Semana Santa in Spain: In a nighttime Holy Week procession, hooded penitents push a statue of the Virgen Mary past the mudéjar wall of Zaragoza’s La Seo Cathedral. Mudéjar architecture, with its distinct Islamic influence (note the geometric patterns), reached its zenith in Aragon, where buildings such as La Seo form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo ©Mike Randolph
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Do you know what these are? I mean, aside from delicious? Be the first to name this mystery food and win a free 8×12 print of your choosing. The answer must be the full name in Spanish or English (or latin, if you want to show off). Leave your guess in the comments section below. Good luck! Photos ©Mike Randolph
UPDATE We have a winner, EnriqueB, author of the Spanish food blog www.dorarnosella.com. They are criadillas de tierra. That is how they are known in Extremadura, where they are most common in Spain, but they are also known as turmas in Murcia and papas crías or criadas in the Canary Islands. In English they are most commonly called desert truffles. They are related to the white truffle, though I bought mine for 12 Euros a kilo whereas white truffles are a tad more expensive–3,000 Euros a kilo. They grow in arid, sandy soils in Spain as well as parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Fungi expert Antonio Rodríguez has an excellent post on them here.
While not nearly as aromatic as white or even black truffles, they do have a wonderful mushroomy, earthy, hard-to-define taste. Some people slice them thin and use them in place of potatoes in a tortilla. But most people prefer them with scrambled eggs. They are moist, but dense, and fried in olive oil they are quite lovely. March and April is the season for fresh desert truffles, though they are also sold in jars, minus their soil-covered skin. As Julvic noted in the comments, they don’t look very appetizing. Last fun fact: Criadillas means calf’s testicles, so the rough translation for desert truffle in Spanish is calf’s testicles of the earth.
Thanks to all who participated.
A moss-covered oak tree in the Dehesa of Extremadura, Spain. Photo ©Mike Randolph
[Last year I was asked by the editor of Men’s Fashion, a popular Canadian magazine, to write a feature about Las Fallas in Valencia. Since tomorrow, March 19th, the fiesta comes to a spectacular end with the cremà, or burning, of the giant statues, I thought I’d post the article that appeared in last December’s issue. Here it is.]
It takes a little while, but during the fiesta known as Las Fallas, in Valencia, you eventually get used to the sight of four-year-old boys walking around with pieces of burning rope. At first I didn’t know what the ropes were for, but then I saw one little guy run up to his father and jump up and down imploringly until dad produced a few firecrackers. The kid then ran off to light them with the rope and then throw them pretty much wherever he pleased. Oh, I thought. I see. The ropes are fuses. Of course. I mean, you can’t exactly let a four-year-old play with matches, can you?
Ah, Spain. It’s fun for people of all ages! While the kids amuse themselves by lighting firecrackers in bars, in restaurants and throwing them at the feet of unsuspecting tourists (“Wow, that old man jumped a lot higher than I thought he could!”), some of the adults busy themselves with the final touches on the mascletás. Whole sections of streets are cordoned off and rigged with Continue Reading →
The 12th-century Romanesque cloisters of the Colegiata de Santa Juliana glow in the late afternoon light. The church, in the town of Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, was declared a National Monument in 1889, more than seven-hundred years after it was built. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Tarifa, at the southern tip of Spain, was named after Tarif ibn Malik, a Berber warrior who in 710 sailed from Africa, seen in the background, to reconnoiter military defenses in preparation for Continue Reading →
Don Quixote warned his faithful companion Sancho Panza against eating garlic because his breath would betray him as a lowly farmer. But Sancho didn’t listen and neither did anybody else. (The Don was, after all, a little off his rocker.) Today, garlic is a foundation of the Mediterranean diet. In Zaragoza’s central market, above, a woman sells different varieties of garlic from across Spain. Photo ©Mike Randolph
By far the most beautiful train station in Barcelona, the Estació de França (also known as Estación de Francia) is, as the name suggests, the terminus for trains connecting Spain with France. (As well as Italy and Switzerland.) Inaugurated by Continue Reading →
Tiny little men in football’s biggest match: Last night’s Clásico between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabéu. The star of the game was actually a French 19-year-old central defender who will surely one day be a big star. Any football fans out there? Anybody know his name? Sorry, no free tickets to the next Clásico for the winner! Photo ©Mike Randolph
Cape Finisterre, the westernmost point of land in Galicia, was for centuries thought to be the end of the world, hence its name, which comes from the Latin finis terrae, or end of the earth. (Geographers later discovered that a cape in Portugal is actually the westernmost part of the Iberian peninsula.) Cape Finisterre is also Continue Reading →
The above image was shot in Spain. Do you know where? Be the first person to name that city and win a free 8×10 print of any image in my Spanish portfolio. Leave your guess in the comments section below (one guess per person, please). Photo ©Mike Randolph
Shiny and clean after a rain shower, cows take a short cut through a village in Cantabria, northern Spain. Photo ©Mike Randolph
The Medieval town of Aínsa is a gateway to the high Pyrenees mountains in the province of Huesca, Aragón. It’s days like this one, when the cold mountain winds bring a fresh blanket of snow, that make you wonder what it was like to live in a stone house in the mountains before the age of electrical heating. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Crossing the mountains that divide León from Asturias, Renfe’s high-speed Alvia train slows to a crawl to negotiate tight turns. Having a bit more time to enjoy the views didn’t seem to upset anyone. Photo ©Mike Randolph