- Typical Spanish... The controversy of bullfighting
- Featured City... Seville (Velá de Santiago y Santa Ana)
- Famous Person... Friar Junípero Serra
- Spanish recipe... Barley water
- Popular Sayiing... "A caballo regalado no le mires el dentado" (Do not check the teeth of a gifted horse)
- Vocabulary... Words of the Spanish culinary arts
- Word of the month... Canícula ("Dog days")
- Notices: Enfocamp Club is back!
The controversy of bullfighting
There is no middle position about bullfighting: some consider it one of the most authentic expressions of our culture, and some think that it is one more expression of a country that refuses to progress and "Europeanise". Who is right? We have no idea, so we are going to try to give the reasons that each of them put forward in the umpteenth fratricidal war between Spaniards.
We start with the fundamental question: is it worth it to kill six splendid and majestic living creatures to entertain a crowd on a boring afternoon? The fighting bull is an aristocratic and brave animal. More than an anima, it is an allegory of braveness and gallantry. For the fans of bullfighting the "fiesta" itself shows respect for the animal, when it is killed like "an old warrior". For the detractors of this festivity, this is a humiliating death. Where’s the epic in an animal that’s tired and divested of its elegance, vomiting blood without even being conscious that there is no other outcome but its own end?
Would the animal cease to exist without the "fiesta"? The anti-bullfighting activists believe that, once the bullfights are suppressed, the bulls could run free around the pastures. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t forget that these animals are specially bred for the plaza. Cruelly and ironically, the species’ survival depends on the purpose for which they were "designed": in the case there would be no bullfights, their breeding wouldn’t be profitable, and the bull could be doomed to extinction. Some say this is sad, but true.
Does the bull suffer? Some time ago, a great controversy arose when a group of veterinarians stated that the bulls didn’t feel pain in the moment of being killed by sword. Most people didn’t believe this, and others, with a keen critical sense, said that, even if the animal doesn’t feel the iron of the sword, during the bullfight it is egged on with banderillas and goads, so being the whole process must necessarily be painful.
Is it really part of a culture? This is a tricky question because, depending on our conception of "culture", the answer changes. The bullfighting activists would understand "culture" as the collection of knowledge and critical sense that makes a society progress and improve; so a show based on killing a living creature would not adjust to this definition and, thus, could not be considered culture. On the other hand, the supporters of bullfighting would understand culture as the conversion of an activity into a rich and complex collection of rituals -each of them with their own meaning- that ends up turning into a hallmark of a group or nationality; for which bullfighting would be considered a form of culture.
Another question that’s often a matter of discussion is whether the bull should be left alive like in the Portuguese "touradas". More often than not this has been misunderstood: it is true that in the Portuguese fiesta the bull doesn’t die in front of the audience, but the animal is so rough and furious already that it is impossible to bring it back to the fields (it could even be a problem for its own herd), for which a professional slaughterman kills the animal in camera some days after the bullfight.
Lately, the discussion around bullfighting has become somewhat political. Recently, in Cataluña, bullfights have been banned, something that was happily accepted by ecologist associations and animal rights defenders. The original enthusiasm soon led to letdown because, even though the shows at plazas had been suppressed, it didn’t happen the same way for other celebrations that could be also be categorized as "animal mistreat". This was taken by the bullfighting aficionados as an insult to the very Spanish identity. This is why this dispute, far from getting solved, has a new front open.
It is a complicated subject, and very difficult to nail down in a few lines, because both sides have righteous arguments to support their position. We leave it to the reader to continue reading on this subject and creating his own opinion.
Seville (Velá de Santiago y Santa Ana)
"Look how trianero I am, the when I am on Sierpes street I fell a foreigner (Mira si soy trianero que estando en la calle Sierpes me considero extranjero)" says an Andalusian song. And really, Triana is one of the neighbourhoods with more character in Seville. A bigger reason to highlight the event that takes place here between July 21st and 26th: the ‘Velá deSantiago y Santa Ana‘, patron saint of the neighbourhood (we clarify that velá comes from velada, that is, the reunion in a square or avenue with the intention of celebrating a feast).
This is one of the oldest "velás" of the Andalusian capital: it comes from the pilgrimage that took place in the XIII century in the Royal Chapel of Santa Ana. A long time has gone by since and, though there were changes, the trianeros have succeeded at mixing tradition and modernity.
It all starts with the opening speech that inaugurates the celebration days. The speech is pronounced by a relevant figure of the neighbourhood, or someone that has given part of his life to it. From the moment in which the towncrier leaves the tribune, the trianeros and people from other Seville neighbourhoods can wander around the decorated streets of Triana, or directly go to Betis street, where many free stalls offer the visitor drinks, food, and even dance shows.
One of the most awaited events doesn’t take place on that street, but on the Guadalquivir river, the so-called "cucaña". It is without a doubt a very picturesque show: a large pole (around 5 meters) is attached to a boat, staying in horizontal position, parallel to the water surface. On the further end, there is a small flag that has to be caught by those accepting the challenge of parading on the pole. If this wasn’t hard enough, the post is covered in a slippery substance, for which the challenge becomes a dare, and the true spectacle consists in watching soakings and slips of every kind.
Other event, much more formal this time, is the awards to the trianeros of honour, that reward all those neighbours that have been outstanding in some field, or have done something in favour of the neighbourhood. It is an emotional and serious ceremony, so much so that some have named it the ‘Nobel prizes of the other side of the Gualdalquivir River‘.
We don’t forget that this celebration has a strong religious sense. And this feeling can be felt in its splendour during the last days of the celebration. The "Gozos de la Señá Santa Ana" stands out from the rest, a performance by the band of horns and drums of the Christ of the Three Falls from the church’s bell tower!!! The performance is just before the midnight bells of July 26th.
Whether it is out of tourist interest, desire to know the famous Triana neighbourhood, or simply for the fun of it, the traveller has a unique occasion to drop by Seville this month.
Friar Junípero Serra
He is the only Spaniard who has a statue in his honour in the United States Capitol, which means that he is an important character in the country’s history. But what did this Franciscan from Mallorca do to obtain such an honour? We will answer this with another question: does Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco ring a bell? Without Friar Junípero these famous cities wouldn’t exist. But let’s not go so fast...
Friar Junípero was born as Miquel Joseph Serra i Ferrer in Petra (Mallorca) on November 24th, 1713. Froma very young age, the boy started to have intellectual preoccupations. His parents, modest peasants, realized his value, but the only thing they could do to assure him some studies was to take him to a Franciscan monastery.
At age 15 he starts attending Theology lessons, and in 1731, confirms his religious vocation wearing the habits and changing his first name to Junípero. A curious and brilliant student, he obtains his PhD in Theology in 1738, and in 1743 he obtains a professorship in that subject in the Luliana University of Palma de Mallorca.
Up to here, everything corresponds to an intellectual’s life, of a thinker that would be more comfortable amongst books than travelling. We don’t know what happened in 1749, but he decides to quit his life of studying to enrol as a missionary in New Spain (what now is Mexico), where he spent 9 years evangelizing the pames Indians.
His next destination should have been no less than the apache Indian territory, but the death of the Viceroy made him wait in Mexico City some more years.
Anothe strike of weird luck made him change his destination again, when in 1767 the king of Spain, Charles III, decreets the expulsión of the Jesuits of the American territory. This decision affects Friar Junípero’s order, who had to occupy the vacancies left by the Jesuits in Baja California.
Already at his new post he hears the news that Russia has taken the land that’s Alaska today, and the rumours that Katherine II plans to occupy the whole American West Coast spread, what makes it necessary to take positions before the orthodox, even in the form of missions.
That’s how the trip of Friar Junípero to Alta California beginned, and his adventure of the foundation of new missions like the one of San Diego de Alcalá, still standing as a monument, and of which the future city of San Diego would be born.
Founding missions wasn’t an easy task, and the road was full of difficulties: together with the Franciscan austerity (that some would interpret as their order’s abandonment of the friars) and the attacks of the native (one shouldn’t forget that the Spaniards were "invasors"), we have to add the inclement Californian weather. So founding 9 missions in 15 years is quite a success alone... and more if we bear in mind that they were the seed of great American cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco or Sacramento.
Friar Junípero wouldn’t come back to Spain: he died on August 28th, 1784 in the mission of San Carlos Borromeo, in Monterrey. He was 71 years old, a very advanced age for the times. At the time, his missions continued to be Spanish, so he could have known little of the future Mexican independence, or that the settlements he founded would one day be major cities of the most powerful country in the world. But what we know is that the Americans recognise his labour and role in North American history. Without him, we don’t know what the destiny of this territory would have been... Maybe the Americans would have ended up speaking Russian? Who knows...
The recipe that we propose this month is not for a dish, but for a soft drink that is in danger of extinction.
A long time ago, when Madrid was the city that you see in black and white photo exhibitions, it was very typical to refresh oneself with a cold glass of barley water. Later on, this modest drink would be progressively replaced by other inventions such as iced-lemon or coffee and soda drinks. Today, it is strange to find it, though some horchaterias downtown prepare it in small quantities.
If you don’t find one of these businesses because you live in a neighbourhood in the outskirts, leave job so late that nothing is open, or you simply read us from another country (because you won’t come down to Narvaez street from, lets say, Berwick-Upon-Tweed just for a beverage) we propose you this easy peasy recipe. The only hard part is finding the barley, the rest is a breeze.
After searching tirelessly to find the barley grain (you’ll just need 150 grams) you need a liter of water, half a spoon of sugar, a lemon peel and cinnamon (although we think that, depending on which country you’re in, finding the cinnamon might be harder than finding the barley).
Well, let’s get to work. Put the barley grains in a strainer and wash them under the kitchen tap stirring them with your hand until the water that leaves the strainer is clear. Next, take out the remaining water and pour them in a saucepan with a litre of water and bring the mix to boiling point. After a few moments, lower the fire and let the grains soften for about 45 minutes.
After this, filter the water, which will look like an infusion, and heat it in another recipient without letting it boil. Add the sugar, stir until it dissolves and throw in the lemon peel and the cinnamon. Leave it on the fire for a few more minutes, and then let it cool down and, when it reaches room temperature, put it in the fridge. If you want it in ice form, put it in the freezer until it partially freezes (if you are doing it this way, remember to take out the lemon peel and the cinnamon cane).
There you have it: a refreshing beverage, totally home-made, that will taste even better because of the effort you have put into it. Enjoy it and rejoice at the fact that you know a drink that few people know in its place of origin!
"A caballo regalado no le mires el dentado" (Do not check the teeth of a gifted horse)
As you all know, the quality of a horse used to be measured by the look of its teeth, which showed its age, its diet, or if it had had any illnesses. Looking at one of these animals’ teeth was basic to know how much had to be paid for him. But in the case that it was a gift, one shouldn’t bother to do it because, in the end, it had been for free. Furthermore, in the case of doing it, the generous person that had made the donation to us would think of us as ungrateful because we don’t trust him.
That’s the habit that has created the saying, which’s meaning is that we shouldn’t demand too much from gifts, for they are proofs of good faith and, what’s more important, they’re for free. To take it to a more contemporary context –in case the horse thing sounds too old for you-: has someone gifted you a mobile phone that is not the latest model with the super modern camera that you wished for so hard? Do not complain, because you haven’t paid a nickel for it and, at least, the person who gave it to you had done something nice for you.
It is a very popular saying; so much that it is enough to mention the first part of it only. You have probably heard a Spanish friend say "A caballo regalado..." without finishing the sentence. This is because everyone, absolutely every one of us, has mentioned it at some point, whether it is to celebrate the gift or to choke back a complaint on it. It may not be the best well known proverb of Spain... but probably one of the most used.
Why is this? Are we so spoiled lately that we have to remind ourselves not to demand anything when we’re gifted something? We don’t think that, with time, the old Spanish hidalgos (gentlemen) have turned into whimsical brats. It may only be that we are not conscious that a nice gesture towards us is more than the object behind it: there is an intention, a wish, a display of tenderness... and that’s what matters in the end.
Words of the Spanish culinary arts
It may well be that, when reading one of our recipes, you have come across a word which’s meaning is not clear to you. If it were the case, we beg your pardon, but we also justify ourselves: the vocabulary of culinary procedures is very precise and is deeply-rooted in our Spanish heads. It is normal that it slips, yet it is very possible that a process is so specific that there is no other term to describe it. This said, we leave you with some of the most used words around our kitchens.
- Adobar (to pickle, to marinate): this process consists in putting a raw piece of meat or fish in a mix of spices and salt before cooking it. Although this was traditionally done to preserve the food, today it is used to add flavour to the dish. Have you ever seen those bright orange pork steaks in the butcher’s shop? Well, they’re adobados (marinated).
- Asustar: it has nothing to do with frightening the chicken before cooking it. It simply consists in adding a very cold liquid to a boiling one, with the intention of keeping the ingredient being cooked from breaking; it is also used to density a sauce.
- Baño María: more than one would think of the uncomplaining Mary bathing with a tomato sauce can. To reassure readers and their Mary friends, we have to clarify that "putting something on baño María" consists in introducing a recipient with food in a larger one with boiling water. This allows a more efficient cooking, even though it is a very slow process. It is an ideal technique for the preparation of desserts such as crème caramel or curd.
- Clarificar: if you like "clean" soups, without traces or "thingies" floating around, you’ll know what we’re talking about. There are many ways to clarify a soup, from putting a mix of vegetables in the mix, to mixing the soup with egg white while boiling. The idea is that the impurities stick to the cleansing element.
- Emplatar: there was a case at a TV show, where the cook asked the guest to "emplatar" what they were preparing, and a minute alter, the guest appeared with a banana in her hand (banana in Spanish is "plátano", which sounds similar to "plato", dish). To avoid future humiliations like the one suffered by the inexperienced assistant, we want to make clear that "emplatar" is to lay the food on a dish, while adding banana to it would be "emplatanar".
- Emulsionar (to emulsify): this is a word that evokes us Spaniards the times when the cooks started experimenting and elaborating "deconstructed" food. In reality, emulsifying consists in something as everydayish as putting two different substances together into a uniform mix. For example: mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil, egg, and salt.
- Escabechar (to pickle): in the time where it wasn’t possible to preserve food in cold, the option was to pickle it. This consists in putting some food in a spiced vinegar mix and, as happened with the "adobo", nowadays is a much appreciated way of preparing food that allows funny variations, for we may find "escabeches" made out of oil and even wine.
- Escaldar (to scald): scalding consists in putting an ingredient into boiling water for a brief moment. This reduces the volume of the food and facilitates its peeling.
- Escalfar (to poach): although it sounds similar to the previous term, it has little to do with it. If scalding is introducing something in boiling water for a brief moment, poaching means preparing the food sinking it into a mix of boiling water and vinegar. To mistake the consumer even more, we’ll remind him that at some hotels the breakfast offer both scalded and poached eggs. If that was the case, better ask for scrambled eggs, for the cook himself may mistake the words.
- Hervir (to boil): boiling is as easy as immersing the food in water that’s been heated up to at least 100ºC (212ºF) for more than two minutes. If the food is immersed in boiling oil or fat, we shall call this "freir" (frying).
- Laquear (to lacquer): many Spaniards that admire the lacquered duck at Chinese restaurants believe that this is exclusively an Asian technique, ignoring that it consists in spreading a greasy cream on the food before cooking it. The Spanish cuisine has been lacquering things for a long time now.
- Majar (to crush, to mash): this is a widely used procedure in Spanish cuisine. It consists in crushing two ingredients together in a mortar until the two blend and form a mass. According to the tradition, real "ali-oli" results from mashing oil and garlic together, with no mayonnaise.
- Pochar: it may lead to confusion, since something that is "pocho" is something that is rotten. But in the cooking realm, "pochar" is to soften the food on a pan at medium heat. We have all seen our grandmas "pochando" tomatoes for a whole morning.
- Reducir (to reduce): most probable you have seen a dish at a Spanish restaurant saying "with a Pedro Ximenez reduction". This doesn’t mean that Mr. Pedro shrinks when preparing the dish, but that the sweet wine sauce that completes the dish has been made by letting water evaporate until it thickens.
- Rehogar (to fry... lightly): it is very similar to "pochar", for it also consists in tendering the food at a moderate flame. The difference here is that our mission when "rehogando" is to give colour to what we’re preparing.
- Sofreír (to sauté): many stews require that some of their ingredients is prepared this way, specially garlic and onion. It is nothing else but frying it lightly until it turns brownish golden.
- Tamizar (to sieve, to sift): if you are real cooking enthusiasts, you’ll have an enemy to beat, lumps. So keep the idea that "tamizar" is to make an ingredient –like for example flour- go through a sieve or filtering device so that it stays loose. It also can be passing the puree through a device like a food mill or a mixer so that it doesn’t have any lumps.
We don’t want to discourage you: there are many, many terms missing and, as usual, we encourage you to gather some more information. Although we also understand that after reading the whole list and the explanations you will probably want to order take away food for the next six months.
Canícula ("Dog days")
"Canícula" is one of those words that serve as an example when we say that our language comes from Latin. It is a word that sounds pedantic and, what’s worst, there is very little chance that it appears on a conversation amongst friends.
But we have to acknowledge that if there’s a word that describes best what the month of July is like, that word is "canícula". Its meaning is "the time of the year in which the heat is strongest". In other words, those days that are commonly known as "dog days".
In fact, that is more or less the translation of the Latin term. The Romans associated stifling heat with the moment when the constellation "Canis Maior" (with a shape that resembles a lying dog) reached the highest point in the sky, because, under Sirio’s heat, the shiniest star of this constellation, wouldn’t let the heated earth cool down at night.
It is needless to say that it isn’t Sirio’s fault that we have to put the air conditioning on at dinnertime, or that we can’t sleep well no matter how open our bedroom windows are. Even though, the word was very successful for some time, not only to designate the hottest time of the year, but also the unpleasant feeling of sultry that goes along with it.
But of course... don’t we all picture a lying diva on a chaise longue, with an affected pose and fanning herself with a pai-pai telling her servant "Mary, this canícula is killing me"? Even though the term is very accurate, we think that, unfortunately, its time has passed.
This section has been edited for four years already, and this year it won’t miss the date either: welcome to Enfocamp Club one more year.
It consists of the space that we update daily during the summer season with information, photos and videos of what goes on at our summer colonies in Barcelona, Marbella, Madrid, Salamanca and Valencia.
Keeping up to date with the club is very easy. If we are registered for a summer camp we will receive an email inviting us to subscribe to Enfocamp Club. Once we subscribe, we will receive a daily newsletter with links to the camps; then we select the one we want to peek into... and we will automatically arrive to the space of the day and camp chosen! We’ll check what’s new and, if we want to, we can also share it on our favourite social network, for we have a list of them on the site itself. Likewise, if we follow any of the social networks on which Enfocamp is present, we will see daily publications on timelines or walls, with links to updated contents.
Like on years past, there will also be a "photo of the day", a special moment that will be downloadable to be used as a wallpaper, printed in high quality, or simply saved as one of the camp’s memories.
One thing that we also want to emphasize is that the published contents are written in Spanish, so the parents that receive our newsletter will also be able to learn our language and practice a bit with their children once they are back home telling their camp experiences. There will surely be something fun to talk about an excursion or an activity... or even about a class!!!
This is it from us. One last thing: wishing the campers a happy stay, and that they learn a lot... while having fun.