Opinion

A taste of Spain and Morocco means wine | Ann Oxrieder

 

We’re home from two and a half weeks on a Rick Steves’ “Europe Through The Back Door” tour. During that time, we covered a lot of territory in Spain and northern Morocco, places I’m still a little fuzzy on.

Was my problem the jet lag or the abundant wine we consumed with dinner every night, dinner that normally began about my regular bedtime and ended midway through what should have been an REM sleep phase?

Since I’m still waking up at 2 a.m. dreaming of the various streets and alleys we got lost in, I chose to tackle an easy theme for my first column on the subject: food and drink.

Food in both countries was tasty. I learned on day one that ham is the mainstay of Spanish meals, not just the thin slices we slap between two pieces of bread and call a sandwich, but other long-cured Spanish delicacies that are priced accordingly, here and there. The expense doesn’t keep people from eating it, lots of it.

In addition to ham, manchego cheese and crusty loaves of bread are all part of a meal. Ham, chorizo and cheese on bread are tapas, that is, snacks, which, when combined with other snacks, can make a complete lunch or dinner. We also sampled tapas of fried squid; chicken and shrimp on skewers; grilled asparagus; paté, marinated red peppers, onion and eggplant; garlicky olives; Spanish tortillas and other dishes I have already forgotten. Could it have been the wine?

We ate various types of fish, including a few little ones who looked up at us through glassy eyes, octopus, and croquettes of squid in its own ink. One night we watched a chef prepare paella, a dish of rice, seafood, sometimes chicken and chorizo, and always saffron. Oh, and did I mention we had wine?

I later confessed to my husband that I was happy to spend two days in a Muslim country, because that meant two days without ham. Memorable Moroccan meals included harira, a hearty soup with chicken, aromatic spices, tomatoes, lentils and garbanzos. I also liked a mystery fish in a dish called fish tagine, a stew simmered on top of the stove at low temperatures.

You’d think that in Morocco we would have had to forego wine, but one evening enterprising guides whisked us to a beverage store. The sign above the store advertised CocaCola, but inside we found more than soft drinks. This excursion allowed us to enjoy wine at our last meal in our hotel in the casbah.  (We filled the hotel, so there were no guests to offend.)

Since we returned home, I have been searching the internet for recipes I can use to duplicate certain dining experiences. I created a fish tagine that fell short of the mark. Maybe it needed a bit more wine.

 

Ann Oxrieder has lived in Bellevue for 35 years. She retired after 25 years as an administrator in the Bellevue School District and now blogs about retirement at http://stillalife.wordpress.com/.

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