One year ago I married the love of my life. Our first year together has been crazy, filled with the greatest joys, sorrows, and anxieties of our lives (well, at least of my life.) We’ve grown closer together, made a million memories, and I’m so looking forward to our future together. We’re off to a great start! That’s really all I’ve got to say about that.
A couple of weeks ago we went nuts at the garden center in an effort to beautify our home a little bit. Well, at least the outside of our home. It’s led to something beautiful, not just the blossoms on the flowers and stuff, but a few quiet minutes each morning after Mrs. Primate gets ready to go to work where we just chit chat while I water the plants. She enjoys watching me water them, I enjoy talking with her, and it’s a few quiet minutes before we each head off to a busy day at work. We enjoy remarking about how much the oregano, lavender, mint, and cilantro have grown, pointing out new blossoms on the bougainvillea, and wondering whether or not the Turkish pomegranate needs more support. It makes the transition from home to work a little easier, because there’s a few minutes where the anxiety preceding the upcoming workday just clears out. It’s just nice.
Our trip from Rome to Naples was a whirlwind of “omg we’re going to miss the train!” You see, one of Rome’s subway lines sometimes continues onto Tiburtina, but sometimes also takes a different route, so it’s probably helpful to speak Italian and read the signs very carefully. After taking the wrong subway, waiting what seemed like forever for the train back the other way and finally getting to Tiburtina station, we boarded our Italo Treno high speed ride to Naples. It was a beautiful ride, and ended with us in Naples at probably 10:30 am or so. We found our hotel, but it was of course, too early to check in, so we dropped off our bags and figured we’d run our “things to get done upon arrival” errands for an hour or so.
We headed back to the train station and purchased our tickets to Bari, which would be our gateway to Greece, and then decided we needed lunch. We knew we wanted pizza for dinner, but not wanting to venture too far from the hotel before we could check in, and not wanting to spend much, we decided to stop at this little cafe at the outer edge of Piazza Garibaldi.
The cafe had the most beautiful display of sammiches in the window, and the sandwiches had cool names like Vesuvio and Stromboli (anything named after a volcano is good by me.) I chose the stromboli, but the Vesuvio has haunted me ever since. All of the recipes I’ve looked at online for a Vesuvio look completely unrelated to this sandwich I didn’t order in Napoli on that warm morning. I don’t know how I’m ever going to figure out how to make the sandwich I didn’t order that day, and who knows how long it will be before I can get back to Naples and find that Cafe (if it’s even still there) and order my damn sandwich? I guess I can concentrate on other things.
Mrs. Primate ordered this other sandwich that was really great, too. Does anyone make a better sandwich than the Italians? I don’t think so. There’s something about having the perfect bread, the perfect balance of bread to filling, and the perfect amount of sauce that they know how to do that results in a tidy, easy to eat, still flavorful sandwich. PLUS they seem to have a plethora of sandwiches named after volcanoes, allowing for extra cool points.
I guess what it boils down to is this: If you know how to make a Vesuvio, leave me a link in the comments? 😉
Not that it really makes a huge difference, I work on Saturdays, but seriously, I thought today was Friday. That means that instead of working two days and then having a day off I’m working three. Oops. This hasn’t happened to me in a while, and I’m happy that I figured it out before going in to the office today and making it through half of a day, but today is, in fact, only Thursday. Yes, Rebecca Black, yesterday was Wednesday, today it is Thursday. We we we disappointed, we disappointed. Crap.
I guess though, that if I’ve lost track of time on just one day off, I made a good day of it, right? Yesterday was pretty great. I had a breakfast date with my mom, then picked up an anniversary gift for my wife (I can’t believe I’m at a stage in life where I’m buying anniversary gifts, I feel so grown up) (wait a minute, I can’t believe we’ve been married long enough to be having an anniversary so far! WHERE HAS THE YEAR GONE?), stopped by Lowe’s to pick up some cow manure and compost (because my days off are FUN), ended up getting a lemon tree, did the yard work, then made a couple of pizzas from scratch while watching She’s Out of My League. That’s what I call recreation, people. Now I’m blogging and getting ready for the second “half” of my week. Turns out there’s more than half to go.
U is for “Ugh.”
When we moved back to San Antonio I was a bit underwhelmed. In New York you can get whatever you might want for dinner, have it delivered, and be throwing an ethnic munch in no time. Chicken Rendang? No problem. Tonkatsu Ramen? Easy enough. Jamón Iberico? Sure. San Antonio is a little different. We’re not as compact, not as much is available for delivery, so you still have to go out. The options aren’t quite as varied either, and you have to look a bit harder to find what you want. We’ve got something that no one else has, though. Puffy tacos.
Puffy tacos are Puro San Antonio in the sense that they’re a unique culinary artifact of the area. Essentially, instead of placing the tortilla masa on a griddle and frying it, it’s tossed into liquid hot
magma oil and fried until it puffs up into a delicious crunchy shell of dough. Then it’s filled with picadillo, a hash of ground beef, potatoes, tomato, and spices (cumin and chili powder, from what I can tell), topped with lettuce and tomato, and eaten by those with voracious appetites. It’s Puro San Antonio and Puro Delicioso all at the same time.
Now, how important is the puffy taco to the culture of my home town, one might wonder? Well, check out the video above. We have a minor league baseball team (and minor league baseball is a total riot to watch. Good cheap fun for the whole family!) and between innings some lucky kid gets to chase the mascot around the bases. What is our team’s mascot? A GIANT FREAKING PUFFY TACO. Take that towns with incredible food scenes! Our baseball team’s mascot is a puffy taco!
I guess what I’m getting to is this. Despite not having the diversity of New York, London, or Hong Kong in our dining options, we don’t have it too bad here in sleepy little San Antonio, because at the very least we have a distinctive cuisine (Tex-Mex) and culinary gem (Puffy Tacos) all our own. Should you visit San Antonio do yourself a big favor: leave your belt in your hotel room, untuck your shirt, order a margarita and a plate of puffy tacos. You won’t regret it.
Spain is a huge country with a ton of things to talk about. I could probably wax poetic for hours about jamón, days about pintxos, and weeks about architecture. The fact that I can speak enough Spanish to ask basic questions and get directions makes it an easy place to travel, and something about the way the people (who are in a terrible, terrible economy) manage to remain generally jovial towards tourists really hit me where it counts. I hope things will improve for them soon.
That said, Catalonia might as well be a different country. A country that I might prefer to visit. It seems like their economy is a bit better than the rest of Spain, and their culture hangs so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife. It’s a great place to visit. The architecture of Gaudí certainly contributes to the general vibe of awesomeness.
One thing I appreciate about Spain compared to anywhere else I’ve been in the world is the quality of the street performers, and one group caught my attention way more than any other: Microguagua (MEE-kro-hwa-hwa). They”re kind of a ska/reggae band with a horn section and a dude with a double bass. They have more personality in their pinkies than most music groups have in their whole bodies, and they know how to work a crowd. Also: they are available on iTunes. My recommendation for a great Spanish night at home is thus:
- Put this album on.
- Pop open a bottle of cava, or make some sangria or tinto verano
- Make some simple tapas
Now, Microguagua isn’t exactly what you might think of when you think of Spanish music, but it is for me because of the sentimental memories and such. I’m always on the look out for good music to help set the mood for a meal (especially if I’m going to the trouble of making tapas or whatever.) What music reminds you of Spain? Tell me in the comments below.
I love ruins. The older they are, the better. I love walking among fallen columns, crumbling facades, and on broken streets. I like to imagine what life might have been like in these places when they were still populated, you know, before everything was ruined. Ruins, along with old churches, stunning beaches, and of course the food, are my favorite thing about traveling through Europe. They’re everywhere. They haven’t been destroyed in the name of progress, and sometimes progress gets destroyed in the name of archaeology. What a great set of priorities!
Now, why do I like the crumbling old ruins so much? I think it has to do with the same reasons I’m a sucker for reality TV. I have an active imagination and love wondering what other peoples’ lives are like. I like to see “how the other half lives.”
Ruins certainly let your imagination run wild. Bathhouses, brothels, coliseums, temples, and even bakeries and bars can really let you wonder just what went on in this place before you managed to make it here. Sometimes you don’t really have to wonder, the writing (pictures) is/are still on the walls.
Sometimes the ruin you’re looking at doesn’t seem like much at all, but you know that it’s all that remains of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This kind of thing can really boggle the mind.
At any rate, I love ruins, and “ruins” starts with “R,” so there it is.