Recipes are great, free Spanish souvenirs. When I return to Santa Clara, I’m going to be living off-campus, which means no Benson meal points. Goodbye endless lattes, omelets, and stir-fry – I’ll have to cook for myself. Although now the thought yet another plate of tapas makes me cringe, I figure that after a while, nostalgia will set in, and I’ll definitely crave a tortilla española or croquetas. Last week, I decided to sign up for a cooking class.
After carefully analyzing a series of Google maps screenshots, I finally found my way to the couple’s flat. Building 5, Apt. 7. Buzzz! “Hola! Estoy aquí!” I hollered through the intercom. “Ven, ven!” a man responded.
Once upstairs, a vivacious duo, Jori and Juan, greeted me with kisses. Their apartment was quaint yet modern. Rickety wooden tables supported stainless steel appliances. For more than ten years, the couple has housed American students in Sevilla. Immediately, Juan brought several framed poster boards from the back room. Hand-cut, collaged portraits of exchange students decorated the vibrant boards. Naturally, Jori and Juan proceeded to tell me every student’s back-story – all twenty-plus of them. The blonde, the girl from Chicago, the girl from California, the pretty girl, the not-so-pretty girl, the girl that couldn’t talk, the girl that was fluent, and so on.
After our greeting, Jori introduced the evening’s recipe, paella. The famous rice and seafood dish, synonymous with the country’s cuisine, screams ‘Spanish cooking’. Now, when I imagine preparing paella, I picture meticulous master chefs, dressed like Chef Boyardee, slaving away in the kitchen. I picture stirring, taste-testing, critiquing, and perfection – a little of this, a little of that. A pinch more of salt. A minute longer on the burner. And wallah!
In Jori and Juan’s home, the entire cooking process lasts all of about five minutes. Jori, smirking, casually tossed the ingredients into a pressure cooker. Ding! Within minutes, the paella was ready, shrimp, mussels, rice, onion, tomato, pepper and all. That night, I learned that paella recipes call for saffron solely for its signature yellow hue – nothing but a trademark. The spice, Juan said, contributes no flavor whatsoever. Go figure. The final product seemed more like an upscale Top Ramen than a traditional Spanish dish, but…
We spent dinner talking about the magic of the Jori’s beloved cooking speed machine and all of its uses, as well as our shared fear of flying. Not the lightest conversation (or meal), but an experience all the same. ¡Buen provecho!
Recipe via Juan: PAELLA Y TARTA DE QUESO