Sunday, May 21, 2017


Food is my chief indulgence in life and second to that is wine, other alcoholic drinks, and seltzer.
During my time in Spain, when I was stationed at the Air Force base in Torrejon, I enjoyed Spanish food and I looked forward to a trip here for those tastes.
The complication is that my diabetes limits what I can eat, and sometimes finding a meal devoid of sugar and carbohydrates is difficult. Even in my own country I am often surprised by what restaurants put in the food, and what my blood sugar numbers look like two hours later.
I loved the Spanish bread that is served everywhere, a white bread with a crispy outer coating called pan.
Almost all tapas include bread. Often a bit of cheese or meat will come on a slice of bread.
I also loved tortilla, which is an omelet of eggs and potatoes cooked in olive oil and eaten  either hot or cold  at bars.
Neither of these foods should I eat, and so my enjoyment of them was limited to small tastes.
In Hervas they suggested a bread they make that is healthier and I was hoping that meant low carb, but I suspect it meant "gluten free" which is very popular right now, but has nothing to do with diabetes.
When I returned, taking even these small liberties raised my A 1C.


I also love chorizo, the Spanish sausage. This may be unhealthy in other ways, but it does not raise blood sugar. I ate quite a bit during the trip.
Frank explained that there were many varieties of chorizo and that some were to be eaten uncooked while others were a cooking chorizo. The best he suggested were labeled Chorizo Iberico.  However, at the Museo de Jamon

I found this brand Vela Roho that was only 8 euros a kilo as compared with 12 euros  for the cheapest Iberica, and my frugal nature gave in.
I bought it.
However, I forgot just how big a kilo was in thinly sliced meat and actually stopped the slicer before he had cut a full kilo.
I still had much too much. It was a good thing I liked it; I ate it all week, and took it on the plane for a snack, and then “forgot” I had it in my bag, so I ate small tastes for another week at home. 
At home on Burden Lake, I take four thin slices and let it cook. Then I put two eggs on top and add some grated cheese. 
I let that cook until I can turn them for eggs over easy. Done right, the eggs do not stick in the cast iron pan.
I don't understand how this chorizo, which is very tasty, can be so cheap as compared to some I saw in bars where a dozen slices cost 9 euros ($10).
Perhaps it is like wine. There too I don't have a highly discriminating taste. I drank a wine that was just over one euro at a local grocery, and I was content with it for my room wine. 

My first chorizo of the trip I ordered Iberica in one bar just down from my hostal, and I got a very fatty chorizo of poor taste. It was the worst of my trip, and because it was my first, I feared that I had misremembered that taste treat as well over the years. 
However, every other taste of the sausage was very satisfying, including a link I bought in that grocery near Tirso de Molina.
Frank introduced me to chorizo cooked in cider, chorizo a la sidra, especially with queso Cabrales, a blue cheese, and that was really great tasting.
He ordered it in the restaurant famous for chicken, just after visiting the chapel
where Goya's remains rest under his original work.
One of these years I will be hungry enough to try the grilled chicken. I can't really drink the cider as it would be high in sugar. Each time I get to this restaurant, every couple decades or so, I am too full to take on the famous chicken dish.

So I was successful in reliving my taste for chorizo.
At home I can sometimes find Spanish chorizo, but more often I find a Portuguese variety that is good in its own way, but very different.
I am also aware that the additives in processed meat are unhealthy in the long run and may cause cancer. 
When I am home, I shop for sausage that has no additives, but I suspect even the more natural sausages are not the best for health and it would be better were I to give up all sausage.


When I was in Spain 47 years ago, I did not eat much beef in Spanish restaurants. It was generally cut too thin for my taste, and it was difficult to get them to cook it medium rare. As Fritz used to say, they "just restored the body heat." Perhaps it was all from cows that had fed in pastures and was tough because of that, as is often the case with pastured organic beef today at home. 
Here at home I have the same issues trying to order "crispy" bacon.  The waitress will assure me that they can do that, but when it comes it is the same limp fat strip that comes in most Vegas buffets.

On the Air Base was a fine beef restaurant that brought the finest beef in from Argentina. So, we went there when we wanted a good steak.
However, in Avila, Frank ordered a Chuleton and it looked so wonderful. I tasted it and it was both tender and delicious. So, I may have been missing one treat.

(photo is from this site)

We sat in one of those umbrella covered tables featured in another site photo out in the courtyard.
I tend to drift to lamb here in Spain.
When I was here, I loved cordero asado which is a roasted lamb with olive oil and pierced with garlic. 
This is what I ate at El Portalon, although it had a sauce that was new to me.  I also had the simple version at Bar Riso in Madrid.
I think that it is not as common as it once was.
Segovia used to have a wonderful cordero asado, and partly I wanted to go there to have it again. However, we did not find it easily and settled on a nice restaurant that did not serve lamb.
In Avila while Frank at the fine steak, I had cordero asado and it was very good. It was the leg roasted as I remember, but this one had a tasty sauce on top. I don't remember that.
Other times I have had milk fed lamb chops.  These were good, but not sensational.
Segovia is famous for chochinilla, roast suckling pig, but it has never my favorite Spanish treat.
I had my only taste in Hervas at the hotel restaurant and it was good, but not wonderful.

Frank did search out a restaurant I read about that was popular for sardines, called Bar Santurce.

I did enjoy the sardines, but those I had in Portugal where they were almost everywhere were large and better and more like what I remembered at the fiestas years ago in Spain.
I have noticed that they were on menus of some of the bars.
These were good and the conversation of folks thrown together their was interesting.
When I travel solo, I often eat in my  room because I can control the carbs and generally eat more cheaply.
Here I could buy a bottle of wine for one to three euros that satisfied me. I did not try many, but settled on a 1 euro wine called Don Simon, a tempranillo which must be available in the states because there is some English on the bottle. 
When we went out, Frank sometimes picked the wine.
I did not drink Sangria here because I don't know the sugar content. At home I make it in a glass, especially in Florida with the fine oranges there, and use Truvia to sweeten it to taste. It is a good way to fix a wine that is a bit off in taste.
Frank has been educated in wine tasting and drinking, but drinks much less now because of his diabetes and his desire to lose weight. He was surprised when I told him that dry, red wine lowers blood sugar.
He will perhaps be more surprised to read this article.

I also loved cognac when I was in Spain and I had quite a bit of it here. I remember we used to drink 103, but I did not like the one glass I had. I tried a few others. Veterano, Serando, and Fundador were fine. There was no place here that poured Felippe Segundo, so I could not do a taste test, but I found no cognac that I liked better than Felippe Segundo. At home, I don't drink too much of it partly because I don't know what it does to blood sugar. It certainly is not as good as wine. And whiskey seems to work fine at home. I just could not bring myself to be in Spain and drinking American whiskey. 
Compared to cognac in a bar at home, the cognac here is much less expensive.
With the wine in my room, I often have cheese and chorizo and that satisfies me. The assorted cheese plate I had in Hervas has fed me two additional meals and a couple tastes. This included manchego, but had others like brie and some milder cheeses.
Near Sol there is a bar that advertises cheeses and I may try that.
When I first came back to the states in the 1970's, I could not get manchego anywhere. Now it is very plentiful and I eat it often, much of it from Spain. I tasted a manchego like cheese in the open market at Hervas and it was very good. I should have bought a bit there, but I did not want to add to my backpack which was packed tight and heavy with everything I needed as well as a bottle of the raw wine and one of water with gas.
Years ago I had never had agua con gas until I had it in a restaurant, and it was a new taste. I remembered it as being delicious.
However, the seltzer that is now popular in the States contains more carbonation and a flavoring as well. It beats agua mineral con gas.
However, of all the brands I tried,  I like this Fonera brand best.

Finally, I realize that many of the tastes I learned to love in Spain have evolved in my own kitchen over the years into something better than the bar food I enjoyed 47 years ago.
ChampiƱones al ajillo I now make with my brother-in-law's organic and tasty garlic and Baby Bella mushrooms. What was a grand introduction to a new and spicy taste just a few years after I had my first garlic bread in an Italian restaurant in Buffalo, is now a well developed home dish.
Spanish shrimp has taken a similar reduction in wonder. I remember being slightly put off in Spain because we had to remove heads and shells. Now these large, wild caught Florida Gulf shrimp are just so much better than shrimp tapas in Madrid, and I've experienced with my son's father-in-law cleaning the shrimp and sucking out the brains, although I did not get attached to that Filipino delicacy.

The cordero asado I crave, and did taste in a sauce in Segovia and again slow cooked as I remember it at Bar Iris, I now make on the grill at home. I debone and slow cook a leg of lamb with garlic pushed into slits and covered with olive oil. It is not the slow cooked roasted cordero, but I like that grille version as well as any lamb I have had in Spain.
And Manchego that I could not buy here when I first came back after the Air Force years is now plentiful in many varieties. The Spanish was very good, but not very different. And I still choose Campo de Montebaln, a blend of cheeses from Spain.
Of course, I did not go to the wonderful upscale places that exist in Madrid, but contented myself on bar food or food that I brought to my room. With Frank I did enjoy some very fine meals, especially in Avila and Segovia. However, often we took the menu of the day rather than the specialty of the house, saving a good bit of money. 
It was not like going in 2001 with Elizabeth, Frank, and his wife Carol to the Cantabrian chef's Zacarias in Santander.  There the food was so wonderful, we bought the chef's cookbook.

I thought perhaps I had neglected a visit to his similar restaurant in Madrid, but it seems that has been closed.
Not that I was disappointed in any meal except my last in the Taverna at Tirso de Molina. I just see that Spain influenced my tastes 47 years ago, so in my own kitchen I have incorporated those tastes and that has inspired my own dishes which I like better than those from Spain that inspired them.
The only thing I can't get anything close to is chorizo, unless I buy on line. I'm thinking of doing that, starting with this one.
However, it is very expensive at about $20 a pound as compared with the $4 a pound I paid at the Museo of Jamon in Madrid.

Were I in New York City I expect there would be some easy source on inexpensive chorizo.
I bought some at Guido's in Pittsfield, but it was disappointing.  It was marked "mild" and that was true. 

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