Search "Sundays in Spain"

Showing posts with label Danske Venners Klub. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Danske Venners Klub. Show all posts

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving in Spain

We have just finished an extra-large lunch of the leftovers from yesterday's traditional Thanksgiving dinner with three American (or American-connected) friends. It's hard to celebrate the fourth Thursday of November when you are the odd people out.  Spaniards, and Europeans in general, know that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and eat turkey, but they don't know exactly when, they don't know anything about the real tradition of it, and they certainly don't stop life on a weekday in the fall for a huge foreign celebration. So since one of our American friends in Spain is a mother with kids in school (from approximately 9:00 to 1:00 and again from 4:00 to 7:00 each day), we have often celebrated our national holiday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We have been to restaurants before, but this year I brought the "fixings" in my suitcase from the U.S.: pecans, canned pumpkin puree, and well-wrapped fresh cranberries. I do wonder whether the TSA ever inspected my cardboard canisters labeled dried plums and raisins well enough to know that substitutions had been made.

Turkey roaster filling the oven in my Spanish kitchen.
Finding a fresh turkey is not always easy. I remember one year that I did manage to order one ahead of time, sight unseen; when I picked it up at the market early in the week, it turned out to be almost 40 pounds(!) and I had a hard time storing it in my refrigerator for a few days and an even harder time getting it into my small oven to roast. This year I had to fall back on a frozen turkey crown from Iceland, where the turkeys for the Brits' traditional Christmas dinner are already selling like hotcakes. I was able to gauge the size somewhat better for our small gathering of five, and I was even more pleased when I got it home that it fit in the cast aluminum Wagner Ware turkey roaster that I had been storing on the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets for years, used seldom but with affection, though never before in my ownership for turkey. I had previously ascertained that the turkey roaster itself would fit in the oven. It did, barely, with no room for anything else to either side, front or back, above or below. When Thursday morning came and I started the food preparations, I was disappointed to discover that the two turkey legs (jamoncitos) that I had purchased to add a dark meat selection to the white meat of the turkey crown would not fit in the roster with the crown, so I did them first and then set the crown in a couple hours before my guests came.

We had a leisurely dinner, from spinach square appetizers contributed by one guest to a fantastic pumpkin pie with lattice crust from another guest, and then sat at the table for hours afterwards talking and doing our darnedest to finish the last inch or two out of some of the various liquor bottles that had accumulated on the bottom shelf of the liquor cart over the years. This was a farewell occasion to some of our best friends. We also had another farewell dinner at our house, on Thursday, with other long-time friends, English, who had humored me several times in the past few years by celebrating Thanksgiving with us. This year we agreed to bypass the traditions of Thanksgiving and have roasted pork tenderloin and seasonal vegetables. That was excellent and easy, but I did give in to purchasing a small turkey tenderloin when I spied it in the grocery store, and throwing it into the oven thirty minutes before the rest of dinner was done, and I offered a cranberry compote with custard for dessert, so there was some tradition on Thursday itself.

We played petanca with our usual group this past Tuesday afternoon, and then on Wednesday evening joined 40 or so other members of the Danish Friends Club of Torrevieja for a club dinner at a restaurant in the La Siesta area--a restaurant where we had eaten for our first meal out when we came to explore Torrevieja six years ago, now re-opened under new management. Most of the Danes had heard that we were here to ready our house for selling, and they stopped by to say goodbye and wish us well. Then on Friday I had a lovely visit with my Danish Spanish teacher, that is, the Danish woman who started out teaching me Spanish conversation by discussing books, but who has long since turned from formal teacher into a close friend and fellow reader.

It has been a week of celebratory dinners, and we have been giving thanks throughout for good friends with whom we have shared the joyful, trying, and rewarding experience of living several years in a foreign country.

Tomorrow I pack the turkey roaster to bring it back home to Ohio. As is the custom here, we are selling our house furnished, and in our case that includes cookware and basic dining service, because, frankly, it doesn't pay to ship it home. But not this piece, even though my 15-inch Wagner Ware Magnalite 4265 turkey roaster can be had on eBay for about $80 plus shipping (estimated at $20). My shipping will probably cost that--maybe a little less if you factor in all the small treasures I can fit inside the roaster when I pack it. But even if I were to buy another one, it wouldn't be the same. This roaster is from the town I grew up in, and the company where my father worked during my growing-up years. It is nearly as old as I am--maybe older. And it has cooked some wonderful meals for special friends in various locations throughout the years.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Petanca Tournament

This past Sunday in Spain I did not write here, as I was otherwise occupied--for much longer than I had planned--in the Danish Friends Club's annual mixed doubles petanca tournament. It had been ages since we had played with the full club, as the day for social petanca has changed to one for which we have another arrangement. So we were glad to go out on a Sunday morning and see people who we have not seen for awhile, and play a game or two of petanca.

Wearing the Bronze
Photo courtesy of Danske Venners Klub Torrevieja 2013

It was much more festive than I had anticipated. When we arrived at the early hour of 9:00 AM I was put to work by the crew that had clearly been there for an hour already. My task was to spread the liver paté that someone else had made onto tiny melba toasts. So much for that contribution. By the time I was finished the others had arrived and we were having coffee and liver paté before the schedules for the first round of games between 38 teams were posted. Three teams were to play two games each in that first round. Then there was to be a second round of playoffs before the quarterfinals and the semifinals. But I wasn't really concerned with those. I was just wondering whether there would be time after we were knocked out of competition to sample a hot dog before we scooted off to the Sunday market that closes at about 2:00 PM.

There wasn't. We played and played and played again. And again. And one more time, I think, though I have lost track by now. We made it through to the quarterfinals and the semifinals, ending with a big surprise--the Bronze Medal for third place.

But the best part of it all was that it was a gorgeous sunny spring day. My neck is also bronze from the sun.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Lady of Elche

When I headed off to the city of Elche on a day bus trip with the Danish Friends Club last Thursday, I thought I was going to see some of the 200,000 palm trees in that UNESCO World Heritage city. But three kilometers before getting to Elche proper we stopped at an archeological site in L'Alcúdia to see the Dama de Elche (Lady of Elche), or at least, a reproduction. According to our two guides, the Lady of Elche was discovered by a sixteen-year-old boy in 1897 who was working on the private farm where the museum and archeological site now are situated. He thought he had encountered a very large stone while digging in a field, but carefully unearthed a polychrome stone statue of the head of a woman. Shortly after the discovery, the bust was whisked off to the Louvre in Paris, but returned to Spain in the 1940s. The statue is noted by experts as a well-preserved piece of Iberian art dating from the 5th century BC and is key in claims of Spaniards that there was an Iberian culture here before the Romans, Moors, and Christians.

The original now is displayed in Madrid in the national archeological museum, so we saw a reproduction. In fact, we saw many reproductions, because part of the hundred-year anniversary celebration in 1997 was the creation and placement on the grounds of several imaginative larger-than-lifesize artistic interpretations. I've since read about art historian John Moffitt's claim that the Lady is a forgery--a controversy that neither of our guides mentioned--but the family on whose farm it was found preserved the location and privately financed archeological excavations through the next three generations, before getting public authorities to take over the project. There are lots of artifacts in a small museum today; archeological work is continuing with the University of Alicante. A pre-Roman temple has been unearthed and we were cautioned not to take anything from the grounds, as it could be a relic.

It was an unexpectedly delightful morning adventure, even though it did delay our arrival at the palmera. The grounds are extensive and it was a beautifully crisp fall day. We walked a lot, and you can even rent bikes to get around. Perhaps next spring we'll take a picnic and go visit the Dama de Elche again and see what else has been found.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cartagena's Roman Theater

Thanks to the expert research and commentary of Jørn Frending, this week I learned a lot about Cartagena's history, and I enjoyed it.

Cartagena--Carthage in English--was founded in 227 BCE and has survived many high and low points in its history. The most impressive site for me was the Roman Theater, built in just four years, from 5 BCE to 1 BCE, a fact that is known with certainty because of a plaque at the west entrance referring to authorities in Cairo. This Roman theater was the westernmost in the Roman Empire and today is the second largest in Spain. Discovered in 1988, it is astoundingly well preserved and restored. Indeed, much restoration of ancient ruins is being undertaken now in Carthage, thanks to a mayor--she has been elected four times now--who understands the value (including tourist value) of restoration.

This theater was meant for the presentation of plays and oratory, as opposed to Roman amphiteaters, which were used by gladiators for their sport. It has numerous steep rows of stone seats, arranged in a semi-circle, surrounded by high stone walls to improve acoustics. A well-developed stage area provided place for entrances and exits on both sides, as well as a backstage where actors could follow the play in preparation for their own parts.

Later we also saw a well-preserved Roman street from the 1st C. CE and another site where archaeological students were hard at work. It takes about an hour to get to Cartagena from Torrevieja, and I look forward to going back and seeing how far they have come.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mediterranean Motion

I'm up early this morning because I played six games of pétanque yesterday. 

Usually we play on Friday afternoon, with a large group of members of the Danske Venners Klub, the Danish Friends Club. But this week the Danish friends held their Fall Fest on Friday evening, and pitching pétanque balls in the afternoon would have cut too deeply into the time required to don dress-up clothing for the "do."(I did, after all, have to put on stockings for the first time in months). 

After a full evening of gustatory indulgence on Friday, it seemed like a good idea to get out in the fresh air for a little motion (the very apt Danish word for exercise). Pétanque offers the perfect opportunity for some moderate bending and stretching. You bend slightly and stretch to toss the "pig" or "jack" onto the playing field, and then to throw out your three metal balls--each weighing more than a pound and less than two--trying to land them strategically and as close as possible to the pig, or at least closer than your opponent. (Wikipedia, I discovered this morning, has a good entry on the history, rules, and strategy of pétanque.) Then you get more exercise when you bend down to pick up your balls prior to continuing with the next play, and if you are lucky, or skilled, you may bend down to collect stones to line up in a row to record your points. There are, of course, some who make it too easy for themselves, by using a magnet on a string to pick their balls up so they don't have to bend down...but I think this defeats the charm of the leisurely, measured motion that sneaks a little bit of exercise into an afternoon in the sun.

Usually we play doubles with the Danes, and they have developed an ingenious way to match up teams and lanes so that you take your lumps on different fields each week and play with and against different people. Since only Johannes and I showed up for motion Saturday morning, we played singles against each other. Singles games go quicker--it takes less time to throw six balls than twelve--so we played six games instead of our usual three.

So we got double the exercise that we usually get. But we paused after three games for a little refreshment and a delightful conversation with another couple who had dropped by El Rancho in Los Montecinos to check out the playing fields. So who knows which way the scale tipped on the exercise-eating continuum? No matter. I think pétanque is a perfect complement to the Mediterranean diet, and a perfect antidote, as well.

And after all that exercise and fresh air, I went to bed early last night and therefore woke up early this Sunday in Spain.