Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rice Bonanza

I said something ridiculous was going to happen and by golly it has! I arrived in Brussels 3 days ago and have since then, been residing in the brand new apartment of a family friend. The fact that he only just moved in half a month ago means very little furniture and therefore an explosion of my belongings all over the place on account of the fact that I'm staying here alone.

Like everything else in here, the kitchen is brand new, straight off the Ikea boat and although the stove top isn't working yet, the oven is and there's a microwave as well. Any normal person would have bought frozen pizzas and lean cuisines but not me, la petite gourmande. My personal morals have lead me to believe that the microwave is the devil's advocate dedicated to giving us all cancer so I nixed anything cooked with that immediately. I then took it upon myself to roast chicken and potatoes for dinner and as if that weren't enough, I went so far as to come up with a makeshift, from scratch dessert.

Rice pudding.

I had mixed up some rice, milk, honey, and butter and baked it until it was golden brown and bubbling. The thing was gorgeous okay? I was really looking forward to eating it but anyone who knows me knows I have a phobia of removing things from the oven and the second I opened the thing I knew I was gonna drop it. And drop it I did...all over the place. Out of a 400 degree oven came and went my masterpiece within 10 seconds. I managed to splatter rice pudding from floor to ceiling all over the brand new Ikea kitchen without getting any on myself or breaking the dish it was in. No harm no foul, I spent the next 45 minutes on my hands and knees (the floor in the kitchen is BLACK slate) cleaning chunky white crap from every nook and cranny of Ikea's ass.

Surprise! You thought it was over but even on a rainy Belgian Sunday, in an empty apartment I manage to find trouble.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bussian Roulet

Who m'a gonna get...who aaam I gonna get? The question I asked myself before boarding the 19 hour bus ride from Madrid to Rennes where I would then catch a two hour train to Quimper, the home of my father as well as many fish products and varieties of cake all made with the same batter...

I sat down and awaited my destiny, the first person to take the seat was a large man from Togo who was so goddamn excited that I not only knew the location of Togo but also the capital (Lomé) that he took it upon himself to chat until my ears bled and opened my book midsentence, forcing myself to read through the bus nausea just so I didn't have to listen to his squabble anymore.

He got off after about 4 hours and here I am thinking I've won the travel lottery and I dont have to shoot myself in the head when another man got on. I tried to explain there was already someone sitting there but he sat down anyway which made for an awkward and uncomfortable journey when no one arrived to claim their seat.

Another 4 hours and at this point I'm sure it can't get worse until a large Spanish man with a gray, would-be flattened mowhawk/mullet had the top portion of his head not been bald sits down. He smelled like dirty garlic sink water the morning after you get drunk and decide to cook but pass out before you do the dishes. He also took it upon himself to casually ooze his large arm across our one shared armrest and into my seat. For all you fat people I would just like to say...just because YOU can't control your eating in combination with the fact that I happen to be a small person does not mean you get to take over any part of my seat. I paid for my space just like you and lard-induced self entitlement is unnacceptable, have a carrot.

Side note: Unless something ridiculous happens (which it always seems to in my life) this will probably be my last journey blog due to the fact that I head to Brussels tomorrow and hang out for a week before heading home to the land of English speaking, marshmallow fluff eating Americans. God Bless

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spices on Nightmare Hill

So I made a friend in Marrakesh who told me his name was A.D. and he seemed pretty cool at the moment so we hung out most of the time I was there. Afterwards he wanted to come with me to Tarifa which was a bit odd but fine. It was really when he came to Sevilla that things started to get weird...he was acting up all the time and randomly getting angry for no reason. I decided it was a true problem when he was in the middle of one of his fits of rage and insisted I call him by his full name...amoebic dysentary.

Yes yes, I got sick in Morocco. I ate in the market and it came back to haunt me in all the worst kinds of ways. Fortunately, Spaniards give out drugs like molestors do candy and I was able to fix my shit (no pun intended) rather immediately. As soon as I got to feeling better I was able to listen to all of the dribble people were telling me about how amazing Granada was and how I absolutely needed to go there so I booked a bus and a hostel. After 5 hours on the bus with a crazy man woeing me by repeatedly singing the only song he knew in English (Bob Marley's One Love) I arrived to the gigantic cobblestone hill that is Granada and wanted to kill everyone who said this was the place to be in 100 degree Euro heat.

Problems posed by cobblestone:
1. rolled ankles
2. blistered feet
3. shin splints
4. broken suitcase wheels
5. etc etc

All of these problems are magnified by the cobblestone being conveniently located on a steep hill. Fortunately I made it out of that heathen town unscathed and I arrived to Madrid this morning.

Side note: I realized the Moroccan stink was coming from the Moroccan spices I had bought for my sister and promptly threw them under the bed (sorry Sara) in Granada as a gift from me to the in peace and may the devil spices enjoy the company of the devil city.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cumin Scented Brains

Tasting sheep brains in the market was the last Moroccan straw for me and after a week long Muslim haul, I finally booked a night train to a city called Tangier in the north where I could catch the ferry to Tarifa, Spain.

I had overheard a guy saying he was going to catch the same night train as me so I asked if I could walk with him and split a cab. From what I understood I had booked a "couchette" which is a sleeping cubicle, however, upon arrival I learned that my first class ticket was in fact in a compartment with six other chairs that recline flat into one gigantic bed because sharing a big bed with Moroccan men is what I really actually wanted to be doing.

I thought I had gotten pretty friggin lucky when I walked in and learned I'd be sharing with a British family of four who had brought a few bottles of wine for the journey that they were keen on sharing. That thought died about 5 minutes after we cracked open the bottle and a Moroccan police man walked in with handcuffs and jangled them in our faces while threatening to arrest us all for public drinking on a Muslim train. We weighed our options and decided Moroccan jail was scarier than the wine was good so we put it away and went to sleep.

After sweating for 2 months straight, I was finally cold...really effing cold on this night train that was airconditioned so heavily that I was huddled with the British mother next to me named Tracie, attempting to stay warm. Finally, 10 hours later we arrived and just 35 minutes on a ferry north, the clocks rolled forward one hour, I bought a bottle of wine for 72 cents and drank it publically while sunbathing topless on the beaches...Hello Spain :)

Side note: I can't get the smell of Marrakesh out of my clothing and I'm now walking around smelling like a strange combination of cumin and spicy armpits.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Barrel O' Grease

So instead of heading to Greece like was planned, my oh so smart self decided to book a flight to Africa in the middle of the summer and see just how much more heat my body could endure before I died.

My flight through Rome connected in Casablanca and I was quite excited to be on my way until I learned that my second flight had been cancelled and I was to wait around in a Moroccan airport for the next 5 hours. Luckily the people I was with threw a fit until the airport personnel gave us all meal vouchers; Baloney is what we were given...literally baloney. Never in my life did I imagine I'd be sitting in an airport in Casablanca eating a processed meat sandwich. At some very early hour we made it to Marrakesh and found the hostel.

When I awoke the next day I sat down to breakfast with some girls discussing something called a Hamam that they described as a massage which sounded really good so I decided to give it a go because I was feeling refreshed and energized after my first legit shower in weeks.

Turns out, a Hamam is a bath house where an old woman in a thong with boobs hanging over her panty line literally ripped my clothing from my body and plopped me down on a rubber mat in a steam room with crumbling tile walls...surprise! Not sure if this endeavor was going to make me cleaner or dirtier I sat there and waited for her to return with a vat of black grease that I was promptly rubbed down with. Then she "exfoliated" my skin to the point of chaffing with what can only be described as steel wool all the while pointing out how dirty I was and how much crap she was scrubbing off of me. I tried to explain that I only wanted to be washed from the neck down and I thought she understood until she threw a bucket of water on my head that was poured from a rusty spigot on the wall.

After that I decided I had been through the most Moroccan of Moroccan things and it was now safe to eat street food, walk around without being covered from head to toe and drink the water...ok well not the water but everything else. So far its all been lovely minus the bug infested dates I bought from a man with a rickety cart covered in flies.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

That's why God Invented Salt

Today I woke up early and tooted on over to Naples for the day. When I got there I decided I might as well head to Pompei too so upon arrival I boared yet another train there. Lucky for me I picked the best train ever! I was sitting in an unairconditioned car across from a woman with so many bottom teeth I opted to put on my sunglasses so I could stare shamelessly. She had so much going on on the south side of her jaw that I decided she must have evolved from a rare species of shark because no one with that many incizers decended from an ape. When I got tired of that I looked at the bumper sticker plastered to the window that read "I heart bombing" and then we arrived!

For those of you who don't already know, Pompei was a city at the base of Mount Vesuvius that got preserved in time when the volcano blew up and surprised everyone with a blanket of volcanic ash that hardened and killed them all. Sounds nice eh? It was actually pretty cool minus the fact that its about 100 degrees every day and I literally drip sweat when I stand still in the shade. I learned today that this is the hottest summer ever on record for Italy and that the heat is killing people throughout Europe!

When I had finished mulling around the ghost town, I returned to Naples which I was pretty friggin excited about it because a little birdy told me that not only is Naples the birthplace of pizza, but the food gets better as you head south on account of the sun. Here in Rome all of the recipes seem to have been borrowed from the most famous chef I know...Boyardee. Everything tastes like goddamn spaghetti-o's so anything Naples had to offer was going to be an improvement. I arrived to what looked like a huge heap of garbage on a hill and set out looking for the first ever pizza place. On the way I stopped and got some lemon granita to cool me down which was deliciously amazing (a good start). Well I found my pizza place and that too was fantastic and dirt cheap. I made the executive decision to test out a brioche of my life, then ricotta pear delectable. At this point I tore myself away from the place before I turned into a meatball with legs but not before buying a small pizza to take back for dinner and thanking the people of Naples because unlike the Tuscan region, they use salt in their cuisine.

Side note: I just googled the weather in Marrakesh next week and its going to be 110 degrees...may your thoughts and prayers be with me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Noodle Me

The travelling Gods must have felt bad that they treated me so badly because the hostel I'm staying at in Florence is pure heaven and when I arrived it was like a shining beacon of hope at the end of the bed bug road. I walked in and was handed clean sheets and towels, a map and brochures, as well as a little welcome pack that had mini toiletries in it. They also come fully equipped with a pool, sauna, restaurant, AC, and blowdryers in the girls rooms.

I found a cooking class that was offered in one of the brochures and went downstairs to book it immediately but couldn't get in until Wednesday (today) so I opted for a Tuscan wine tour in the Chianti region on monday and mulling around the city on Tuesday. The wine tour was excellent, I couldn't understand a word the tour guide was saying but she gave me free wine and I speak that language fluently. We went from place to place tasting and smelling until ending with a multi-course garden lunch at a lord's house up in the Italian countryside where we were given enough red wine to stain our teeth and then headed back to the bus where everyone fell asleep and snored...God bless the siesta.

Today I got up early to meet my cooking group in the heart of the city where we first toured the fresh market and purchased items for lunch, then headed back to the chef's apartment to make it. He gave us all little recipe books to write down what we were doing as we sat around a large marble island in the middle of his kitchen and prepared bruschetta (the true Italian way), homemade bolognese sauce, fresh pasta that we rolled by hand, and tiramisu all from things he had bought in the market. It was all fun and delicious games until the instructor decided to confess his affinity towards me and propose: a party, boat ride, dinner of chicken and risotto...etc. This was all done in an alarming public way and I chuckled a bit and sweated profusely while whispering to the girls next to me to make sure I didn't get left behind. At the end we all got certificates of completion and after I made sure I had made it out unfollowed by my new Italian lover, I promptly spilt hazelnut gelati on my diploma.

Side note: after ruminating on my plans to head to Greece, I decided it was too far out of the way and booked a ticket to Morocco instead, surprise! Africa, here I come.