his own.

BREAKFAST

The point of this entire story is that I am well fed, whether in Norway, the United States, or Spain.  This morning,
we could not supplement our standard Greek yogurt and fruit with
tostadas from El Sanedrín, because it’s Sunday in Sevilla and therefore
no place in the neighborhood serves breakfast — if they open early
enough or at all to even serve a cup of coffee.  So, Jerry said he would
“make us some eggs.”

BASQUE SCRAMBLED EGGS.

 
After completing the crossword puzzle, I headed into the kitchen to see how Jerry was doing with our eggs.  I should have known after all these years that when Jerry says he’ll make us some “eggs,” I will not be presented with a simple scramble and a slice of buttered toast.  (Read my post about the “eggs” Jerry threw together in July at my mother’s house if you’d like to get up to speed.)  And yet he still surprises me.  Gorgeous and fragrant chorizos were in a pan.  A bowl was filled with a mixture of chopped green and red peppers, onion, and tomatoes.  There was a beautiful slab of country-style bread sitting on a cutting board.  Oh, yes, there was in fact a large bowl of eggs and a sinkful of egg shells. Jerry had cooked us up “Basque Scrambled Eggs” from his newest cookbook purchased just last week, “A Passion for Tapas.”

DINNER

Last night, my resident chef used his new cookbook to serve up an amazing dinner.  The main course was Chicken with Raisins and Pine Kernels (red wine vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, lemon rind, raisins, chicken breasts, olive oil — Spanish of course and two different kinds, garlic, pine nuts, parsley). 

CHICKEN WITH RAISINS AND PINE KERNELS

The side dish was Broad Beans with Ham (broad beans, olive oil, red onion, Serrano ham, parsley).

BROAD BEANS WITH HAM.

Just so you know how unlike Betty Crocker I am, I just read the chicken recipe
and when I hit the instruction, “turn the salad into a serving dish,” I
thought it was a magic trick… or a miracle (like turning water into
wine, or fish into loaves of bread).

Then again, if I were running the kitchen, turning uncooked food into something cooked and edible would in fact be a miracle.

Olga Chickaboomskya, Prima Ballerina

I have been surprised to see Spanish TV ads (not many) for Halloween and also some stores in Sevilla carrying costumes and decorations.  I don’t know if kids actually go around trick-or-treating, but I guess we’d better buy a bag of our favorite candy just in case.  If no one shows up, we’ll just finish it all ourselves (we’ve done it before and, although it’s a hardship, we will do it again if we have to).

When we lived in Connecticut, Jerry and I were invited to a costume-required Halloween party.  Poor Jerry loves costume parties.  I say “Poor Jerry,” because he’s married to someone who does not share his love for costume parties.  I tried — a little — that one time.  I had found a devilish Venetian mask years before and decided to take it off the shelf and build a costume around it.

Jerry is a huge fan (as am I) of the Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a brilliantly talented and hilarious all-male ballet troupe that dresses in drag and performs and parodies the ballet classics.  We have seen them perform several times.  Inspired by Les Trocks, Jerry decided to go to the party as Olga Chickaboomskya, retired Russian prima ballerina.

One day Jerry left his office at Yale University, wearing a very serious gray suit and very serious silk tie, and headed over to the very serious dance supply store.  He said to the three women who worked there, “OK, you have one hour to make me look like a prima ballerina.”  I’m sure this was a first in 1980s New Haven.  The women immediately loved him.

APPLYING THE LEE PRESS-ON NAILS.
JERRY STILL DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SIT LIKE A LADY.

They started with the tights.  They actually had his size — well close.  The leotard was, amazingly, no problem.  And the largest tulle tutu just fit around his waist.  The ballet slippers were a challenge.  Jerry wore a size 13; the slippers only went up to 12.  But he figured he wasn’t really going to dance and he wouldn’t be on his feet very long, so he would manage.  He finished with a feather boa.

WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO? SHOOT THE SWAN? THIS LOVELY? MY SWAN?

At K-Mart in our little town of Guilford, Jerry found $1 clip-on earrings with giant “rubies.” He bought Lee Press-On Nails.  Jerry has the biggest hands I have ever seen.  The fake nails didn’t completely cover as intended, so he had this odd little colored piece of plastic centered on each of his own nails.  He found a turban and a huge “diamond” broach he could pin to the front.  A friend loaned him a large Russian-looking cape.  When he returned from K-Mart, he tried on the clip-on earrings and one of the clips immediately broke.  He went right back to K-Mart and explained that the earring broke the very first time he put it on.  (The man has no shame.)  They gave him a replacement pair.

NOT READY TO LEAVE MY COMFORT ZONE.

The fun truly began (well, and ended) when we got ready for the party.  Our friends Cesar and Daisy, who were not going to the party, came over.  Daisy was our designated make-up artist.

YES, I TRULY FELT I WAS FINALLY IN HELL.

We set up a stool in the kitchen and Daisy went to work.

Cesar and I stood off to the side.  Daisy worked for a long time.

“Daisy, put more color on his eyes,” we coached.

A few minutes later, “Put more color on his eyes, Daisy.”

“I did!”

“Daisy, it’s not enough.”

“Close your eyes,” she ordered as she slapped Jerry on the shoulder.

Jerry did so and we saw vivid, sky blue upper lids.

“Now open them.”

He did so and we saw no color at all.

She complained, “His eyes are so damned deep-set, you can’t even see the make-up!”

“Spread it outside and above his eye lids,” we instructed. “Make it really obvious.”

“But that would be tacky,” she said… and then burst out laughing at the inanity of that statement.

She slathered on more and more of her expensive make-up — heavy lipstick, a beauty mark, heavy blush.  None of it was really easy to see.  I knew Jerry was a hunk, but I had never appreciated how heavily masculine his features were.  There was nothing pretty about him (well, except that the blue eye shadow really brought out his sky-blue eyes).

SEE HOW THE MAKE-UP BROUGHT OUT HIS BLUE EYES?
THE LORD OF DARKNESS LOOKS LIKE A DEER CAUGHT IN HEADLIGHTS.

But he stood, posed, and the vision was complete.

OLGA DIDN’T YET KNOW SHE WAS DRIVING.

I was so uncomfortable being in costume that I wouldn’t even drive the 15 minutes into New Haven.  I made Olga get behind the wheel.  He had to shift gears while being careful not to knock off a Lee Press-On nail.  The party was a bit of a bust.  Jerry eventually removed his ballet slippers; it took 10 minutes for his toes to unbend.  He spent much of the remainder of the evening complaining that he couldn’t wait to get out of “these damned panty hose.”

I FORGOT TO INCLUDE THIS SHOT IN THE ORIGINAL POST.

I wished we had stayed home with Cesar and Daisy.  Maybe the whole thing would have been more fun had I had a better attitude.  But I don’t think so.

I am so glad no one has invited us to a costume party this year.

An American Meal in a Spanish Kitchen

Jerry has been cooking dinner a bit more often lately.  So, no longer is every one of our meals in Sevilla enjoyed in a restaurant — although, on another recommendation from Ricardo, owner of our electronics and appliance store Casa de las Planchas (House of the Irons), we did have an excellent tapas lunch yesterday at Mesón Olalla in Plaza de la Encarnación.

One of my favorite meals that Jerry used to cook in California was Cinnamon Apple Pork Tenderloin.  Jerry discovered the recipe when he was about to prepare dinner one night in Irvine and I offered to run to the store to pick up some things.  He gave me the list, which included some cut of pork or another and I returned home with a beautiful pork tenderloin.  That was not what Jerry had in mind but, undaunted, he went online and found this pork tenderloin recipe on About.com.  We loved it so much it became one of Jerry’s standards.

The other night, Jerry decided to produce the same meal here.  He couldn’t find pork tenderloin and he forgot to buy cinnamon.  So, he improvised.

I feel obligated to comment on improvisational cooking.  It is something I cannot do.  If I were again to prepare Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and someone instructed me…

In your microwaveable dish, add 1-1/3 cups hot water.
Pour the pasta
from the box into the hot water
(be sure to remove the packet of cheese
sauce first).
Stir the pasta and put the uncovered dish in the
microwave oven.
Cook for 7–9 minutes on HIGH.
You must stir the pasta
every 1–2 minutes so it doesn’t stick together.
It has cooked long enough when there is no
longer water in the dish.
Make sure to check it often, and do not
overcook.

… that is precisely what I would do (although I would have no idea how to know if it was being overcooked until it was in fact overcooked).

But, back to Jerry, someone who can safely improvise in the kitchen. As a side dish for the excellent pork, apples, and raisins, he included another old standby, sauteed cabbage.  And he added a new dish (for us), spinach with raisins and pine nuts.  ¡Increible!

THE RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries or raisins

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the pork tenderloin in a roasting pan or
casserole dish.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir. Spoon the apple
mixture around the pork tenderloin. Cover and bake 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and spoon the apple mixture over the tenderloin.
Return to the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until pork tenderloin is
browned and cooked through. A meat thermometer in the center should register at least 150° to 160°.
Serves 4.

Parking, Snacks, and Kisses

KISSING, CHEEK TO CHEEK
Now that we live in Sevilla, we have learned that the appropriate greeting and farewell to friends (and sometimes acquaintances) is a kiss in the direction of a check.  Not just one cheek.  Both.  When Jerry said good-bye to Margarita Saturday afternoon, he gave her Spanish kisses with a bit of a flourish.  Margarita laughed (we seem to have that effect on her) and looked at me and said.  “He’s so snobby!”

We realized we had yet another thing to learn, so asked why his kisses defined him as snobby, and she explained that he didn’t even touch her.  His face was somewhere to the right and left of hers as he noisily kissed the air.

So, Jerry tried again.  He held Margarita’s shoulders and planted a kiss on each cheek.  She laughed again.

“Well,” she said, “That was like you were kissing granny! Come on, Jerry, somewhere in the middle!”

She explained that one SHOULD touch cheeks, but one should NOT touch lips to cheeks.  If you don’t touch cheeks, you’re being a snob.  If you touch lips to cheeks, you’re kissing grandma. 

Jerry gave it another try and was told he had perfected his Sevillano cheek-to-cheek air kiss.

PARKING, CHEEK TO CHEEK
We took a walk this afternoon in the beautiful sunshine and continuing heat.  Granted, it is no longer 40C (104F).  But 31C (88F) is still a bit too hot for hours of walking in the city… especially if you’re Jerry.  I must make it clear, however, that we are not complaining (much).  This is a lot better than raw winds, incessant rain, or snow. 

TODAY’S TREAT.  HEAVEN FOR ME (HELL FOR JERRY).

We stopped for tapasitas (not a meal, just a snack) at what turned out to be a low-end restaurant.  The food was nothing to write home (or here) about.  Except for the olives.  I love olives.  Jerry does not.

CALLE SOL (SUN STREET) AS IT MEETS PLAZA SAN ROMAN.

After our tapasitas, while on our walk down one of Sevilla’s charming streets, Calle Sol, we passed a temporarily parked car.  The picture says it all.

KISSING THE WALL.  SEVILLANO STYLE.

I Was Born Glamorous

GLAMOROUS AND ALREADY BORED WITH IT ALL.

Another beautiful Saturday in Sevilla.  And our first Saturday as legal residents. 

We rolled out of bed around 9:30, had our first breakfast of Greek yogurt and fruit and then went downstairs to El Sanedrín for our second breakfast of tostadas and café con leche.  I had my half tostada with ham, olive oil, and tomato.  Jerry had his whole tostada with butter and marmalade.  De siempre.  As always. 

While we sat and enjoyed another perfect, sunny morning in Sevilla, Margarita called.  I told her where we were and she joined us about 10 minutes later.  Jerry and I were already having a pleasant morning.  But, seeing Margarita as she headed across the plaza made the sun shine even brighter.

Margarita has lived in many countries.  She travels as often as she can and is enlightened, interested and interesting, funny, kind, charming, well-mannered, free-thinking, independent, and stylish. I think Jerry and I should start a fan club.

ARRIVING.  ON THE PHONE WITH MOM.

We sat and talked for two hours about politics, language, dialects, slang, culture, religion, prejudice, family, roots, tradition.  We laughed often.  If only the world were filled with Margaritas (and her namesake drinks aren’t bad either).

Jerry and I had gone downstairs in the cool of the late morning.  I wore jeans and an old cotton sweater, which became much too warm as the plaza heated up. 

As we sat and talked, I realized that not only was I feeling uncomfortably warm, but I also hadn’t showered or shaved.  I suddenly felt like a slob.  I apologized to Margarita for my appearance.  Her response as she looked me up and down?  “You?  You were born glamorous!”

Another reason to love Margarita.