Polenta

Please join me on a school bus with about 38, six to eight year-olds, on an outing to learn about Polenta, I dare you … I double-dare you!

And here we are in Viadana, Italy boarding our blue bus to go to the farm and learn about corn and polenta.

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(Polenta’s name was originally derived from puls, or pulmentum which first names were given to the dish that was the center of the Roman diet. In its earliest days, polenta was made from grain usually millet or spelt, a primitive form of wheat, or cece bean (a.k.a. garbanzo bean, chick pea) flour. Polenta was not made from corn until hundreds of years later; corn itself was not introduced into Europe until 1650. )

So this field trip to Polenta-World was a bit like your first sex education class.  You were not old enough to understand all of the nuances of the subject.  So instead of starting at the beginning of Polenta, we start in the 1700’s when this polenta family migrated from the southern region of Italy, near Florence, to their present farm near Parma, Italy.

Polenta, as we all know is made from corn. And in the southeastern part of the US, it is know as cornmeal mush.  In the northern states or in a swanky restaurant, it is called Polenta and you pay the price to have Polenta on your plate.

Corn, however was not introduced to Europe (the American Indians had a patent on it) until about 1650.  But, I digress.  These are 6, 7 and 8 year old and they do not CARE when corn was introduced .. only that it tastes good.

So, the Polenta introduction begins in the barn, where the cows used to live.  I must say it was quite a nice barn, and 2 cows shared a lovely stall with a round pass-through, something you would never see in an American barn.

Re-purposed stalls with round pass-thru's
Re-purposed stalls with round pass-thru’s.
Another view of the designer cow stalls
Another view of the designer cow stalls.

I need not remind you that this show and tell is in ITALY and the man is speaking ITALIAN and I have a very, very small Italian vocabulary; and, the Italian teachers with the group were also limited, except the one who taught the English classes.

So, thankfully, the Italians talk with their hands, and some of the words I did understand, and some were like Spanish and with some I just smiled and nodded my head.  It seemed to work.

After the orientation the work began.  The children were each given a dried ear of corn, a demonstration of how to shuck the outside and remove the kernels.  The husks and silk were put in a large yellow plastic trash bag … (I thought for disposal … but I was wrong) and the cobs were, de-corned, and not without some issues but in the end all was done.

I have my corn, you have your corn!

 

One kernel on the table, two on the floor

Slide it into the bucket.
One on the table, two on the floor

Now that the corn is MOSTLY in the bucket, it is taken to the grist mill where the children each take a corn cob handle and play ring-around-the-rosy until it is in powder form.  This is a game that some liked a little too much.   There was one boy who really wanted to be the head grinder!

grind, grind, grindNow the corn is ground, reground, and ground again until it is a soft, silky powder.  Sifted several times and put into a bowl. The polenta flour is then poured slowly into boiling water and the teacher stirs and stirs and stirs until the polenta becomes thick, but not too thick to pour … and this is where it gets interesting.  (Our polenta actually came from a box.  I don’t think the powder the children ground went anywhere except to the recycling pile)

The polenta farmer now wet wipes down a round, wooden pizza tray with a handle and with some ceremony pours the polenta on the tray, swirls the tray which spreads the polenta and we all watch in fascination as none of the polenta even gets near the edge, while steamy vapor rises in the air.  Magic!

The polenta sits on the tray … steam rising, children wanting desperately to get into it.  But, the polenta farmer is wise to these children and takes them all outside, plays a game and then comes back in.

Teacher cooking Polenta
Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir

Polenta magic Now that the polenta is cool, he takes a thin wire, attached to small dowels at each end and slides the wire under the polenta, which unsticks it from the wooden tray.  He then whips the wire around, under and across the polenta in first one and then a second direction and Voila’, you have squares of polenta.

cutting the polenta, zip zip zip

 

me, me, me, me, me

The adults get first whack at the polenta, because as you will see in the next photo, there is nothing left when the children get into it.

Gone I thought that now the polenta tour would be over.  Nope.  Nothing is wasted in Italy.  That yellow trash bag.  Yep~now we get to make corn cob and corn husk dolls for the nativity scene.  And it all goes to the school with the teachers.  Yikes!

Making corn cob people for the nativity scene

Hope you enjoyed Polenta-World as much as I did.  Ciao

 

 

Valencia “Bright City”, Spain

  • During the 1st century Valencia became a city, but did not attain the status of a major city until the 3rd century.
  • In the 6th century Valencia became part of the kingdom of the Visigoths (German tribes).
  • In 718 the Moors (Arabs) took over Valencia (and, again brought those fabulous oranges).  They ruled Valencia for 5 centuries. In the 11th century the ruler built walls to surround the city.
  • At the end of the 11th century, the great Spanish soldier, El Cid  (link: for history buffs. The History of El Cid)  defeated the Moors and took over the city. He ruled Valencia until his death. After the death of El Cid, the Moors once again took control of the city.
  • On October 9, 1238, King Jaime I (James) defeated the Moors.  He redesigned the city.  He built a marketplace outside of the walls.  He had churches built.   However, he did not do anything to harm either the Moors or the Jewish population. (If you read my blog of Mallorca, you might remember King James I who built the chapel in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca).
  • And on November 16 Sherrill and Rhonda invaded Valencia by bus.

Come and see Valencia with us 

  •  Valencia Cathedral One of the cities more controversial claims to fame is that it has what is supposed to be the Holy Grail, the actual cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper, although that claim is also upheld by several other places around the world too.  http://www.catedraldevalencia.es/en/el-santo-caliz_historia.php
Holy Chalice
Holy Chalice
Church of the Virgin, Valencia Spain
The Cathedral of Valencia, Valencia, Spain.  With the tower (see photo below) one can hike up for a view of the city, and we did .. 207 steps each way.

We climbed this tower.

Remaining towers protecting the city of Valencia, Spain
Remaining towers protecting the city of Valencia, Spain

 

  • Mercado Central, this ain’t no Safeway store.  Remember to click on the photos to open them up!

beautiful

Mercado Centralrotunda in the mercado centralfresh mushrooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative history lessons given by an actor in period costume, whom I followed around for about 30 minutes.

History teacher

Children were entranced with her story
Children were entranced with her story

Since Rhonda arrived in Spain, several things I have taken for granted came to light as things different from America

  1. Always take toilet paper to the “bano, aseao, sanitaria, toilet, loo, bathroom” because no matter how nice the restaurant, there may not be paper available.
  2. You do not flush paper down the toilet, there is always a bin available for you to use.  Good idea, it saves money for the sewer department.
  3. It takes forever to get the server to bring you your check.  You must motion to them, and say “Listo por la quinta”.  La Quinta – name of an American hotel chain means, bring the check!
  4. The tip is included in the bill.  Silly Americans leave extra money all the time.  The Spaniards love that!
  5. A Spaniard will give you an answer to a question even if they do not know the answer.  Directions are their favorite.
  6. People do not walk around eating or drinking on the streets.
  7. The streets are CLEAN and most graffiti is tastefully done as art instead of just words.  (Mostly in Granada, Alicante and Gibraltar)
  8. When you go for tapas in the evening, just order the wine … then they will serve you one tapas nummie as a sample, free.
  9. On Sunday older couples promenade arm in arm on the streets.
  10. Ham is the national food.  It is everywhere and in everything. Complete cured ham legs are hanging everywhere.  Wanna buy a ham
  11. The city bus will not take a bill larger than a 10 for payment.
  12. Living statues seem to be the new art form, as we found them everywhere we went in the old city.

    living statue (1)
    Angel girl
Wizard at work
Wizard at work

Alicante, Spain Revisited with Rhonda K.

Although I have been in Alicante, Spain for about 7 weeks I now get to see it through Rhonda’s eyes and with new experiences. And, we have had some interesting experiences.

We took the big ALSA bus from Granada to Alicante on Thursday. We were seated in the second row. 4 young travelers were seated across the first row. We did not have any conversation with these people, even when we stopped for a quick lunch break. We never heard them speaking English. However, when the bus stopped and we all got off (after the drug dog and police boarded the bus and removed 2 guys) Rhonda heard them speak English and asked them where they were from. You will never guess … or maybe you would. SEATTLE.

Well, one thing led to another and we discovered — and we could not have planned this no matter how hard we tried — that the young girl, was the daughter of a woman who worked with Rhonda and I at the MILLIONAIR CLUB CHARITY, in Seattle!

How spectacularly wierd!

She was traveling with 2 friends for several months and they had been in Granada the same time as we were.  And, here’s the proof!

Impossible meeting

We were “knackered” (an English phrase I picked up) when we arrived in Alicante and decided to just find a place near the beach to eat, and then go to the hotel.

The hotel facade is based on El Cid (Don Quixote) whose author, Miguel de Cervantes  was a resident of Alicante.  We were whipped, and pretty much fell into bed.  It wasn’t until about an hour later that the toilet handle came off in my hand and it was downhill from there. Needless to say, we were/are not happy campers at the hotel.  Hotel Mio Cid photo

However, the days have been full of little pleasures like:   (click photos to enlarge )Soho Coffee in the park Morning coffee at Soho

Then we strolled down the Esplanade to the beach so Rhonda could put her toes in the Mediterranean for her birthday (tomorrow).  It was colder than she expected.  I made her go back in after taking her photo with her camera, so I could take some with mine. With dried feet and warm sun we had a glass of wine and munchies.

Cccccold
Cccccold!

After the wine and munchies … by the way, who knows what Dogfish is?

Dry feet, warm sun, and off to have some wineDoes anyone know what Dogfish is

Fed and warm, we continued our day to the Castillo Santa Barbara, the focal point in Alicante, shown in the background of this beach shot.  And, no we did not walk up, we took the interior elevator at the tunnel to the right of the sign for the Castle.Entrance to Castillo Santa Barbara

The shot below is Alicante from the castle   ……..   and the iron men protecting the castle.

Alicante from the CastleIron men guarding the castle

Iron men protect the castle as in days of old

Coffee at the Castle where we met 3 English Soccer coaches.
Coffee at the Castle where we met 3 English Soccer coaches. There was a big England/Spain game last night.  One of the coaches was nice enough to take this photo of us.  They were only here for 3 days, but had many travel stories to share about their teams and games.

The 3 coaches who took our photo

I took this shot as they walked towards the exit ..don’t know who the guy is walking into the picture.

After the castle, we decided we needed some ice cream.  Some tough decisions had to be made, but we stepped up to the plate and did it.

ice cream

We also visited (the 2nd time for me) the Volvo Open Ocean Race Museum because I knew Rhonda would like it as much as I did.

Educational.  Inspirational.  Awesome ocean power.  Fun interactive activities. I left both times holding my breath!IMG_1997 (2)

Poster

Pirates of the Caribbean boat, Alicante

You can compare the size of this boat, by checking me out, at the bottom right hand side.  Rhonda could not even get the entire boat into the photo.  If you go back to my Blog:  Hola From Spain you can find a link to the museum site.

So, that’s it for our day ….. see you in Valencia, Spain on Tuesday.

Buenos Noche, Amigos

!GRANADA! UNESCO World Heritage Site

Click on the link to Placido Domingo singing GRANADA.

Granada, I’m falling under your spell
And if you could speak, what a fascinating tale you would tell

Of an age the world has long forgotten
Of an age that weaves a silent magic in Granada today

The dawn in the sky greets the day with a sigh for Granada
For she can remember the splendor that once was Granada

It still can be found in the hills all around as I wander along
Entranced by the beauty before me

Entranced by a land full of flowers and song
When day is done and the sun touch the sea in Granada

I envy the blush of the snow-clad Sierra Nevada
Soon it will welcome the stars

While a thousand guitars play a soft habaniera
Then moonlit Granada will live again

The glory of yesterday, romantic and gay
And soon it will welcome the stars

While a thousand guitars play a soft habaniera
Then moonlit Granada will live again

The glory of yesterday, romantic, gay Granada

(habaniera: type of Cuban music)

 

UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization   ( a place being of special, cultural or physical significance)

http://www.alhambra-patronato.es/index.php/The-Alhambra-and-the-Generalife-World-Heritage/37+M5d637b1e38d/0/

Remember, that you can click on the photos to make them larger.

Manicured foliage everywhere
Manicured foliage everywhere
View of Granada
View of Granada
Absolutely amazing detail
Absolutely amazing detail
Persimmon trees in the garden
Persimmon trees in the garden
Beautiful details
Beautiful details

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It is AMAZING.  I have more than 100 photos to share with anyone who wants to see them.

 

 

 

Late lunch across the street from the Alhambra

 

 

Gibraltar and Monkeying Around On The Rock

Gibraltar became known as one of the Pillars of Hercules, after the Greek legend of the creation of the Strait of Gibraltar by Hercules.

Pillars of Hercules     http://global.britannica.com/place/Pillars-of-Heracles

Pillars of Hercules Marker
Pillars of Hercules Marker
Welcome to Gibraltar
Welcome to Gibraltar

The demographics of Gibraltar reflect the many European and other economic migrants who came to the Rock over three hundred years, after almost all of the Spanish population left in 1704.

The official language of Gibraltar is English, and is used by the government and in schools. Most locals are bilingual, also speaking Spanish, due to Gibraltar’s proximity to Spain. However, because of the varied mix of ethnic groups which reside there, other languages are also spoken on the Rock. Berber and Arabic are spoken by the Moroccan community, as are Hindi and Sindhi by the Indian and the Pakistani communities of Gibraltar respectively. Hebrew is also spoken by the Jewish community and the Maltese language is spoken by some families of Maltese descent. Portuguese is also widely spoken. We were lucky to get by with English  🙂

Attack of the Barbary Apes!
Attack of the Barbary Apes!  When you click on the photos they will enlarge.

But, most people come to the “Rock” to see the Barbary Apes.  It is a myth that they are prone to attack.  However, if you have food, bright shiny things, or are just plain stupid they may grab things from you.

Is he thinking about attacking tourists
Is he thinking about attacking tourists
Rhonda checking out macques
Rhonda checking out macques

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Playing tag on the van
Playing tag on the van

http://www.newstatesman.com/gibraltar/newstatesman-gibraltar/2015/03/gibraltar-s-barbary-macaques-long-they-remain-so-will

Gibraltar Airport is consistently listed as one of the world’s scariest for air passengers. It is exposed to strong cross winds around the rock and across the Bay of Algeciras.  The runway actually runs from the Bay on the Atlantic Ocean side, to the Med on the far end of the runway.  This means that if the brakes fail, you will be disembarking from the Mediterranean Sea.   The airport terminal is within walking distance of much of Gibraltar but also because the runway intersects Winston Churchill Avenue, the main north-south street, requiring movable barricades to close it to cross traffic when aircraft land or depart.

Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar

Next Stop,  The Alhambra Granada, SpainIMG_2565