A lot of my most recent experiences in Spain have combined two things that I absolutely love: people and food. Throughout my time in Spain, I have been amazed at how many people from different countries are currently in Spain. Some of the most special people that I have had the joy of getting to know and learn from are my Uruguayan neighbors and a friend from Germany.
My neighbor is an incredible chef. Often times the amazing creations that she shares with us become my meriendas (afternoon snacks) and each and every one of them has been delicious. One night we were talking about cooking and making homemade pasta came up in the conversation. She offered to teach me how to make Gnocchi, a delicious potato pasta commonly made in Italy and South America. I couldn’t believe it. This pasta happens to be one of my favorite pastas as well as the favorite pasta of my mom in the United States. I happily said yes!
I learned that it is a Uruguayan tradition to make gnocchis the 29th of every month. On March 29 my neighbor came over and together with her husband, my host mom and grandma we made the gnocchis. Two plants of basil were plucked to make a delicious pesto. We steamed and mashed potatoes and added flour, salt and pepper. My neighbor began to kneed a huge bowl of dough and gave me a smaller one to work with. It was messy and fun! When the dough was ready, we formed it into the gnocchi shape with a special tool. (You can also use a fork).
I had a hard time getting the exact movement right to form the gnocchis. But, after awhile, it became easier. After I had made a plate worth of gnocchis, my neighbor finished forming the rest. It was no small task. We made enough gnocchis for seven people and still had some left over in the end. As the gnocchis were being formed, my neighbors and I talked about Uruguay and the different words and animals that they have there. I learned about different types of ostriches as well as interesting birds and mammals I had never heard of before. I even learned how to say platypus in Spanish: ornitorrinco.
When the pasta was formed it was time to boil it. We dropped them into the top and when they floated to the surface of the boiling water, they were ready to be eaten. The steaming, hot pasta was scooped onto plates and garnished with basil pesto and fresh Parmesan cheese.
We all sat down to the table to eat, along with some other friends, and realized that we had forgotten an important part of Gnocchi day! It is a tradition in Uruguay to put money under each plate for good luck. I quickly dashed off to my room to search for coins to place under the plates. Once everyone had their money, we enjoyed the warm gnocchis with a fresh salad.
My neighbors are incredibly kind people who have shared their amazing experiences with me. Just the other night, I enjoyed learning more about South America, Spanish and food.
This week, I received a baking lesson from one of my host mom’s friends from Germany. I met her one of my first weeks in Spain and we had a conversation about how much my mom and Grandma love German bread. She offered to teach me how to make it. This week we were finally able to make it work.
We made a Butter Strutten, a bread common in Northern Germany, that was absolutely delicious. The process took about four hours and was an absolute delight.
First, we made part of the dough and let it rise.
Then, we kneeded in butter, salt, and sugar and let it rise again.
After the second rising we pressed it into a pan and sent it into the oven to bake.
Soon after removing the bread from the oven, we brushed the top with lots of butter.
This bread is commonly eaten with butter and ham. We didn’t have any ham in the house, so we made a quick run to the grocery store to eat the bread the right way. We spread butter over the warm bread and topped it with the Spanish jamon serrano. Then, we made a dinner out of it with my host mom and grandma.
As we waited for the bread to rise, I learned about Germany and her life. It was absolutely fascinating. She also gave me tips for my upcoming trip to Venice, Italy! (I’m leaving in six days to spend a week in Italy with a friend of my family)! It was such a special time of learning, laughter, and fun!
Whenever I learn a recipe, I keep my little red notebook (thank you Kate!) by my side to write down all of the steps and tricks as we are doing the process. I’m excited to make them when I return!