Mini green peppers, sautéed in Madrid

Changing cultures is always fun. I love to feel disoriented, as I am when I first arrive. After a stint in Austria, I’m in Spain. I got up early. Walking around Madrid at 8am people seem in a kind of fog. It’s not clear who’s starting their day and who’s ending it.

When I enter a new culture, I have certain rituals. In Spain it’s: a plate of Pimientos de Padron–sautéed mini green peppers with a delightful coat of salt and oil; savoring a slice of jamon iberico–the most expensive ham, made from acorn fed pigs; people-watching over a tall glass of horchata–that milky, nutty refreshing drink you find only in Spain; eating really late–8pm is tea time, no one seriously starts thinking about dinner until 9:30 or 10:00; setting the circa 1950s orange plastic machine into motion as several ugly oranges drop down, are sliced, squeezed, and fill the glass with liquid sunshine; and being really, really hot.

Austria is a relatively religious part of Europe. But in Spain, people brand Catholicism into their children with the choice of names. My last cabbie’s name was Angel. The woman at the hotel desk is Maria Jose (Mary and Joseph). The guy who runs my favorite restaurant is Jesus. And another friend is Jose Maria. Men have Maria in their name and women have Jose.

I’m done with TV production for the season. Simon is back in Seattle editing together the two new Austria TV shows we just shot and I’m in Spain for five days to update my Spain guidebook and apprentice one of my guides to do more research. As always, Spain is a festival of life. The streets are jam packed with people…at midnight.


9 Replies to “Mini green peppers, sautéed in Madrid”

  1. You’ll also find horchata in many central and south american countries. The first time I had it was in Utah at a family BBQ hosted by a family from Peru. Now I usually grab a glass (if it’s fresh) with lunch at the local taqueria here in San Diego.

  2. Thanks so much for your blog, Rick! I cannot wait for the next installment. I have not been to Europe yet but feel a familiarity with its beautiful diversity through your travel classes, website and now your descriptive, sometimes humorous blogular insights!

  3. First off I wanted to thank you for every thing you do for the show. I watched the latest one about Germany today at 12. When I see your shows it gets me excited about traveling and erges me to find out more. I love that you have these blogs now. It makes it feel as if its not just you on the TV, as an unreachable character any more. Even though most of my interests have been on Italy, your show brings out a new enlightenment for the rest of Europe that I never would have thought about. Again thank you!

  4. OHMYGOD – I had to laugh when I read your comment that you like to be disoriented. I thought I was the only one. People often ask me why I don’t just vacation on the Cape (Cod – I’m in Massachusetts) instead of going to Europe in the off season. Well now I can admit, like Rick, I like being a little off kilter in a different culture. How cool is it to learn a little bit of the language and actually get what you ordered at a restaurant or the post office! I must admit I also have a M.A. in medieval history so there is some additional interest in visiting Europe, but even if that were not the case, I would still be visiting just to enjoy being in someone else’s culture and land. It’s the best travel there is!

  5. The orchata that you find in Latin America is not the same orchata, the one in Spain is made of chufas (tigernuts) and in Mexico, Peru etc is made of rice so the flavor and texture are quite diferent.

  6. Thanks Marga for the information regarding the difference in the ingredients in Horchata between Spain and Latin American Countries . I have spent much time in Mexico and love the Horchata there, it is a nice mellow taste and very thirst quenching. In Spain I did detect a difference but couldn’t figure out what it was. And as always, thank you Rick for your magnificent insight into our Euorpean neighbors life style and cultures; always enjoyable reading about your travels.

  7. Hey Rick-Stayed in Hotel Europa in Madrid a week after you were there. Jim was a great help to my family for our stay.
    thanks for leading us in Europe.

  8. Hi Rick, Always look forward to you new shows. Now I’m enjoying your e-mails.

    About being off balance, I once had a teacher tell me that “you aren’t learning unless you are off balance”. I finally figured out what he meant, we only learn when our comfort zone is challenged. This also means we are tuned in to what is around us.

    We head for Spain and Portugal this fall and I am expecting to learn many new things. Thanks. Lyn

  9. Any recent comments about the Hotel Europa in Madrid? We have read some poor comments regarding the current construction
    and lack of on site restaurant. We’re heading there in a few weeks and wonder if we should change reservations.

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