When I traveled to Spain, I thought the food might resemble Mexican cuisine with its spiciness. However, black pepper was the most piquant seasoning in the Fundación Ortega y Gasset kitchen in Toledo. I was happy not to burn my tongue, but my Mexican roommate imported a suitcase full of hot sauce to survive the four months of mildly seasoned meals!

I hadn’t heard of gazpacho, paella, or calamares fritos (cold tomato and onion soup; a seafood and saffron rice dish; and fried breaded squid), until I tried them in Spain. New foods expanded my palate. I had never eaten lentil soup before it was weekly fare at the Fundación Ortega y Gasset dining hall. Tortilla a la española (Spanish potato omelette) was my inexpensive lunch of choice visiting Madrid. Thank you plentiful and delicious tapas – Spanish bar food!

Many Spanish dishes I savored have become part of my repertoire of core comfort foods. I love a hearty lentil soup to this day. When I returned home to Minnesota, I learned to make tortilla a la española from Penelope* Casas’ Tapas book. When I was a teacher in Minneapolis, I cooked tortilla a la española and brought it to my middle school Spanish classes on special days. Later, when I lived in Texas, I met a wonderful Spanish friend, María Dolores*, who cooked me Spanish green bean omelettes. Here’s my recipe based on watching her cook.

Enjoy a taste of Spain! –Rebecca

*P.S. Sadly, both women who taught me about Spanish food passed away in 2013. To learn more about Penelope Casas, click on this NYT article.

Para leer este ensayo en español, véase aquí.

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