Thursday, April 28, 2011

How its made: Olive Oil

After working in the field, I was given an exclusive tour of Huesa's Cooperative:

Just back from the field.  We went right to dumping the olives into the gigantic bin as there was a huge line behind us. 

The olives then shoot straight up from this conveyer belt that is connected to the bin.

The intricate ladder like belts that sort out the olives for perfect Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Falling into the "blower."
This is the first step.  It removes the leaves and twigs that were collected during the process.  The bar rotates and wind is blown (just strong enough for the twigs and leaves to fly away but weak enough so the olives continue on their journey).

The olives then go here, where they are seperated from any rocks.

About to enter the cooperative

These are the crushed olive seeds.  They are re-used for stoves and other heating devices; it makes excellent kindling.

The first of three filters.  It was at least 85 degrees inside and a lot of noise.  Here, the olives are squished until they ooze out the oil!  (There are two more filters, but I don't have those pictured.)  And after the filter part of the process, you have...

Olive Oil!  This is extra virgin, the purest type of oil there is.  I put my finger under the waterfall of the yellowish color and tasted the 1-second-old olive oil.  It was great!
It then heads to storage awaiting its mostly Italian customers, who then sell the oil under a different brand while marketing it as "made in Italy."
See here to see the olives in the field getting farmed (be me). 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wedding Crasher

...Not in the sense of sneaking my way in, looking for my target, scarfing down all the free food I can get and binging vodka tonics.  (I think that's how the movie went.)  I happened to be invited via Pedro from Huesa and the wedding was part of a long list of activities I did during the Christmas Holidays. 

About all of the young adults in the pueblo attended the wedding.  Luckily, I knew most from past trips to this town and felt very comfortable participating in all the festivities.  The wedding happened to fall on New Years Eve which made it even more memorable.  There were striking similarities between the American weddings I attended and this one.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions; what follows is my story in pictures. 

About nine in the morning trying on a suit that Pedro's cousin found for me.  It was ok in the waist but a bit short in the arms.  His family joked that there was no need to worry b/c I would have a rum and coke in one hand and have the other hand in the pocket.

Some of the guys outside the groom's house.  We were taking pictures and drinking beers while I listened to them reminisce about the good ole days when there buddy was single. Most of them were too happy to see their friend getting married.  After all, he was only 19 years old!
On our way in to the church.  Notice the Virgin Saint in the background.  The bride and groom's friends were sitting towards the back (where I was) and another group right past the doorway on the right.  About five minutes into the ceremony, the latter group started talking louder and louder and louder.  The priest felt it was necessary to call them out and tell them to quiet down; everyone thought the same. Well, this prompted one of the kids to stand up and say, "HEYYYYY!!! We don't mean to interrupt man!!  I let out a quiet laugh. 

The bride on her way to the church.  It's customary to walk across the pueblo first.

Just about to enter.  I believe those following are her family, bridesmaids and closest friends. 
Almost married. 

Preparing for the newly married couple's exit from the church.

Basilio and I in the courtyard right outside the church.

Standing next to the Huesa coat of arms.

How do you know this is a Spanish wedding?  Well, I'm about to throw some lentils in the air.

Their first breath outside as a married couple.  Let the games begin!

After leaving the church half deaf, we walked down through the village to the reception hall.  My camera still had lots of battery left.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Day In The Olive Oil Fields

Ever wondered where that rich tasting olive oil came from?  You know, the kind your dip you bread in at an Italian restaurant and hope to find something of equal quality at the grocery store?

Here in Spain, olive oil is just as common in the household as milk and eggs are in the United States.  Pretty much every Spanish dish contains olive oil—whether used as a topping on toast or an ingredient in pasta—with an accompanying aceitera (oil bottle) always within hands reach.   This is all with good reason: Spain is the world’s biggest exporter of olive oil.  In addition, and just recently, the Mediterranean diet (which includes olive oil) was moved to “UNESCO status” and placed on its world heritage list.

But where does it come from?   What follows is my day working in the olive oil fields, explained in pictures, in Jaen, Spain. 

It was around 8 in the morning and 32 degrees outside.  We're on our way to the field.


About to park and start working.  The olives on the mat are from the previous day's work. 

Putting together the tool that shakes the branches of the olive tree so the olives fall off.  It looks like a weed wacker with a different end. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Posts Line Up

Get ready, my post-Valentine's Day posts will include:

--Working in the olive oil fields
--Spanish wedding

I will tell the story in pictures with a minimal amount of writing.  In the meantime, enjoy El Barrio (the song is called Pa Madrid). 

Monday, February 7, 2011

About Blogging

It's been a little light lately as I've been playing tour-guide for my friend who is visiting from Madrid.  Before I put something of substance up, enjoy this early morning link to a website on the top 10 Spanish swear words

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Andalusia And Accents

One of the coolest things I’ve experienced in Spain thus far has been my ability to differentiate between the scores of Spanish accents spoken.  Not only do the autonomous communities speak different from each other, like the north of the US compared to the south, but the provinces that make them up each claim that they have the most beautiful accent.  The biggest variation I’ve experienced has been in AndalucĂ­a. 

Spain’s southern region is what I know best.  The accent, Andaluz, is famous in Spain.  It is harsh, hard to understand and has been called “uneducated.”  In addition, the constant “eating” of words leaves many foreigners and Spaniards alike confused.  My host family in Santander once told me that they don’t speak nor understand Andaluz.  The biggest advantage of learning it, however, is best stated by those who live there: once you speak it, you will understand all the Spanish dialects. 

The most common features of Andaluz are the “s” and “j” that don’t exist in the pronunciation.  In addition, “eating” the last half of the word must be healthy for the body because everyone seems to do it here.  As a foreigner living in Sevilla—one of Andalusia’s eight provinces—this can be a bit tough to understand at times.  On the other hand Andaluz can be easy to speak.  Why?  Well, all you have to do is eat your words and not pronounce the “j” and “s” and you’ll be on your way to Andalusian perfection; quite the opposite of what I learned in Spanish class. 

People from AndalucĂ­a love to combine words also, if eating and not pronouncing them weren’t enough.  For example, pues no (well, no) is combined to form ponoPara el coche (let's hit the road) becomes pal coche while the word todo (all) can pretty much be added to anything, such as tobien (todo bien, all good).  To add more fuel to the fire, Andalusians like to omit words from the sentence.  The words te he dicho (I’ve told you) are never said like the way they are read.  The “he” is taken out to form te dicho.  In addition and apart from the non-pronunciation of “j” and “s,” past participles that end in ado and ido are changed as well.  The “d” in ado and ido is thrown out the window to form ao (pronounced “ow” in English) and io.  Examples include hablao from the past participle hablado and pedio from the participle pedido.  These certainly aren't the only exceptions, as the words nada and todo commonly lose the their last two letters, becoming to (pronounced "toe") and na (nah)Put this all together and you have one crazy dialect. 

On top of all this, the Andalusian lingo seems to get weirder, especially in Sevilla.  In the Andalusian capital, there are four accents that I usually here on the street.  The first is the “general” Andaluz, characterized by the normal diet of words eaten, lack of pronunciation and Spain’s famous “th” sounding “z” (thervetha).  The second, third and fourth all have characteristics of the first accent but begin to branch off with the letters “z,” “ch” and “s,” respectively.

In the second, the “z” is uttered as an “s” sound (servesa), a sharp break from typical Spain Spanish.  In a certain sense, due to the lack of the “th” sound, it’s similar to Latin American Spanish.   In this type, the “s” sounding “z” prevails and the “th” sounding “z” seems to fade away.  What’s lost in the latter is quickly made up for with the third type of accent: the “sh” sounding “ch”. 

Keep in mind that the “sh” sound, or more clearly the “sh” as written, is not supposed to exist in Spanish.  The usual way of pronouncing “ch” in Spanish is equivalent to its English counterpart, but not in some areas of southern Spain.  Just as they say English is the language of exceptions, I say Andaluz is the exception of Spanish.  In the third type, the “ch” in derecho (law) now becomes “sh,” which is pronounced as deresho.  The same goes for the word chico: shico.  Where the second type seems to “lose” some of their Spanish accent—by not pronouncing the “z” as “th”—the fourth seems to overcompensate. In this type, the “s,” just like the “z”, is pronounced as a “th.”  Some examples include cosa (thing) which, as characteristic of this type, is articulated as cotha. 

There certainly are many variations to the four accents I’ve listed above.  In fact, some natives use a combination of the four to create their own.  Consequently, words can be created among natives of a certain village that people from the bordering towns may not know.  You can read about this in a book, or try to understand what I wrote in the post, but the ultimate way of fully grasping the concept is immersion in another country. 

This might be a tough read if you don't know spanish, just to let you know. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recollections From Study Abroad: My Last Month In Spain (Part II)

My prior eight months in Santander and Madrid, plus my travels around Europe, allowed me to get a firm grasp of the Spanish language.  Just as I thought I knew what Spanish culture was when I arrived in Granada, I figured I could hold my own speaking Spanish to my new friends.  Well, it turns out that the latter followed suit with the former; I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, or as I said before, it was just the tip of the iceberg. 

In actuality, I did get a good grasp of Castilian Spanish.  But like in America, there are various types of dialects spoken depending on the geographic location; the same goes for Spain.  Pedro and his friends spoke Andaluz, obviously spoken in Andalusia.  This dialect is hands down the most difficult in Spain, even to other Spaniards, and gave me the most trouble.  (More on dialects in Spain later).  As my second weekend in Granada approached, Pedro invited me to Huesa. 

I really didn’t know what to expect.  The only things I knew were that many people in this village have never seen an American in person, only in movies.  I had a feeling many people were going to ask me questions, and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about the language barrier.  In Huesa, especially, it was like the people were speaking to me in fast-forward.  They also “ate” their words, meaning they didn’t pronounce the “j”, “s” and pretty much the last half of anything that came out of their mouth.  I would liken it to a New Yorker—fast speech where the words seem to blend together.  After arriving, we went straight to his mom’s house to eat.

With the DJ at Pedro's summer house
Man, did I feel welcomed.  I was ordered to sit down—after the customary two kisses on each cheek of course—and eat till I was stuffed.  Unfortunately for them, this was a big mistake.  I have to say I eat more than the average American person and way more than the average European; their small portions just don’t do it for me.  Three plates of food and half a loaf of bread later I finished.  Pedro had previously warned his family on my food-disposal capacity type of stomach, but I guess they didn’t believe him.  After finishing, I think I left them speechless because the only thing they could muster up to say was “how the hell….?”  It’s usually customary to ask guests how they liked the food, but I guess in my case it was different.  The second thing they said to me, after looking each other in the eyes, was that I was a pozo sin fondo.  No, I’m not a well that never ends, as the literal translation says, but rather a “bottomless pit.”  Thirdly and finally, came the much awaited question, “was it good?”  I successfully made the o-so-important and customary first question move down the list to the third. 

After eating, Pedro was anxious to take me for a ride around the town.  You heard right, a ride, and not a walk.  He told me that in Granada, a city 50 times the size of Huesa, he walks everywhere.  But in Huesa, it seems that him and everyone else would rather drive ten seconds down the street.  I had no problem with this, as he let me drive anytime I wanted.  We really didn’t make it far until he saw some friends—remember everybody knows each other in this village.  From what I remember, it was Basilio, Vicky, Victoria, Roberto, Laura and a few others.  They were planning some of the nocturnal activities that Pedro warned me about. 

We stepped out of the car and I was greeted by a flurry of people.  Pedro supposedly told them that an “Americano” was coming so everyone was eager to meet me.  Talking about the basics was easy—where you from, why you here, etc.—but Pedro usually came by my side to help me interpret the slang into more formal speech.  It only took a few minutes of them talking to figure out, and persuade Pedro, where the night’s festivity was going to be held: Pedro’s summer house. 

Awesome Guitar Work By Paco de Lucia

I'm about halfway done with Part II of my Recollections From Study Abroad.  I have to stop because its Saturday, and every Saturday I eat free paella at this flamenco bar.  While I'm enjoying my paella, you can enjoy Entre Dos Aguas performed live by Paco de Lucia in 1976.  They say he's the Eric Clapton of Spain; I agree: