Foods I Have Missed

As I wrap up my time in Valencia, I’ve been trying to decide what I want to eat when I get home. Here is a list of some of the foods I have missed.

  1. Everything
  2. Peanut Butter
  3. Breakfast (Waffles, Pancakes, Sausage etc)
  4. Actual Pizza
  5. Actual Hamburgers
  6. Homemade Baked Goods
  7. Macaroni and Cheese
  8. Cereal
  9. Mexican Food (Like Chimichangas)
  10. Pie
  11. Sweet Corn
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Baking and Beaching

I have really, really missed baking!!! I didn’t realize just how much until I got stressed out and couldn’t bake for finals. Luckily, I had some time two weekends ago to make a kind of apple bar / apple pie / apple tart for my host family. There are not enough desserts here or sweet pastries. My host family had no idea what a pie was, and I had a heck of a time trying to find the correct ingredients.

I went to the “cheap store” to pick up a rolling pin, measuring cup, and a baking pan. I then went to the grocery store to pick up all of the ingredients. I ended up with margarine instead of shortening and vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract, but it all worked out.

I had to change the recipe into metric with and do a couple of other substitutions, but my mom and sister were good sports in helping out.

After I got everything baked, I went to the beach to do homework! I made it there and back on the local bus on my own, which is a feat!

It was a very busy day, but it was a very, very productive day. With that, some Spaniards tried and loved the pie. It was gone in less than 24 hours and I only had one piece!

Fallas Summary March 15-19

I haven’t posted in a while because we have had break, then a few days of class, then break again, but our breaks have been breaks from school, not activities!

I’ll start off by saying that the Las Fallas festival that takes place in Valencia (and that Valencia is famous for) is impossible to describe without experiencing if for yourself. Our professors and administrators tried time and time again to explain it to us students, but it’s impossible.

Basically, the festival began as a welcoming of spring, ending on the day of St. Joseph where the community members burned all of their old things as fertilizer for the spring crops. This developed into parading through the streets and receiving things like old clothes from neighbors and making figures (like political figures etc.) to burn.

This grew and grew turning into each neighborhood making their own ninot, or paper mache sculpture, to display in the streets during las fallas week. Then, it turned into an absolute fiesta!

The previously mentioned Mascletà occurs everyday at 2pm, streets are closed to traffic, bus routes change, people are dressed in traditional Valencian clothing, parties don’t stop until 4am, 5am, 6am, and everyone is woken up again at 8am with the desperta.

Valencia is a completely different city.

Pictured below: Ninot, closed street, castillos de fuegos artificiales at 1:30am.

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Honestly one of my absolute favorite parts of fallas was the food! Buñuelos y chocolate, Buñuelos de calabaza/pumpkin y chocolate, and churros con chocolate are where it’s at. (Buñuelos are a fritter type thing, and the hot chocolate is like melted chocolate with a teaspoon of milk)

I got to enjoy the experience with my intercambio, or exchange partner, who is learning English at the University of Valencia.

There are probably 50 or more bands running around the streets getting people exited for fallas and one of my intercabio’s friends is the leader of one of said bands, so we followed them around for a little while. They played traditional songs, newer songs, and even interactive songs where they tell you to lay in the middle of the road (which you can because it’s fallas)

We also saw a light show which featured a street covered in lights changing with the music, much like some of the Christmas light shows we have in the States.  Overall, it was really nice to experience fallas with a guide who could answer questions and give inside tips on the experience.

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I seriously don’t know what I’m going to do without buñuelos y chocolate…

The ofrenda is a parade of the falleras and falleros (costumed community members from each neighborhood) to a wood skeleton of the Virgin Mary placed near the Cathedral in the plaza de la virgen. They each bring flowers which then fill in the wood skeleton, making one huge flowered statue. This was beautiful to watch and took two days to complete (almost two days of nonstop parade — seriously). It was cool to see the different dresses of the women as well.

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Here is the completed statue. There are also a few walls of flowers and huge arrangements that were carried from each neighborhood that sat in the plaza in addition to the Mary statue.

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Saturday marks the last day of fallas, with the last Mascletà. These things get bigger and better as fallas goes on, so this was the mascletà to see. The pirotecnico (pyrotechnic) who orchestrated the whole thing is famous for a reason. The mascletà is more to be felt than seen, because everything is covered with smoke from the explosions.

It rained a little, but the photo above is a photo of the air full of stuff that was probably not the best to breath in… The area was so incredible full of people that it took forever to get out of the plaza de ayuntamiento. It was seriously insane.

A fun fact, apparently many/ almost all of Disney’s firework programmers are from Valencia. They are know all over the world for their skills with fireworks.

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The last event of fallas happens Saturday night and is called the Cremà, or when they have a firework show really close to houses and buildings that then lights the ninot on fire. Everything is burned. It was so nuts and is so hard to explain now.

Here is a professional video that tires to explain fallas (that still doesn’t do it justice).

I’ll leave you with a photo (that is not mine) of the city during la cremà.

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Top 5 Spanish Food Favorites

Here are a few of my favorite foods in no particular order. It took me some time to adjust to food here, but it has definitely gotten better. Notice that most of the food is sweet 🙂

  1. Bizcocho – Sponge Cake covered in sugar
  2. Tortilla Espanola – Potato and egg pancake type thingIMG_20160123_210103.jpg
  3. Horchata – Tigernut sweet drinkhorchata edit.jpg
  4. San Jacobo – Ham, cheese, ham, breaded and fried
  5. Churros and Hot Chocolate-Suggary pastry and thick, creamy, chocolateIMG_1526.JPG

I hope to try a lot more food while I am here! I’ve tried octopus and other various seafood (not my fav.), but the sweet foods are so good! However, they don’t have pie…

Mascletà nocturna 20:00

On Saturdays, the Mascletàs happen twice, once at 2pm and again at midnight. Naturally, being the 4th of July firework enjoying Americans we are, Anya and I wanted to see the show! There was a parade beforehand, so we went to watch that too. It was 3 hours long, but the Mascletà nocturna was set to start just after the last float.

We needed a warm up and a little break, so we found some churros and “hot chocolate.” I use the quotes because it’s called hot chocolate, but it is basically liquid chocolate, more like hot Hershey syrup. It was so good. I don’t even want to think about how much sugar I consumed, because let’s be honest, I’m going to have to get some more.

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Jelly fish part of the parade! 

There were a lot of political messages, roller coaster floats, and Alice in Wonderland floats. There was definitely something we were missing.

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The Mascletà nocturna was so worth missing dinner and I must say, was probably the best firework show I have seen. We were so close to the action! I was a little nervous at times because the fireworks were huge and super close. I think that there were some fireworks that would not be allowed in the U.S. — too dangerous and impressive. I’m so glad I went!

La Mascletà 14:00

In the days leading up to Las Fallas, a festival in Valencia, the whole community celebrates with a daily Mascletà in the plaza in front of the ayuntamiento, or town hall. They began March 1st and will continue until March 19 the last day of Fallas.

An insane amount of people gather in the plaza and the nearby streets are shutdown around noon to allow for the huge numbers. People mostly just chitchat and eat snacks until the falleras (mayor and infantil) tell the pyrotechnic to begin the Mascletà.

The fireworks are hung in an artful order and set one another off in a huge succession of explosions. There is no way to explain how huge these explosions are and how much they shake everything! It’s one of those things that you really just have to experience for yourself to actually understand. Even though my madre and I arrived to her super cool Mascletà watching balcony location at noon and waited until 2 for the events to start, the Mascletà itself only lasted a few minutes.

It was definitely a cool experience and I am glad I got to go! I’m especially glad that I was able to watch from a balcony. I’m so excited to Fallas to start!

Feliz Cumpleaños y Sobremesa

We celebrated my Madre’s birthday with her children, grandson, and a couple of her friends yesterday at her son, Alejandro’s apartment in the suburbs of Valencia.

I had a really good time! I was able to talk with her oldest son in English since he is a business man and spends about 1/3 of his time working on the east coast. He spent a year learning English in Scotland after graduating, so he does have the accent, even though it has probably been 10 to 15 years  since he lived in Scotland.

His son, my Madre’s grandson, is so adorable and is able to switch between speaking Spanish and English with ease at just five years old.

The meals in Spain generally last longer, but adding in old friends and family with a celebration, you get four hours of sitting at the table.

First, tapas are served. My madre made croquetas, shrimp salad, and fried calamari. Wine and cheese are also had at this time.

Next is the main dish and bread. My madre made something that is very, very similar to paella (seen here) but is somehow not paella. A comment was made during dinner that Americans must not like blood sausage because I still had some left on my plate. It’s actually not bad, but you can only eat so much.

Third is the fruit. My madre fresh squeezed a ton of oranges for zumo/juice and then cut up strawberries, bananas, and pears to soak in the orange juice over night. I really like this way of fruit consumption.

Lastly, dessert. We couldn’t have just any dessert, because we were celebrating! We had a chocolate ice cream cake that was much more dainty than the ones we have in the U.S., but it was just as good.

They celebrate birthdays much the same in Spain with candles on the cake, singing Cumpleaños Feliz (the version that I actually know!), blowing out the candles, then eating, and presents.They also had champagne for the special day.

What really adds time to the Spanish meal is the sobremesa. This usually involves a cup of coffee and a lot of chitchat. This part was so fun for me because everyone was just hanging out together at the table and having a good time.

I am so glad that I got to experience an authentic Spanish family celebration and celebrate my madre’s birthday!