As a “thank you” for making us feel so welcome in Córdoba, I wanted to prepare an American dinner for our Córdoban friends. Many have already experienced a Thanksgiving, so this time, I wanted to prepare an everyday meal. At first, I had thought to make a pot roast as that goes straight back to my southern roots. But finding a pot and oven large enough to accommodate a roast for 26 proved problematic, so I decided to focus on the Pacific Northwest and prepare a Salmon Pesto. (I know, many of you will tell me that “pesto” is Italian and I do not dispute that fact. But Scott and I have traveled over a good portion of Italy and I have never seen Salmon Pesto prepared anywhere other than at McCormick’s in Portland. As you simply cannot get more “Northwest” than McCormick’s, I felt that this recipe fit my requirement.)
Of course, this is Spain and I did not realize the difficulty that I would have finding fresh basil in April. It is spring after all. But this year has been cold and rainy. We have actually been experiencing weather closer to that of Portland. There was no basil… anywhere. I think that my Spanish friends have a good laugh when I go off on one of my food quests. But after weeks of searching, I finally found some very small basil plants. I bought 14, and proceeded to pamper them. Luckily, basil grows very quickly. The plants doubled in size in two weeks, even though it was quite grey and cloudy and after 3½ hours of plucking leaves late Saturday night (I do not recommend this method…) I am happy to announce that there was sufficient basil to make the pesto.
Preparing this meal also underlined some basic differences in belief about food storage. In America, we refrigerate many dairy products that are normally left out in Spain. I am aware of this. So when my friend stopped to pick up the food Saturday afternoon, I pointed out the creamed spinach, the cheeses, the homemade Ranch Dip packaged (and labeled “Ranch Dip”) in an old butter container and a few other items, and asked that she put them in her refrigerator. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication. She refrigerated the spinach, but looked at the rest and decided that it was more important that we have cold beer. Cheese will survive a night on the counter, but mayonnaise and yogurt (the main ingredients in Ranch Dressing) spoil. It was an honest mistake, the Ranch Dressing was in a butter container. Even though she speaks very good English she didn’t see my label. Who refrigerates butter in Spain? Luckily, I had brought most of the ingredients with me to make some fresh dressing and had had the foresight not to send my 3 dozen refrigerated eggs the day before. Cultural differences are an adventure to navigate.
So the meal began with basic party hors d'oeuvres, Veges & Ranch Dip, and Potato Skins and some other favorites. The Spanish reaction to the food was interesting. They looked at the raw vegetables, taken aback and said: “You eat the vegetables raw?” I explained that the vegetables were meant to be eaten with the Ranch Dip. I had prepared more than 2 cups of Ranch Dip (fresh that morning). It was gone in less than 15 minutes. Likewise, the Potato Skins disappeared. When asked for the recipe, I explained that you start by baking the potatoes, which baffled my friends. “You just put them in the oven… nothing else?” It is always fun to share food.
Needless to say, the meal was an enormous success and a good time was had by all. This may actually have been the first Spanish event that we have attended without Iberian ham, goat cheese and olives.