Music, Food and Good Humans
After my mopy post from a few weeks back I decided to take a week off blogging. Things just got a bit too womp womp for me, and I felt like sitting in front of the computer for three hours writing about my feelings wasn’t the best way to get over my funk. Just like staying at home in the evenings in order to skype with family or friends (as much as I love it) keeps me from experiencing the things there are to experience here, sometimes I think I use the blog and my self-imposed obligation to update it as a way to hide from real life. I must have been doing more hiding than I realized because, though the first month and a bit in Madrid were filled with wandering and excitement, the last month was starting to feel a bit stagnant… Not a great thing to notice after only two and a half months of living in a new place so clearly it was time to get out of my apartment.
The last two weeks have been rejuvenating. I’ve done some of my favourite things to do but in Madridish ways and am finally feeling awake after a sleepy return to Madrid post Portugal. I’ve thrown myself into lots of music, food and good company, which have collectively helped me to like it here again.
Early on in my trip I promised myself I would see lots of music, but it has been difficult for me to find small-scale shows since 99% of music advertisements are written exclusively in Spanish. Thank goodness for people who are more in the know than I am because last week I was able to see three completely different shows in eight days. And this week my roommate brought me home a magazine with all the concert listings in October so from here on in I should be set.
The first concert I went to was Latin jazz at Sala Clamores, an old-school cabaret style venue where you sit at a reserved table and can actually feel confident the show is going to start on time. We saw The Jerry Gonzalez Band (That link was pretty much exclusively for the benefit of the Finestone family. Shout out!) from a delightfully centered second row table. I probably understood this show the least of the three- Jazz is way hard to follow- but I still enjoyed the music enough to inspire a week of concert-going.
The second show was the kind of music I truly love. Two guys, one on guitar and one on his voice, singing blues in the basement of a café slash bookshop. I don’t remember the name of the band or if the band even had a name. The crowd at this concert capped at 40 people and most of us sat on the floor drinking beers and munching on free chorizo and crackers. I felt like I had stumbled upon an intimate house party with really good hosts. For an hour and a half every single person in that basement was my best friend. The music wasn’t even the greatest- the guitarist was impressive but the guy singing had a really funny and performative way of attacking the blues- but it didn’t matter because the atmosphere was fabulous. The singer’s pseudo-suckiness all the more made it feel like I was there to support a struggling artist friend.
The third show could have been a guiri guilty pleasure but a Spanish friend took me so I have no guilt whatsoever. We saw a flamenco performance in the city centre that had me dangerously close to tears and literally stopped my breathing. My Spanish tutor would respond to that last sentence with “Queeeeee dramaaaaatica, Lauren” but my description is truthful and he uses that sentence much too much for my liking anyways. The dancing was intense and the singer was strong and raw and the combination fully punched me in the stomach. Oooff. Flamenco. Into it.
In addition to regular concert going, I have really been missing two of my favourite weekly Toronto food events- Saturday night dinner and Sunday brunch. Fortunately last Sunday I was able to fill their void with a 2 in 1 Sunday foodfest extravaganza. We were supposed to be making lunch at a friends house but when plans fell through I jumped on the chance to have people over. I really really missed cooking for people and, just like in Toronto, it was nice to be able to squish too many people into my tiny kitchen for some yummys. Since my oven here isn’t the greatest and my stove is small, I proposed a sushi-making party. All I had to do was prep the fillings and everyone helped out with the assembly.
I LOVE Sunday lunches in Spain. They aren’t ever just lunches, but full day events of eating and lazing and conversing until we’re hungry again and ready to do something for dinner. My foodfest extravaganza was no different and lunch lasted ten hours.
Before dinner, the few remaining stragglers and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. My friend Riqui used to live close by and he showed me where to do all sorts of good eating and exploring. I’m an idiot and apparently have been spending the last two months wandering in the wrong direction of my apartment. It turns out my neighbourhood is awesome. And it turns out there’s a real-deal indoor market 5 blocks away.
Now that I’ve discovered said market and the impressive ham shop within it, my mostly successful- let’s say 95% successful- vegetarian diet is in serious jeopardy. My first day at the market, I ordered 100 grams of a good-ish quality jamon Iberico and the guy misheard me and gave me 150. My Spanish is not at the point of correcting these moments of miscommunication so I just went with it (7 euros later… that’s a lot on ham I think). I accidentally ate this ham in one day and had to return the next day for more. This time I was given 200 instead of 100 grams and you know how the story ends. My chest only hurts a little bit from the salt overload. My hope is that I’ll out-pork myself in a week or so and then be able to return to being nice to my stomach. Then again, I mentioned chorizo earlier on in this post so maybe I’ll just be okay with my 5% margin of error.
This Sunday I continued my few weeks of good food and good company by spending a day wandering El Rastro- a ginormous market that happens here every Sunday- and sitting down for an eight euro Indian lunch feast in Lavapies. Recall the street party? That place but in the daytime… it’s basically a district of Indian restaurants. Apparently Spanish people don’t have much taste for spice so, consequently, Indian restaurants here have a bizarre tendency to cut through delicious spiciness with heaps of sugar. One must be careful, as this can be extremely nasty. My dining companion quickly requested our food “Mas picante de ketchup” (More spicy than ketchup) which was a hilarious way to ensure our waiter was on our side and our food was authentic tasting.
Throw all these great sensory experiences together and I’m feeling a whole lot better than I was a few weeks ago. I recognize this was a bit more of a “the things I did in Spain” post than I normally put out, but I thought I owed it to my bummy self from a few weeks past to highlight some of things that continue to make Madrid exciting. I think it’s important to both seek out experiences I could enjoy in any context so that I have a sense of normalcy and be open to all those experiences that make living here so unique. My first month and a bit were filled with the unique, the last little bit was filled with maybe too much normalcy, but I think I might be starting to find the balance.