Malaga wines are sweet, fortified dessert wines. In the old days, some of them also contained quinine. Jesuit missionaries brought the bark of the so-called fever tree to Spain in the 16th Century and it was used to treat a variety of illnesses for centuries. Medicinal wines with quinine were still widely consumed in Spain until the 1970′s. This barrel is from my favorite bar in Malaga, the Casa Guardia. I’ve been visiting it off and on for 20 years, and it hasn’t changed much either. As for whether quinine wines are still being drunk in Spain, I can’t say. Does anybody know? Photo ©Mike Randolph
Ornate iron street lamps glow in the backlight of a late winter afternoon on the Carrer Jaume I in Barcelona. Jaime I, King of Aragon, is an important figure in Catalan history, promoting language and culture while ousting the French and expanding the Crown of Aragon across Catalonia and the Mediterranean. Photo ©Mike Randolph
In the Retiro neighborhood of Madrid, the Nave de Motores hosts a mercadillo the first weekend of every month. Inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII, the Nave’s transformers and massive diesel motors provided electricity to Madrid’s Metro from 1923 until Continue Reading →
[Everything I said about slow train travel in Spain is true. Except for the part about the Talgo III still being in service. It's last run, sadly, was in 2010.] Taking a trip on the AVE, Spain’s network of modern high-speed trains, is fast and efficient. But what’s your rush? There are plenty of older trains still in operation across the country and taking a trip on one is like slipping back in time. Above, the bar car of a Talgo III, which started service almost 50 years ago and is
still going strong. Photo ©Mike Randolph
The island of Sa Dragonera, off the coast of Mallorca, almost became a mass-tourism resort after a private company bought it in 1974 and started developing plans for apartments, a hotel, a casino, and a large man-made port. But environmentalists fought back hard, and finally, ten years later, the island was designated a park and building on it was prohibited. Named for its dragon-like silhouette, the island is also home to thousands of mini dragons, aka, Podarcis lilfordi, a small lizard found nowhere else. The lighthouse at the eastern tip of the island has operated since 1910. Photo ©Mike Randolph
Beach season is here. For a look at this beach at a different time of day (and a different time of year), click here. Photo ©Mike Randolph
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
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.
[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 →
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