The Idiot’s Guide to the Supermercado

Jerry hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. Thankfully, he’s much better today.  There’s a stomach bug going around and he appears to have had it. Among Jerry’s many strengths and assets, the ability to cope with illness and/or injury (however minor) is not one. And he sees no point in suffering if he has to do it silently. Some years ago, Jerry had a very clever doctor who told him he had a catastrophic imagination. But, like everything else to do with Jerry, he can laugh at himself.  Maybe not when he’s suffering the permanently debilitating effects of a stubbed toe (“It’s severely broken! I know it!”), but eventually — once the toe has miraculously healed — he will laugh at himself.

Before Jerry and I met, when he was still in his 20s and living in Seattle, Washington, he “very seriously” (his words) sliced his finger “nearly off” (again, his words) while preparing dinner. He quickly rinsed the wound and then bound it tightly in a dish towel, maintaining constant pressure. He then called a friend and told him he needed to be rushed to the emergency room. When he arrived at the hospital he told the intake nurse what had happened and she carefully unwrapped the towel. They couldn’t find a wound. They couldn’t even find a tightly sealed seam.

“Well, let me see,” Jerry said as he perused his digits, “I’m pretty sure it was this finger.”

The nurse smiled and said, “I think you’ll live.” She then asked if he would like her to put a Band-Aid on it. Of course, he said, “yes.”

But, as usual, I digress. The point of this post was to share with you my trip to the supermarket. As you by now probably already know, I do not like to cook. As you also probably already know, in my world, putting a teabag in a cup of microwaved water qualifies as cooking. So, when Jerry is feeling under the weather, if he wants a nice bowl of chicken soup, he’s probably going to be making it himself. Unless he’s got some in the freezer. I can rise to the occasion and reheat if absolutely necessary.

JERRY’S CHICKEN SOUP ON THE STOVE.
HE USED TO MAKE MY GRANDMOTHER’S RECIPE. NOW HE JUST WINGS IT.

So, as I mentioned, Jerry hadn’t been feeling well.  He knew some home-made chicken soup would help. But, he gave our last container of chicken soup to Teré the other day when she wasn’t feeling well. He told me last night he would make some fresh chicken soup if I wouldn’t mind going to the supermarket. Of course I was only too glad to go. It was the least I could do — well, sadly, it was the most I could do, truth be told.

What you may not appreciate is that, for me, going to the supermarket is just barely one tiny step away from cooking. I did become proficient at grocery shopping in Irvine (always with a very specific list from Jerry), but I have done very little of it here. Jerry knows his way around the supermarket at El Corte Inglés. I do not. He has also learned many more of the Spanish names for the products than I have, such as “nabo” for turnip. I told Jerry to make a list and I would get whatever he needed. He ended up writing a grocery list … and drawing a letter-coded map of the store.

All I needed was a tag pinned to my snow suit (right next to my mittens), “My name is Mitchell. If lost, please return me to…” Anyway, there’s no way I ever would have found the chicken broth… or the turnips.

I WON’T READ A RECIPE, BUT I’M REALLY GOOD WITH A MAP.

Dropping a Sock and Working on an Attitude

These last few days have been emotionally challenging — for no apparent reason except that sometimes the world just becomes too much for me. I can be very unkind to myself. This morning, as I was taking in some laundry — five pairs of socks and some underwear — from the clothesline outside the kitchen window, I tried to grab too much in my hands at once and one sock slipped through my fingers down to the courtyard below. The only access to the courtyard is through the apartment on the first floor and I hate to bother them since I know the other two neighbors are constantly losing clothing and clothespins that way (I’ve lost two clothespins). It must get really annoying. So, upon losing the sock, I lost “it” — fiercely gritting my teeth, biting my lower lip hard, and cursing myself out loud for my carelessness and stupidity. I didn’t lose one of Jerry’s socks (as if he would even care). I lost one of my own.

What I’m saying is I had a melt-down this morning. Over a sock. What I lost was an individual, casual, black GoldToe sock. I have perhaps two dozen (well now perhaps 23) casual, black, GoldToe socks remaining. Surely, it’s the end of the world.

Whatever Lola Wants

MAKING HER ENTRANCE. LATER, A BREAK FOR A CALL FROM #1 SON (THERE’S ALSO A #1 DAUGHTER).

Lola and I try to get together two mornings a week for coffee and conversation. Tuesdays for English and Thursdays for Spanish. We meet, usually outside, at Casa Santos, a little café about two blocks away from Lola’s house (six or seven blocks for me). The café has three tables inside and, at this time of year, four outside. The number of outside tables more than doubles in warmer weather. The owners, Santo and his wife, do it all themselves… with warmth and charm. I love going there, even though the little plaza doesn’t get a lot of sun. Our own plaza is very sunny and warm and we love it. It just doesn’t have Santo.

SANTO AND CASA SANTOS. A VERY FRIENDLY PLACE.

Whether the focus that day is on English or Spanish, we both learn in both languages. I really enjoy my mornings spent with Lola. The always-generous Albert introduced us to Lola when we were here in January. He usually meets us for coffee and conversation Thursday mornings. Albert, who speaks several languages, leaves us to ourselves Tuesdays so Lola doesn’t feel inhibited in her attempts at English.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD. A VIEW DOWN THE SIDESTREET.

Lola is a combination of the Lola of “Damn Yankees,” Lola of the Barry Manilow song “Copacabana,” a character from “Sex and the City” (or as it’s called here “Sex in New York”), and Earth Mother. As I said last week (totally inappropriately in Spanish), “the total package.” Whenever I see her, I want to burst into song.

Chicken Soup and Other Body Parts

We had Breakfast #2 downstairs at El Sanedrín this morning. Teré wasn’t feeling well.  Jerry made chicken soup a few days ago and had a small container in the freezer. He asked Teré if she would like it since she could simply heat it up in the restaurant kitchen for lunch. Jerry is a bit casual with his Spanish vowels. I’ve told him he needs to be more precise in his pronunciation since a word can completely change in meaning with a different vowel ending. Chicken is pollo. But, Jerry didn’t ask Teré if she liked sopa de pollo (chicken soup), he asked if she liked sopa de polla. Teré, yet again, burst out laughing. (We have that effect.) It was clear that Jerry’s pronunciation meant something entirely different but I didn’t know what. I told him he should have said pollo and not polla.

I then, in Spanish, asked Teré what polla was. She blushed (she blushes easily) and said it was something she did not have but I did (Jerry, also).

Teré told Jerry that she would love some sopa de pollo but not the other, going on to say that she thought perhaps that’s what “preservativos” were for.

Cavalcade, Cake, Candy, and Kings

OUR FIRST ROSCÓN DE REYES, COMPLEMENTS OF LOLA.

We have nearly made it through our first Christmas in Sevilla.  Today is Dia de Los Tres Reyes (Three Kings Day). This morning, Jerry and I enjoyed our first-ever slices of Roscón de Reyes (a ring-shaped bread-like cake decorated with fruits symbolizing the precious gems that were supposed to have adorned the clothing of the three kings).  Lola gave us a beautiful boxed roscón when we met last night at La Perlita to watch the massive parade (cabalgata). Many roscón are unfilled and intended for dunking. Our roscón is filled with whipped cream. We have enough for 10 people, which should get the two of us through the next day or so. Good calcium. Jerry bought the ingredients and would like to make his own roscón. He loves to dunk, so maybe he’ll leave out the whipped cream.

THE FIRST CLUSTER OF THE HUNDREDS OF “THREE” WISE MEN.
HANDS ARE NOT RAISED IN PRAISE BUT IN THE HOPES OF CATCHING SOME CANDIES.

The Cabalgata de Los Reyes Magos (The Parade of the Royal Magi), held here in Sevilla yesterday, was unbelievable. The parade started near the University at 4:15 in the afternoon and ended near the same location well past 10:00 at night, more than six hours later. My estimate is that they march, walk, and ride 10 km (6 miles) in that time.

INTEGRACIÓN A LAS CULTURAS (INTEGRATION OF CULTURES).  FLOAT #14.
CANDIES IN FLIGHT.

The parade makes its way around much of the old city, passing within a block of our house about an hour or so before it reaches the neighborhood by La Perlita (which is less than a 10-minute walk from here). The floats (33 of them) were ornate, fun, funny, creative, and ranged in themes from the 1812 Constitution to Cultural Exchange to Ancient Greece to Spongebob Squarepants.

NACIMIENTO (BIRTH). FLOAT #2.
MORE CANDIES IN FLIGHT.

The parade was unbelievably impressive. Filling the gaps between floats were marching bands as well as marchers and riders on horseback dressed as the Magi. The only thing that was extremely unsettling for us was the fact that all those walking and riding “Magi” had blackened their faces. I make a point of leaving behind my American sensibilities (and insensibilities) as I experience my new and much-loved home here in Spain, but I couldn’t get beyond my discomfort on this one. I’ll have to learn more about this and people’s attitudes by talking to locals … of all colors.

EL GRAN VISIR (THE GRAND VIZIER). FLOAT #5.
AND STILL MORE CANDIES IN FLIGHT.

Clearly, the most important part of the parade to many of the spectators is the tossing, lobbing, fast-pitching, and hard-pelting of caramelos (candies) from the people on the floats and horses to the people on the streets. I was initially in the thick of things to get my photos, but after getting struck painfully in the head a few times by hard candies, I moved out of harm’s way. Next year, I’ll wear a hat (and rubber-soled shoes that can be easily cleaned).

HEARTWARMING. CARAMELOS DISCOVERED ON OUR DOORSTEP THIS MORNING.
COULD THEY HAVE BEEN LEFT BY THE THREE KINGS?