So I went back to Gijón the next day. And I ate more tortilla. I’m not ashamed, though. It only happens in Gijón once a year! How was I not going to go back for more?! This time I tried four very different kinds of tortilla. I started off with a tortilla francesa, which doesn’t normally have potatoes and is closer to an omelet than to a traditional tortilla española. It had cod and some kind of vegetable (shallots I think?) on the inside and a reduced meat flavored gravy/sauce on top. It was reallllly good, but the eggs were a little runny for my taste and after a few bites the salt started getting to me. Afterwards, we went to “Del Blanco al Tinto” ad had the best tortilla I had in the whole competition. It was a tortilla stuffed with apple chunks and queso (cheese) de cabrales, which is a Spanish blue cheese made with milk from cows exclusively from Asturias, and sometimes goat and sheep milk is mixed in as well.
The cheese is then aged in the caves in a place called Arenas de Cabrales which is in the Picos de Europa, a mountain range in the provinces of Asturias, Castilla y León and Cantabria. Going back to the tortilla, the dish was garnished with pimentón, or Spanish paprika, in the form of a Celtic symbol. The apples were soft and acidic, the cheese was melty and delicious and the pimentón was spicy and sweet. ¡YUM!
After this amazing pincho, I didn’t really expect to find a better one, but we tried two more. One had an apple puree inside and crunchy apple chips on top and the other had shrimp, jamón ibérico (Spanish cured ham) and peas with a tomato sauce on top. Both were good. Actually, they were really good. Obviously. We’re talking about a TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA competition here. They didn’t compare to the apple and cheese one, though. I left Gijón later that night, returned home and started talking with my host mom again, which brings me to the second, main topic of this post.
I never really realized it before coming to Spain, but in the United States, we leave home early. Or at least, early by comparison. I’m not exactly sure why, but here in Spain, it’s not only acceptable but also normal to live at home with your parents while going to college and after having graduated, or while working if you don’t go to college. And although this happens in the U.S. as well, Spaniards take it to the extreme. Here, living with your parents until 25 or 30 doesn’t have the same stigma attached to it that it would in America, and even though it isn’t exactly ‘normal,’ my host mom knows people from the ages of 35-40 who haven’t left home yet. ¡Qué raro! Or at least to me it seems strange. But here, for some reason, it’s perfectly acceptable to stay until you’re ready to venture out into the real world and live on your own, which could mean moving into your own apartment right down the street from your parents.
Even when people move out here, they can still see their parents often. They may come home to eat lunch (the most important meal of the day here, almost always consisting of two different plates of food and a whole lot of bread), meet their moms for a café con leche or stop by to watch fútbol with their dads. Even though my host brother lives in his own apartment, my host mom still packs up leftovers in tupperware containers for him to pick up and take back home to eat and he’s almost 30.
I’m not saying that any of this is weird or bad, just that it’s so different than what I’m used to seeing back home. It seems that family is very important for the Spanish, and that’s not to say that it isn’t for anyone else. But moms in Spain, I think, are very protective and nurturing and want to make sure their children are taken care of…even after they aren’t exactly children anymore. It seems like most people in the United States know they want their freedom, space and independence and they want it young, while the Spanish take a little longer to decide that it’s time for them to live on their own. As for me, I love living with a family. I’m a momma’s boy at heart and I feel totally comfortable here. Maybe I was Spanish in another life?