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recipe: lentejas

recipe, Spain, lentejas

A big bowl of lentil stew makes any winter day warm & cozy… delicious even while temps in Sevilla reach 23ºC in mid-February! Every Spaniard grows up with their family’s version of this classic dish, & Rafa finally let me have a go at making this crowdpleaser. Lots of spices along with onions, carrots & potatoes give fantastic flavor to a basic kitchen staple: the lentil. One taste & this may become your favorite stew regardless of the season.

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lisboa: igreja da memória

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, Ayuda, Igreja da Memória, Baroque

No one expected second son José to inherit the throne of Portugal, but his older brother died the year of his birth & José moved to the top spot. He married Mariana Victoria of Spain at the age of 15 who shared his love for hunting & opera… but she never cared much for his affairs! Crowned king in 1750, José I continued to enjoy a carefree life; most administrative decisions fell to Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. Later granted the title of Marquês de Pombal, Carvalho e Melo rebuilt the city of Lisbon after a devastating earthquake-fire-tsunami combo destroyed the capital in 1755.

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spain: carmona

España, Spain, Andalucía, Carmona, panorama

Most early settlements in the Iberian peninsula began as easily-defended sites using natural features to protect their inhabitants, as well as to scope out surrounding areas for any possible threat. Carmona was no different; however, what makes this town so unique is a history that dates back to the third millennium BCE… making it one of the oldest settlements in Europe. Old Stone Agers, Phoenicians, Tartessians & Carthaginians all called Carmona home long before the Romans arrived.

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spain: nativity scenes

Since early days of Christianity, representations of the birth of Jesus appeared all around the Mediterranean. But on Christmas Eve of 1223 a new trend began which has endured to the present: St. Francis of Assisi placed an empty manger with a donkey & an ox —combining imagery from the Gospel of Luke & the Book of Isaiah— inside a cave in central Italy. After Mass, St. Francis told of the coming of Christ to an awestruck crowd. They could finally see & experience what had only been words before! Soon people began to portray Biblical figures as actors, & a more practical version with figurines carved of wood or sculpted from terracotta developed in time. From these medieval Italian origins, the Nativity scene would become popular centuries later in Spain…

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recipe: bacalhau espiritual

recipe, Portugal, cod, bacalhau espiritual

Surprisingly versatile, bacalhau deserves its spotlight in Portuguese cuisine… although I’ve grown tired of the cliché that there are 365 salt cod recipes, one for each day of the year. Why be so trite about such an amazing & versatile ingredient? This cod recipe has a more dignified beginning than most: a royal crowdpleaser based on the French brandade de morue spread. A rich, creamy bechamel combined with the sweetness of onions & carrots tastes divine, so the dish lives up to its heavenly name.

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recipe: sopa de ajo

recipe, sopa de ajo

One of the joys of traditional Spanish cooking is that nothing goes to waste. Soups, in particular, take basic leftovers & spruce them up with fresh ingredients. Gazpacho is the perfect summer example while sopa de ajo (garlic soup) adds warmth to the first cool days of autumn. Tasty & hearty, this filling soup is a perfect way to use extra bread & jamón we often have on hand at home.

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personal: places lived 12

places lived, Spain, Sevilla, 2016 to present

As I wondered if Seattle would be financially feasible in the long run, I met Rafael between work assignments in Spain. We shared similar interests & even the same profession… not to mention Rafa is one of the kindest people I know. Visiting me in Seattle in 2016, Rafa learned that his father wanted to sell the family apartment in Sevilla. Suddenly he was looking for a place to live & so was I. Although I’d never considered living in Sevilla before meeting Rafa, the universe steered me to Andalucía once again.

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personal: places lived 11

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places lived, Seattle, 2015-2016

A return to the US made the most sense after a quick departure from Argentina. Sure, I could have gone back to Memphis… or even tried my luck in a new city. But the majority my friends lived in Seattle, & that’s what I needed most. Familiar faces, familiar territory, a sense of comfort. Several burning questions begged to be answered though: How do I afford Seattle? After not owning one for 20 years, do I break down & get a car? How do I navigate the health insurance system? How long do I stay? I knew I’d figure things out, but first I had to decide where to live.

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personal: places lived 10

places lived, Argentina, 2013-2014, Esquel

Moving to Patagonia had been in the air for a long time but became reality in 2013. With one of few airports in the south, I could make it to Europe for work without too much fuss. Plus I’d already spent a lot of time in Esquel, so I knew what to expect. Although I had doubts about living in such a small city —population around 46,000 people— I dreamt of summers that weren’t insanely hot & humid, seeing the occasional snowfall each winter & having a view of the foothills of the Andes. A lower cost of living proved to be another benefit, as did a break from all the politics of Buenos Aires. Let’s head down to -43º latitude!

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