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Showing posts with label industry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label industry. Show all posts

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Pusol Museum and School

El Museo Escolar de Pusol. Photo from its website.
A group of some 50 adult students--mostly northern European and of retirement age--from the Centro de Estudios Hispania in Algorfa came to the Museo Escolar de Pusol one morning in April and were met by a somewhat smaller and much younger group of Spanish students. The students, you see, are the docents at this rural teaching museum, which also houses a small colegio (elementary school) for the children of residents in the surrounding area.

Before arriving, I had envisioned the museum as a sort of mini Old Sturbridge Village, a Massachusetts open-air museum that reproduces and reinterprets life in 1830s New England. It is similar, though on a much smaller scale, and on the day we were there all activities took place indoors.

We divided into two groups; mine went first on a tour of a dozen or so galleries that showed implements used in farming, carriage-making, shoe-making, wine-making, and other occupations formerly important to the area, as well as typical rooms from the farm and village houses. Before each tableau stood two or three very young students--usually age 7 or 8--who, at the signal of their teacher, gave us an introduction to what we were seeing and what life was like in their home area in "the old days." The exact era of the old days in question never became clear to me--they seemed to stretch anywhere from 19th century to the 1950s--but they were definitely in the past, and in the long-ago past for these children. The students spoke Spanish, of course, and very quickly--they obviously wanted to get through their memorized speeches before they forgot them--so there is a limit to how much information was taken in by us old people, but we all recognized many of the artifacts shown and described, and the youngsters were earnest and adorable.

After a mid-morning rest break and light "pic-nic" we proceeded to a classroom and were instructed in the art of making braided white palm (palma blanca) decorations for the upcoming Palm Sunday celebrations. Though seasonal, this braiding of palm leaves is a long-established tradition in the greater Elche area, usually done by regular inhabitants in their homes, with the products sold in florist shops all around Spain and exported even farther afield.  We had good teachers, but I decided right away that I was not going to wear my little palm flower for Palm Sunday.

Then we switched guides, and my group went through the exhibits showing a large variety of commercial establishments typical of the geographic area in days gone by, including a shop, drugstore,toy store, and an office. This museum and its incorporated school were established in 1969 by the idea of a young teacher in the school who wanted to introduce new teaching methods while maintaining memory of the early life and culture of the area. The idea was successful, and the museum and school were recognized by UNESCO in 2009. Rather than slipping into being a backwater country school in a forgotten rural pueblo, the school now attracts students from far outside its geographic catchment area, becoming a sort of magnet school in Spain.

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, and news reports all over the world show Pope Francis clutching braided palms that, we are told in Spain, were hand made in Elche, a city just 45 minutes north of here. Ten days ago I went on an excursion with other students in my Algorfa municipally supported Spanish class to Elche, and we saw one of the studios where people were making the braided staffs out of white palm leaves (bleached intentionally through preventing sun from reaching the leaves by covering them in plastic for a whole year). Some of the palm decorations are more than a yard long. They can be extremely elaborate and difficult to make--I know because we were each invited to make just a tiny one-inch flower out of a bleached palm and mine was a miserable failure.

The article here tells about the Elche tradition of making braided white palms for Palm Sunday. The photo above, from, shows some of the more elaborate palm decorations.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More Salt

Salt mountains in Santa Pola  © 2014 Johannes Bjorner

We drove along the N-332 seaside road north to Alicante city on Thursday this week and passed the huge mountains of salt that are collected there and shipped out all over the world to alleviate wintry road conditions. This salt is not taken from the lake in Torrevieja that I wrote about previously, but from the salt flats bordering the Mediterranean immediately south of Alicante city.

I felt like Phil, the groundhog who emerges from hibernation each year on February 2 and, upon seeing his shadow, wreaks revenge, bringing six more weeks of winter to estadounidenses not just in the region of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. When we returned from our sun-filled morning, we saw news programs showing that they had received more snow in the middle and eastern U.S.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

El Tiempo de Alcachofas

Estamos en Semana Santa y ya sabes que es tiempo de Alcachofas, habas y guisantes.

"We are in Holy Week and you know that this is the time of artichokes, beans, and peas."

Well, no, I have never thought of artichokes as especially a dish for the most important holiday in Spain, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, though of course I realize that eating artichokes would be appropriate for the meatless meals of Lent, or Cuaresma, as the period is called here in Spain. But yesterday morning, the first Saturday in Lent, we drove south through the countryside just to be out to enjoy the sun and crisp spring weather. We saw field upon field of large green bushy plants that certainly looked ripe for harvesting, and I suspected they may be alcachofas, or artichokes. We stopped the car for a closer inspection, and sure enough, now I am certain what an artichoke plant looks like. The leaves are quite raggedy and have prickles, sort of a combination of giant dandelions  and thistles, with, of course, a large round layered bulb, or head, growing out at angles, which is actually the flower of the plant.

Artichokes ready for harvesting. © 2014 Johannes Bjorner

Given the plenitude of artichokes, I thought I should look for some artichoke recipes to try, and given that we have just entered Lent, I figured I have five weeks in which to investigate this dish if I intend to follow local custom and serve alcachofas during Semana Santa. Truth be told, I have never found an artichoke that I really enjoyed eating. I remember the first one very well. It was in Argentina, and my mother-in-law served artichokes as a special first course. I did not even know how to eat the plant that was placed before me, but fortunately this was a very long time ago, I was young, and I was a foreigner who had not grown up on a farm, so no reason I should have known how to eat an artichoke. It didn't have to be fancy, I was relieved to see. Patiently I watched as others tore the green leaves from the bulb and dipped them in melted butter, then sucked the inside of the leaves into their mouths. Eventually I tried it myself, and they didn't taste bad as long as I soaked up enough butter. But I would just as soon have dipped anything else into the butter and then into my mouth.

Years later another neighbor made a nice bubbling hot artichoke dip, also as an appetizer, and served it informally as a spread on crackers. These artichokes were mashed, as far as I could tell, for they bore no resemblance to a solid vegetable at all. That dish was OK, too. It was pleasantly warm and had added cheese. Edible, but I didn't ask for the recipe, even though she told me that it was perfect for spontaneous get-togethers, as I was likely to have all the ingredients on hand, once I bought the canned artichoke hearts.

If I have eaten other artichokes through the years, they have been disguised and/or innocuous.

Foods from Spain tells us that Spain produces 300,000 tons of artichokes annually, making it the second largest producer in the world (I believe it follows Italy) and the largest exporter.  Moreover, our drive from San Miguel de Salinas south to Murcia province took us smack dab through the largest artichoke growing area in Spain. The Foods from Spain website also gave me some ideas about contemporary uses for artichokes, but I needed to begin on a more elementary level. I found "Twelve Recipes with Artichokes" and then "Rapid and Very Simple Recipes for Artichokes" with a Google search on alcachofa recetas. I also found directions for peeling artichokes, and this, I realize, may be one of the biggest hurdles in preparing them. Nevertheless, I will be investigating and evaluating these recipes in the coming weeks. I'll let you know if I come across something that I like. And if I don't write about alcachofas again, you'll know that I didn't find anything that seemed worth the effort. Or, perhaps that I became sated with "Ode to the Artichoke," by Nobel literature prize winner Pablo Neruda. Really.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tons of Salt

The Torrevieja Salt Lakes

We live not far outside the city of Torrevieja, which is located at the bottom left of the map above, but stretches out into the surrounding areas. Our town, Algorfa, is located  off the map at the top right, and the yellow line going diagonally across the screen, the CV-905, is a two-lane highway connecting our urbanization, Montebello, to the city of Torrevieja. It extends for about nine kilometers. Also known as the Crevillente Road, it runs between two sizable lakes, shown on the map. The "pink lake" to the left often has a pink shade due to the crustaceans living in it. The "green lake" to the right doesn't change color. We see both these lakes often, almost daily, as we drive to our petanca, Spanish lessons, shopping, and other social events in the area. Quite often, we see huge piles of salt surrounding the pink lake, because it is still a working salt factory (the green lake no longer produces salt, for some reason that I do not know).

Ever since we have lived here, we have heard that the lake provides salt to melt the snow on the streets of New York City in the winter time. I thought this was probably an apocryphal story, possibly with as much truth as that at one time, salt had been sold from this area to New York. It certainly seems like a long way to ship salt; doesn't northern Europe offer enough of a market?

This week, the Round Town News weekly paper featured a story that confirms the rumor. It reported that, "With the USA experiencing one of their worst winters for decades, and no sign of any major improvements in sight, this week the 'Sakura Kobe' left Torrevieja heading for the U.S. East Coast carrying 30,000 tons of salt." It is the largest shipment of salt that has left Torrevieja for a number of years, and more large container ships are expected to follow.

We were there early in the season. We know you need it. We are thinking of you.

Coffee to Go--in Spain!

Coffee culture in Spain is, well, cultured. You may be served your cup of coffee in a clear glass or in a ceramic cup or mug, but whichever one it is, it will rest on a ceramic saucer or plate, and you will get a small stainless steel spoon to stir your sugar in, if you take sugar. But before you add sugar, if you are having café con leche, half the cup will be filled with steaming hot milk, rapidly so that a froth develops on the top. If you are in a sit-down cafetería, the combination will probably be made at the table, with the server bringing two pitchers to pour from, one coffee, the other, milk. But even if you are at a stand-up coffee bar, like at a gas station or restaurant along the highway, the barman will likely pour the coffee and the hot milk before your eyes. It's a little ceremony, and it is lovely to drink coffee from a real cup rather than from Styrofoam or cardboard or plastic. And you will drink it where your bought it--coffee to go is just not done in Spain.

On the road to Roquetas, we had driven a half hour after our lunch of tapas and were now ready for coffee, so we pulled off the highway at the sign promising food and drink. The restaurant that we came to was filled--at least the parking lot was overflowing with fifty or more cars. It was, of course, now Spanish lunch time, and we figured that it would take a half hour or more to get served, and then no one would be very happy to give us just a cup of coffee rather than the typical full-course mediodía meal. So we left the restaurant parking lot and drove down the road to the lone gas station, because most gas stations have a coffee bar.

We were out of luck, we saw after walking in: no cafetería, no bar, not even a coffee machine was in view. When we asked the clerk about coffee, however, he apologized for no cafetería and handed us an aluminum can instead. I thought he was going to tell us to pour the contents into a plastic or Styrofoam cup and microwave it, but there wasn't any microwave. He then explained that if we pushed a pop-top on this can and shook it, we would get hot coffee.

Cafe con leche in a self-heating can
This was my first experience with self-heating cans, and I was skeptical. But it was only two euros and we really wanted coffee. It worked almost as well as he said, but fortunately explicit instructions were on the can in Spanish and in English.

1. Remove the bottom lid and press the plastic tab firmly.
2. Wait until the liquid (inside) disappears and steam becomes visible.
3. Turn, shake, and open the can.

We took the can cautiously to the car and followed directions. When we opened it, it was so hot that you could burn your mouth. It would have been nice to have even a Styrofoam a cup to pour it into, but we didn't. The café con leche tasted good, however,. The can stayed hot for almost an hour. I said it was magic, or at least ingenious. Johannes said he knew how it worked and started talking about childhood chemistry experiments. I wondered what chemicals I was drinking. Still , just the thing for camping trips, we said, or just to have on hand in the car for emergencies.

Of course the print on the can was too small for me to read anything, but now I am home and I have read the can and found the website. I am no longer worried about the chemicals and I even know that I can dispose of the can conscientiously in the envases recycle bin. Though drinking coffee "on the street" is counter to the Spanish culture, the Fast Drinks 2GO company says, apparently there is a need, because sales have been good. 2GO gives credit for the idea to an American company, WP Beverage Partners, which it says distributed it through Wolfgang Puck back in 2004. I never saw it there, but I'll check next time I find a Wolfgang Puck at the airport, because this is just the thing to take on board for one of those flights without frills, which they all seem to be these days. You can also purchase in advance from an online store, but I wonder about getting it through security.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

News of the Day

While out on a drive Friday morning, we stopped (no surprise) for a café con leche and media tostada, and I was reminded of one of the special qualities of Spanish cafe-bars: they have newspapers. They don't thread them onto sticks in a stand, as they do, or at least used to, in Vienna cafes and in the Massachusetts public library where I worked an eon ago. Rather, they leave each day's selection--two or three papers--scattered on one end of the bar. There they lie when none of the customers, or the proprietor or servers, or cafe regulars are reading them. Friday morning around noon (yes, that's still morning in Spain) when we happened in to the Toscana in Callosa de Segura near the indoor mercado de abastos, there were three newspapers at the close end of the bar. My companion picked up El País, the national paper that has an affiliation with The New York Times, but I was wanting more local news, so I picked up Información, the regional edition for Alicante. Leafing through while enjoying my coffee and toast, I focused on four articles.

A front-page teaser noted that nine immigrants had been killed as they tried to climb a wall into Ceuta, a small Spanish territory surrounded by Morocco in Northern Africa. The economy may be bad in Spain, but apparently it is worse in Morocco, and the papers and TV news frequently tell of  would-be immigrants--usually arriving by boat--getting caught trying to enter European Union jurisdictions through Spain. I had never heard of a group trying to storm a wall from Morocco, but apparently that is what happened this time, with tragic consequences. What could have gone so terribly wrong to justify the killing of nine individuals seeking better opportunities? El País apparently has a later press time than Información, because it had a more detailed story, and here is one in English.

The AVE, the high-speed train, that was inaugurated between Alicante and Madrid shortly before we left Spain last November, has apparently turned into a big success. The train takes two hours and 35 minutes, as opposed to one hour for the plane, but that doesn't account for terminal time, with security and check-in requirements, for air travel. Headlines announced that the AVE "is eating" the air competition: what had been ten daily flights between Alicante and Madrid will now shrink to just three. This concerns me, as I don't really want to have to transfer from Barrajas airport in the outskirts of Madrid to the inner-city train station at Atocha when I return to Spain from the U.S., early in the morning after an all-night, transatlantic flight--with luggage--as I did just two weeks ago. Nor do I want to sit around Barrajas airport for hours on end waiting for the next flight. What is really puzzling is that we have taken the normal train to and from Madrid several times, and it usually takes only a little over three hours.

Story three: There have been big demonstrations at the Coca-Cola plant in Alicante city, which, it was announced earlier this week, is one of four in Spain to be closed by the global beverage concern. The news on Friday was that Coke has said, once again, that there is no chance that it can reconsider and save the jobs of its workers. I read later in the day, in an English paper, that 111 families will be affected by shutting down the plant, which first started operations 50 years ago. What a sad 50th year anniversary observance!

Story four: Another confirmation of the increasing presence and financial influence of Russians on the Costa Blanca: a big meeting of Russian real estate agents in the Torrevieja area had taken place, and there are signs of them joining together to develop a commercial center in a coastal part of Torrevieja that is unfit for housing development. Yes, there are real estate agents that specialize in serving Russians, and more than a couple. I had previously written about the Russians coming to this area, and the trend is continuing and expanding. This year, for example, there are four young Russian women in my Spanish class, out of about 15 students.

That was the news of the day, Friday, February 7. All for the price of a coffee and tostada.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Strawberries in January

We get lots of fresh fruit at all times of the year, but there are noticeable seasons. Lemons and oranges have started appearing in large bags at cheap prices (one euro for a dozen or so lemons) at the Sunday Zoco market now, and indeed, we can see farmers harvesting them all around us. We have even harvested a few lemons from our own tree. I realized recently that it had been ages since I had seen a strawberry, but this morning at the Zoco, while I was buying bananas and grapes, the fruit handler was practically forcing a large, ripe strawberry into Johannes' mouth, so before I knew it, we had a few strawberries, as well.

Since I am rarely in the U.S. during strawberry season, I don't know whether American strawberries have gotten as large as those here in Spain. The ones purchased today are about two inches in height (or length--how does one measure a strawberry?). Two were sufficient to dice onto the top of our lunchtime fruit salad. They were delicious, but I think they will be even sweeter as the season progresses.

I wonder about the size of U.S. strawberries, because, coincidentally just this morning I was reading an article in The CoastRider, one of the newsier free weeklies, that said "Spanish robotics firm takes US by storm." The Agrobot company, based in Huelva, reportedly has successfully tested a prototype strawberry picking robot in Watsonville, California "where 40% of the State's strawberries are produced" and now is planning the manufacture of strawberry pickers in the U.S. Apparently the robots are able to function flexibly enough that size doesn't matter. Harvesting costs for "fresh" strawberries are reduced 50% with the robot and 90% for the "industrial" strawberries that are used for purees and yoghurts.

It is wonderful to read about a success for Spanish industry.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Internet Piracy and Film in Spain

I have been seeing increasing references in Spanish newspapers to something called La Ley Sinde, and when I read that Álex de la Iglesia, president of the Spanish academy of cinema, had resigned his post in opposition to the law, I finally decided to spend some time figuring out what was going on.

I knew that the law had something to do with Internet piracy, and I assumed that it was strengthening sanctions against the practice of unauthorized (i.e., unpaid) downloading of copyrighted music and film works. What I didn't know was just how inbred in Spanish society the practice of downloading from the Internet was.

A year ago, an article in the Los Angeles Times ("In Spain, Internet Piracy is Part of the Culture") provoked heated controversy among Spanish Internet users who couldn't understand what the fuss was about. The article quoted two middle-aged individuals who routinely download a couple movies a week from the Internet. They didn't feel like pirates, and they weren't, strictly speaking, for in Spain, such downloading is not illegal as long as it is not done for profit.

I didn't know that. Apparently that means that it is not illegal to buy the DVDs of English-language films on sale by street vendors along the beach promenade or at the Sunday market--though it is illegal for the vendors to sell them. So may I rest easier about the copy of The King's Speech loaned to us by some neighbors a week ago that I have enjoyed immensely--twice--all the while feeling guilty because I suspect that it was purchased as a pirated copy for only a couple euros at most and has now provided an evening's entertainment to at least five families?

I learned more from that article and others that I researched. Reportedly there were 12,000 video stores in Spain when I first came here in 2003, but by the end of 2008, there were only 3,000. That rings true--there was just a single video rental store in Roquetas, where we first lived, and since we moved to the Torrevieja area we have yet to find one. There are also few cinema houses. There was one in Roquetas, which showed films in their original version (i.e., not dubbed into Spanish) for a time, but it soon abandoned that practice for lack of an audience--we were usually the only two customers on a Sunday afternoon. I guess most people were just downloading the original version from the Internet instead of paying 6 or 8 euros per person for the cinema version.

Even more surprising to me was that Apple's iTunes website apparently doesn't sell movies or television shows in Spain, though it does in Britain, France, and Germany--and when I read that, I finally realized why I had had so much trouble registering to use iTunes in order to download a free iPhone app several months ago. And while illegal movie downloads grew from 132 million a year to 350 million between 2006 and 2008, DVD sales and rentals fell by 30%. Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton was quoted as saying that Spain was "on the brink" of no longer being a viable home entertainment market for Sony.

We are now beyond the brink, according to a recent article in El Pais, which asserts that for the fourth year in a row, Spain is expected to be on a U.S. Department of Commerce blacklist of countries with which U.S. firms should not engage in business involving intellectual property. This article appeared in the same issue reporting on the final passage of La Ley Sinde, which is named after Spain's minister of culture, Ángeles González-Sinde, who is also a screenwriter and film director. The law is still controversial, since some see it simply as buckling under to U.S. commercial interests and to those who refuse to recognize the "new marketing model" of the Internet. I see it differently, as I come from a tradition and make my living in a profession that acknowledges some monetary value for the work of writers, performers, and other creative artists. I think the law is rather mild anyway. As near as I can figure out, it creates a panel to hear cases against Internet sites allowing downloads and empowers a judge to close such sites. No provisions against the downloaders or the sellers of copies.

I still feel guilty about watching a copy of The King's Speech that may have been illegal, even though I did not break a Spanish law. I would have been happy to go into a store and rent an authorized copy of the original version. I would have been even happier to be able to see the film in a movie theater. But the problem remains that films in Spain are dubbed into Spanish. Can you imagine watching and listening to The King's Speech in Spanish?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This is (Still) Spain

As I mentioned in a belated "happy birthday" greeting to a friend a week or so ago, I don't pay much attention to celebrating birthdays and the dates on which they fall. That's why it wasn't until I returned from a "This is Spain" home show and expat exposition this afternoon, and remembered that I had written about my first "This is Spain" show a year ago, that I realized that the Sundays in Spain blog has slid quietly and unceremoniously into its second year.

Looking back, I find that I first posted on October 12, 2008. I've pretty much kept to the goals and schedule I originally promised, and I have no intention of stopping soon. Thanks to all my family and friends, and the occasional stranger, who let me know from time to time that they are reading and enjoying. You probably don't know how helpful that is to me.

So, anyway, today (Saturday) was year two that I went to "This is Spain." It was held at a bigger and fancier hotel than last year, the four-star La Zenia, which is immediately south of Torrevieja in Orijuela Costa. But the financial crisis has taken its toll. Whereas my entry last year at this time says there were 150 exhibits, the showguide today lists only 59. I have come to admire those northern Europeans who move to Spain to work rather than to retire, because I know that running a business is hard work, and running one in a country new to you, with a language not your own, is very risky. I am sure that some of the businesses that exhibited last year are now gone, and others may still be alive, but find the promotional cost impossible at this time.

Another difference between last year and this: last year we were living temporarily in a rented house, knowing that we couldn't move to the Costa Blanca until we sold an apartment in Roquetas. This year we have sold the apartment and now have our own house. So all the stands with offers of various reformas were interesting to us today. We talked to several people about underfloor heating systems, magnetic insect screens, sun awnings, house and "underbuild" ventilation, and small interior construction projects to improve cosmetics and storage. In my never-ending quest to find English language satellite TV systems that offer American programs, I read the offerings from three different vendors, and found none. I picked up two 2010 calendars and a nice assortment of little guidebooks to restaurants, leisure and wellness centers, and other businesses in the region. I accepted at least three flyers about prepaid funerals and stuffed them in my bag--they are now in the wastebasket. I got another free blood pressure test: 123/69, a bit up since last year's free test. That may be because I spent more time at the XOCAI chocolate stand, where a very nice woman explained the health benefits of this particular type of dark chocolate, and I believed her. But at the cost of €30 for a one week supply--even though it tasted fabulous--I don't think that I can afford to eat those three chocolates a day, no matter how great it would make me feel! We spend far less than that each week on red wine for two people!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tomato Country and More

During the brief time that I lived in Indiana, my sister introduced me to Red Gold, a small but excellent canner and processor of tomatoes grown northeast of Indianapolis. We enjoyed finding and purchasing the local brand whenever we had need for tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato juice, or any other tomato something from their extensive brand and product list.

Now, totally unexpectedly on a visit to a rural hardware and building supply store near our Montebello home, I have found my local Spanish equivalent to Red Gold. The huge warehouse had a good-enough supply of kitchenwares that I browsed through while the other half of the family talked wood and a building project with the lumber people. But back in the corner I found a section promoting locally grown products. And this is how I found out that it's not just lemons, oranges, mangoes, and olives that are grown in this area. They also grow tomatoes.

I came away with a 390 gram can of tomate al natural pelado (peeled whole tomatoes) and a 400 gram can of tomate al natural triturado, categoria primera (tomato sauce, first quality) for a euro each. A smaller jar (300 grams) of Dulce de Tomate Extra (tomato jam) was three euros. There was a variety of brands and labels in the store, but I noticed after I got home that all three of my purchases were labeled Conservas Almoradí. Almoradí is a town only six or eight kilometers up the road from our home in Montebello--we had previously been there to get our health cards and to buy a few familiar but hard-to-find-in-Spain items at a British EuroStretcher warehouse store.

The two cans also bore a Gómez y Lorente, S.L. mark. When I checked out the Gómez y Lorente website at home, I found that in addition to tomato products, they do alcachofas (artichokes), pimientos (peppers), cebolla sofrita (onions sauteed in olive oil), brocoli, and habas (baby lima beans, also in olive oil). I only saw cans of various tomato products and the onion sofrita, but I look forward to trying the other local products as they become available. I might even try to like artichokes.

I purchased one other local product from the hardware store: Salt. We knew that they still mine salt from one of the two inland salt lakes in Torrevieja--we can sometimes see mountains of salt as we drive by on the road from Torrevieja to Montebello--but I had been completely unsuccessful in finding local salt from any grocery store in the area. Now I have it: Chaco refined sea salt for the table and cooking, packaged by Rocamora Hnos. in Torrevieja, 40 euro cents (about 60 US cents) for a kilo. But salt is a subject for another Sunday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Windmills of Spain

Don Quixote has made the old windmills of Spain famous for the past four hundred years, but new Spanish windmills are now achieving a prominence of their own. Spain's national newspaper, El País, reported this week that on March 5 windmills generated enough energy to meet 29% of the demand for electricity at 11:10 in the morning, and more than 40% of the demand during several of the early morning hours.

Windmill farms with a hundred or more mills are a common site when driving across the plains, though usually only a small portion of the mills are operating. Indeed, the country's windmill network was only functioning at 74.5% capacity when the March 5 record was established.

The bigger news that El País reported, however, was that in the months of January and February, Spain exceeded the goal of generating 30% of its electricity with the renewable sources of wind and water. In 2001 the European Union established a target for its member countries to satisfy 29.4% of their electrical needs with renewable sources by 2010. Though Spain experienced favorable conditions of wind and rain in the first two months of this year--as well as diminished electricity demand due to the economic crisis--it appears to be well on its way to maintaining its place as one of the leaders of renewable energy production and management. According to El País, only 10% of electricity in the U.S. is generated by renewable sources, and in the UK, it's less than 5%.