Party…Spanish style!!

19 Mar
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Party paella being prepared

Yesterday was a stellar day in that I was invited to the birthday fiesta of the “novio,” (boyfriend) of my good friend, Carmen, whom I have known for about a year. She came to Altea about a year ago, and now lives with Pepe in the adjacent town of La Nucia. Since La Nucia is slightly inland, the houses are more likely to be single-family detached homes, often on large plots of land in the undulating countryside which harbors fruit trees and other vegetation, horses, and other scenic pastoral sites. Although very close to my town of beachside Altea, it has considerably different feel.

Since I (proudly) no longer own a car, Pepe picked me up and drove to his “estancia” (ranch.) En route, he explained that he lived in Altea when he was young, but has been living in La Nucia for 40 years. Upon arrival, he gave me a tour of the house, outbuildings which housed two separate barbecues, and many fruit trees. I laughed as I recognized that the blue granite counters he had in his kitchen were the same as I had installed at my former house in California.

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Mejillones (mussels) being cooked

Carmen, who is Cuban, was busy cooking dishes from her nascent land, including rice with black beans, pork (which had incredibly crispy delicious skins), and “tostones” (fried plantains.) Although I am not usually a fan of plantains, these were excellent. I watched as she pounded them a little flat and then fry them in oil. I rescued one batch from burning when she left the room to greet some newcomers. The following day (today as I write this,) when we spontaneously met for lunch and I told her how much I liked them when I usually don’t, she said she first soaks them in vinegar.

After her cooking creations were bundled for transport on party day, we took the short drive up the hill to the large outbuilding where the fiesta was to occur. Typical of this area, were two huge pans, one of paella and the other of mejillones (mussels) being expertly prepared by two local women. Paella, after all, is originally from Valencia, and Altea is part of the Communitat Valenciana (as they say in the local Valenciana dialect.)

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Carmen helping with the party preparation

Of course, there were the typical cheeses and cured meats available, with loaves of fresh baguettes (as common here as on my many trips to France,) free-flowing wine and beer. With the mussels and paella, several large mixed salads lightly dressed were served in the middle of the lengthy table.

The promise of Cuban music for dancing was frustrated by the lack of cooperation of the equipment brought for that purpose, but Pepe backed up his car to the large open doors of the building and cranked up his Cuban tunes. Rei, a local salsa teacher, got (almost) everyone up shaking their groove things. The multi-cultural assembly including locals, Columbians, Cubans, a Norwegian and others made for a great experience including the chance to practice my Spanish and find new dance friends for the weekly Sunday Cuban/salsa music at Club Cuba in nearby Albir.

Toward the end of the birthday party, they served what was the best dessert I have ever had, and even one of my best desserts ever (although I am not much of a sweet eater.) It was vanilla custard between layers of thin, crispy puff pastry like a mille-feuille (Napolean) but with fresh fruit on top.IMG_0450 As it was time to leave, leftovers and lemons from Pepe’s trees were offered to take home. I was driven home with my large, gorgeous lemons in hand, feeling utterly happy with my new life in Spain. Unfortunately, my photos do not reflect the full revelry of the day as my camera battery crashed but what few I got are shown here.

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