Starving Artist: Easter Dinner in Spain

Spain is a Roman Catholic nation. Over 94% of the country’s entire population has been baptized into the Catholic church. With such overwhelming church membership, it’s only logical that many of these Catholic church-goers are not actual “believers” as much as they are cultural Catholics. Their parents were Catholic as were their parents before them and so on. This being the case, their lives have always been shaped by religious traditions even if whole families today don’t have any personal religious convictions.

One example of these such traditions is the menu surrounding religious festivals and holidays. Pictured above is the traditional Good Friday dish called plato unico. This roughly translates in English to “the dish that stands on its own.”

In what Catholic tradition does this dish find its roots?

Well, many of you are probably aware that devout Catholics are expected to abstain from eating meat every Friday during Lent. Not ones to let this mean eating less food, the Spaniards created plato unico as a way to fill up without eating meat but also without sacrificing taste. The above dish is chock full of vegetables (spinach), starch (potatoes and rice), and protein (eggs, beans, and fish). Believe me, it is very filling. There’s no way you’ll still be craving meat after a bowl of this stuff.

But our dinner’s not done!

Almost as a break between the meal and dessert, Spaniards often enjoy sweetened fruit as a springtime holiday treat. Yesterday’s fare was a bowl of strawberries swimming in orange juice and honey. It was delicious and the first berry I could remember eating for several months. Citrus is much more popular in Spain and is actually in season all winter long.

It would have made sense if this light dish was the extent of dessert following my heaping helping of plato unico, but no . . .

Say “hola” to a nice plateful of torrijas. These sweets are prepared very similarly to the french toast that is so familiar in the United States, but it is served cool and has a much lighter consistency than french toast, making it more like a Spanish variety of bread pudding. These are another traditional Easter food, supposedly developed in convents as a way to simultaneously whip up something special yet cheap for Easter dinner and also to use up leftover stale bread.

The beauty of torrijas is that they can be prepared in so many more imaginative ways than the cliche French toast. Not only have Josh and I tried the traditional egg-and-milk-soaked variety, but we have also been delighted by torrijas soaked in red wine and anise liqueur. The latter may possibly be the most delicious thing I have ever tasted . . . except maybe Mama Thurston’s anise biscotti 🙂

And just when you think you can’t fit one more thing into your oh-so-happy belly, it’s time for your post-meal cafe con leche. Don’t worry, though. While this picture fails to capture how purely petite this little cup-ette of coffee is, I assure you it won’t take up much room.

How was your first traditional Spanish Easter meal? Did you miss the ham and gravy? I, for one, am still too full to even think about what a traditional US dinner would have been like.


"Tea For Two and Two for Tea" (London/Dublin)

Dear friend Kristen met up with us in Dublin after Josh and I had spent five days in London on our own. Having visited London in the past with her family, Kristen was somewhat mortified that I had not regularly indulged in the British joy that is tea and scones.

Much to both of our delights, upon visiting the beautiful seaside town of Howth (pronounced “Hooth”) on the eastern shore of Dublin, we discovered a deliciously homey tearoom at the start of the pier. I didn’t need any encouragement, but Kristen definitely wanted me to go.

In the absence of chai (sad day), we ordered a pot of simple green tea, but there was nothing simple about the scoop of dried grasses, lavender, and leaves that was scooped into our teabag. We each enjoyed two cups of the lively beverage–Kristen plain (such a purist) and me with cream and three lumps of sugar each :-). Teehee. I’m sure a scone would have been quite authentic, but who can say ‘no’ to a spiced muffin with chocolate chips?

They had rosebud tea! I’ll have to try that some time.

What was most lovely about this experience was the atmosphere of the tea room. There were comfy antique chairs and sofas and a cozy reading corner. All of the colors were warm and inviting and just asking to be photographed.

Kristen and I sat here while at least an hour passed by without us noticing. We chatted, sipped, munched, and missed our train home while Josh and some other friends hiked the cliffs surrounding Howth’s peninsula.

Scones or not, I will never forget my first real teatime just outside of Dublin, Ireland.

Title from Doris Day’s “Tea for Two.”

More tasty pictures after the jump!

"Let’s Have a Carnival" (Avila)


We are en carnaval here in Avila!

Carnivals are an age-old Spanish tradition which basically embody the sentiment “We haven’t had a legitimate holiday to celebrate in a couple of weeks. Let’s throw a carnival!” In this case, we find ourselves in the dull slump between Christmas and Easter. The Spaniards won’t have any of it. They declare a carnival, dress up in ridiculous costumes, dance in the streets, eat fried food, and stay up all night drinking. We excused ourselves for that bit . . .


The costumes were all so creative. Children and adults alike were completely decked out. Some in very authentic-looking store-bought ensembles, and others in adorably resourceful homemade outfits.

I have to admit, when I heard that there was going to be a parade, I didn’t realize that everyoneregardless of whether or not they were in the parade–would be dressed up. I wish I had taken another peek at this post and fit right in!

Speaking of not fitting in, I was dancing all by myself in the plaza to music that was blaring so loudly that I simply do not understand why no one else would dance!

The music was so interesting. The traditional Spanish tracks they played at first sounded like a cross between and African war dance and a Celtic wedding march. It was so invigorating. Then they proceeded to play heavy bass American dance anthems whose lyrics were to trashy to be popular in the US. This is the part where I started to dance. I couldn’t justify listening to songs like “I Got a Hangover” without convincing myself that I only liked it for the beat.

An “Occupy Europe” group. No kidding. They had Guy Fawkes masks and everything.

Nothing sells touristy crap like a horse head

This man was dancing with his granddaughter onstage. She got so confused when she saw that everyone was watching her!

After the parade, everyone crammed into an area that is called the Mercado Chico (“little market”). As you may guess, “little” signifies that it is probably not meant for hundreds of rowdy party-goers of all ages. I really get the impression that the Spanish like to be crowded. It makes everything seem more festive–like more of a community. As an extrovert who draws most of her energy just by occupying the same space as other human beings, I definitely understand.

Even though it had been sunny and warm for most of the day, as night fell, we again felt the nip of Avila’s winter. Josh, Kristen, Ariana and I slipped into a cafe to warm up and then retreated back to our respective apartments to be lulled asleep by the songs of drunken teenagers.

Hopefully the local Easter festivities are a little more organized 😉

Darn kids dressed as LMFAO wouldn’t stop moving . . .

This guy’s hair was visible from everywhere . . . I think this pic is hilarious!

More Ways for Singles to Celebrate V-Day

Despite the fact that there are some definite perks to being single, Valentine’s Day is often a reminder that you haven’t yet found that person who will make all of the waiting worthwhile. On this day that celebrates love, why not get closer to any and all loves in your life with some of these fun activities.

NOTE: Even more fun with other single friends!

1) Jam out to this playlist! You won’t find any love songs that will make you mope about what you think you’re missing or any songs about how badly “Love Stinks” and that Valentine’s Day is a joke. We’re talking about ways to spend the holiday aware of how loved and how worth waiting for you are.

Playlists work best when enjoyed on Youtube.

  1. “Single Ladies” by Beyonce (duh)
  2. “Ridin’ Solo” by Jason Derulo
  3. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby Mcferrin
  4. “Be Good to Yourself” by Journey
  5. “Free to Be Me” by Francesca Battistelli
  6. “Let’s Dance” by Hawk Nelson
  7. “Express Yourself” by Madonna
  8. “Perfect” by Pink
  9. “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain
  10. “Single” by Natasha Bedingfield
  11. “Something ‘Bout Love” by David Archuleta
  12. “Barlow Girls” by Superchic[k]
  13. “More Beautiful You” by Johnny Diaz
  14. “Firework” by Katy Perry

      2) Watch a funny movie. Not a romantic comedy or anything that could be remotely confused with a chick flick! You are celebrating be single, not longing for your prince charming!

      3) Make some munchies. Worried that you’ll spend the evening “eating away” your loneliness? Well, who needs ice cream and chocolate when you can try try some of these perfectly healthy snacks  from College Fashion (two separate links). Again, these taste better with friends 😉

      4) Have slumber party! Snacks, hair and nails, chitchat, what could better remind you how well you’re loved by your chicas?

      6) Help out at a homeless shelter, Salvation Army, etc. Nothing like getting your eyes off of your loneliness and loving on other people in need.

      7) Bless your mom and dad and their love that has held your family together for all of these years. If you think about it, they were the first people to ever teach you what love was. Go back to this post for a cool idea that will make their day.

      8) Write letters to old friends and family that you’d like to stay in touch with. When was the last time you wrote a nice, old-fashioned, hand-written letter?

      9) Make yourself over. I always find that a little change of personal scenery can be a great mood upper and can provide a super boost to your self-image. Try a haircut or color. If you’re feeling less daring, just buy a nice new outfit or some new makeup. If you’re feeling more daring, try a tattoo, haha (mostly joking . . .)

      10) Babysit for a young couple so that they can go out and enjoying a worry-free Valentine’s Day together. I will admit that this would be quite a sacrifice, but if anyone ever offered to do this for me I would offer to put them through college or something like that. Talk about a blessing!

      7 Perks of The Lonely Hearts Club

      It’s official! The countdown is down to ten days until the arrival or the holiday surrounding which there could not possibly be stronger emotions–good, bad, or otherwise.

      I have to admit that, being married, it’s often easy for me to forget all of the drama and emotions that comes with searching for a date for Homecoming, Christmas parties, and most heart-rending of all–Valentines Day. This is an entire day the world sets aside to celebrate love and relationships. In fact, in Spain, it’s not even called Valentine’s Day, but rather Dia de los Enamorados (Lovers’ Day).

      Every year, people (mostly females) who don’t happen to have any sort of “lover” to speak of on Valentine’s Day vent on Facebook and in their personal diaries about how much they loathe the annual event. We’ll call these ladies The Lonely Hearts Club.

      I would like to ask, what’s to loathe? What is wrong with being a proud member of The Lonely Hearts? In fact, why be lonely at all? Be a proud member of the Single Ladies! Well, I guess if you’re not a lady, that’s a pretty good reason . . .

      Possible names for the club of proud single “persons”:

      Matchless Matches
      Ridin’ Solo
      Me, Myself, and All These Other Guys
      All Your Singles Are Belong to Us
      Solitaire Champions
      Soy Soltero (Eh, it’s a Spanish joke. Be sure to mention in the comments if you get it!)

      This might sound kind of shallow coming from a married person, but I promise there are perks to your situation! You have a whole new pool of options when it comes to how you spend your Valentine’s Day. Some people call it “ways to be your own valentine.”

      Here are some things to celebrate about being single this year:

      1. Finances

      Flowers, chocolate, champagne, evening dress, hair appointment, fancy restaurant, monogrammed “his and hers” toothbrush holder . . . whatever! Whether you’re the dude or the dudette in a relationship, there are plenty of expected expenses come V-Day. Talk about a pressure to perform!

      2. Food.

      You don’t need to watch your weight or attempt to look dainty while eating spaghetti (Lady and the Tramp got it right). You can eat what you want how you want to. Try a pizza with all your favorite toppings or a sub sandwich fixed just the way you like it. Something that you can indulge in that might not be kosher to eat on a romantic date. It will make you feel powerful! And full . . . it might taste better if you share it . . .

      3. Friends.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of love out there, you know. If you don’t have a “significant other,” use this day as an opportunity to get closer to the truly significant people in your life (probably the similarly single ones who won’t be busy shopping for chocolates). Get together and make great party snacks, watch chick flicks, do hair and nails, and talk about your V-Day angst.

      Dudes, I’m not worried about you. I know you don’t need to be told to get together and eat chicken wings, drink mountain dew, and play Modern Warfare 3.

      4. Family.

      See above. Who loves you more than these people?

      Here’s an idea. If your parents (like many mature married couples) have gotten to a point where all of the commercial expectations of the holiday have gotten to them, why not offer to help them celebrate by blessing them with a nice homemade dinner and dessert? I know for a fact that your mom with love not having to cook and your dad will love not having to pay for it.

      5. Freedom.

      Hello! You can do what the monkey you want this year! (That was for you, Allie Stewart.) This goes beyond food. It applies to your whole life! You don’t need to go along with your date’s plans. You don’t even need to run your plans by your date! Because your date doesn’t exist! Sorry, this sounded more encouraging in my head . . .

      Anyway, enjoy the ability to spend this day doing the things that make you feel special, but don’t forget to make someone else (anyone else) feel special, too. Now, that will really make you feel great.

      6. Faith.

      Have you been remembering your First Love lately? I know firsthand how easy it is to forget. Let the loneliness that might creep into your heart today push you into the arms of your best friend and the lover of your heart. Do you have any idea how well He knows you? He knows how bummed you are about being single right now. He knows if the desire of your heart is to get married someday, and he knows not only who is the right person for you, but when is the right time for you.

      Why not keep busy by trying out a new devotional or some good Christian literature? Or you could just cuddle up in your pajamas and spend some quiet time praying and listening. God knows your heart. Celebrate His love by getting to know His.

      7. Fab Tunes!

      Stay tuned for a singleness themed playlist that will blow your mind!

      Playlist for a Chilly Winter Day

      I don’t know how you feel today . . .

      But this playlist is filled with songs that feel cold. The melodies and/or lyrics have a certain lifeless air to them, but even in the “deadness” that they capture so well, they stir up feelings of wonderment about the crisp air, biting breeze, bright sky, and sparkling snow.

      Even though I complained about the serious snowfall Avila experienced the other week, I have to admit that I’m grateful that God blessed me with a taste of winter chill. As much as I enjoy being warm and dry, there’s nothing like winter to help you appreciate the promised coming of spring.

      I’m so sorry that my holiday playlist didn’t work out last month. It turns out that holiday music is much more heavily copyrighted than any other type of music. I could hardly put any of them into a playlist and have them play on the blog.

      I’m having similar problems this month. I really need to find a new platform (besides YouTube) to use for sharing playlists. Boy, if it’s this hard to share music already, how much worse will it be with SOPA?

      The best I can recommend is to play Chilly Winter Day on YouTube. So sorry!

      1. “Vanilla Twilight” by Owl City
      2. “Canvas” by Imogen Heap
      3. “Winter Winds” by Mumford and Sons
      4. “Missing You” by White River Music Company
      5. “Cold” by the Cure
      6. “River Shiver” by Pomplamoose
      7. “Wintertime Love” by The Doors
      8. “Frozen Lake” by Buffalo Tom
      9. “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath
      10. “Winter” by Tori Amos
      11. “Bare Trees” by Fleetwood Mac
      12. “Boy With a Coin” by Iron & Wine
      13. “Misty Mountains Cold” by The Hobbit Cast
      14. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult
      15. “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel
      16. “Winterbells” by Ferry Halim
      17. “The Red Shoes” by Kate Bush
      18. “Doledrums” by The Chills
      19. “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
      20. “Love Like Winter” by AFI

      My Big 2-0!

      This picture is terrible, but I love it!

      I know several readers were wondering why I didn’t publish a themed post about memories, resolutions, epiphanies, etc. pertaining to the celebration of New Year’s Day. I know many if not most bloggers take advantage of this annual occasion to write rather pensive “deep” posts reflecting on the past year.

      Well, here are two things that were going through my head:

      1) I tend to sneak “deep” thoughts into many of my posts. I didn’t think followers would mind a carefree break. (I seem to remember posting about Jo-Ann Fabrics or something deliciously trivial like that on the first?)

      2) I prefer to save my major yearly reflection period for my birthday. It is reasonably close to the festivities of January 1st, and it provides a much more personal time of “starting over.” It’s my own personal new beginning.

      The spoils of my cereal party

      And it’s today! Woo-hoo! I am 20 years old and riding a train back from a lovely birthday weekend in Toledo. There will be many more pics from said trip, by the way.

      What I Learned When I Was 19

      • My friends are few but fabulous.
      • I have Interstitial Cystitis.
      • I am happier when I am working.
      • People write books (good books!) in continents other than Europe.
      • I love food (good food!) even more than I thought I did. Thank you, Spain!
      • Hormones in all of their medicinal uses (birth control pills, antidepressants, etc.) will make you crazy before they actually work.
      • Yes, you can get high off of antidepressants.
      • 18 credits plus a part-time job is crazy but doable.
      • Every time you want to say something unkind, think of 5 kind things to say instead. 
      The lovely Allie and her birthday ukelele

      • I miss the theater.
      • Human bodies function very differently at high altitudes.
      • I am very grateful for my sisters.
      • Packing up and moving always takes at least three hours longer than you expect it will.
      • Flash drives can go through the wash and still function perfectly well.
      • Phones cannot.
      • History can be beautiful and fun.
      • I love modeling.
      • Sometimes flying is cheaper than taking the train.
      • How to make Christmas dinner.
      • Lots of the cliches and stereotypes about Spain are true.
      Kristen and Ariana. Breana is the yellow splotch in the picture of me with the cereal

      • “My drink” is coconut rum and Coke, or as I like to call it, a Malibu Libre. (NOTE: The drinking age is 18 in Spain)
      • I can survive without Wikipedia.
      • I cannot survive without Google Translate.
      • I need to do my devotions every morning.
      • Stephen Colbert is a genius.
      • Forgiving is the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do.
      • I like octopi for pets and squids for food.
      • I will own a parrot someday.
      • Denny’s is open all night.
      • Taco Bell is not.
      • Cowboys and Aliens was not as bad as the critics made it sound.
      • I am a much better driver than my reputation would suggest.
      • I am great with maps.
      • Fabric dye is the best $2.50 I will ever spend.
      • I will never stop wanting children, but I can wait.
      • In a lot of ways, Macs and PCs are exactly the same.
      • It is possible to be content without being happy.
      • Josh and I can survive and thrive in a surprisingly small amount of space.
      • I can dress creatively and uniquely with a surprisingly small wardrobe.
      • Love is stronger than hate.
      • I am lucky ❤