Then: At 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, I was rattled from my sleep with an idea. The sit-up-straight-out-of-bed kind of idea. Instead of setting up shop at one French cooking school, what if I hopped around the European continent and sampled from a variety of courses in different cities and countries? That's how Culinary Hopscotch was born. Follow me on an epicurean tour of cooking schools in countries around Europe and beyond. I'll be traveling and cooking for about three months, so if you're curious about where I'm headed, just ask. Otherwise, I'll be updating my whereabouts in the Twitter section on the right. The culinary crusade starts on January 29, 2010, and I'll be doing it all in a carry-on.

Now: We live in Portland, a culinary capital in its own right. I man the stove chez nous and plan our meals weekly on a colorful pad from Anthropologie. Things have changed a bit from the old school days of Culinary Hopscotch, but it makes sense (to me) to keep it alive. Look for posts on restaurants we visit, culinary happenings in the news, what's on the menu in our kitchen, and more!

Been There, Cooked That

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gra-Nada Cooking Classes

It’s true. I made the journey down to Granada and wasn’t able to line up any cooking classes. The city is much smaller than Barcelona, and as it turns out, many people don’t speak English there. Perhaps that was the hang-up with the email I sent.

It didn’t really matter, though. Because another email I sent was met with incredible enthusiasm, an offer of hospitality, and perfect English. I’m starting to think that either I was really angelic in a former life, or I have the luck of the Irish on my side, because this part of the last three legs of the trip have been particularly memorable thanks to my hosts and hostesses.

I found Fina’s apartment website by simple typing “Granada apartments” into Google. I wanted to rent one for a few days, and she immediately responded to my request. Some things went haywire in the process and she wasn’t able to “rent” to me, however, in a truly unmatched pro bono effort, Fina, who is from Seattle but married to a Spaniard, introduced me to her friends and family and let me stay in one of their apartments for free. I’m forever grateful, and can’t wait to go back and see them in their new house in the countryside. As I posted on her Facebook page today, I’m looking forward to baking in her traditional oven, and also by the pool…not necessarily in that order.

So, if there were no cooking classes in Granada, how did I occupy myself? Well, for starters, I got ready upon arrival and Fina, Joy and Danie took me to their favorite Moroccan café for red wine, small snacks, and a hooka. Yes, I said hooka. And I tried it (sorry mom). Despite a mild protest, they insisted, and it was fruity and kind of interesting. We went back to meet Fina’s two-month-old son, Diego, her dog, Henry (good taste in names!), Joy’s cat, Pee Wee, and Fina’s husband, Rapha. They couldn’t have been more hospitable. We ate homemade banana muffins and soup that Rapha made, and I made it to bed with a full stomach and a handful of new friends of the two- and four-legged sort.

Yesterday, I took the (short) bus up to the Alhambra Palace, which was a smart move on account of the incline and what I‘d see there. Despite the rain that lingered throughout my trip, the Alhambra was spectacular! It was conceived as a palatine fortified town, and it’s on a rather steep hill with sweeping 360-degree views of all of Granada. It was really amazing. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, it was used as the residence for the Nasrid Sultans, high commanders, civil servants of the royal court, and soldiers of the elite. Washington Irving even lived there for a bit, and his stay inspired him to write Tales from the Alhambra.

I toured the Nasrid Palaces, and the architecture and details were magnificent. And then, I took a spin through the Alcazaba military area, and had fun with the self-timer function on my camera. Passing back through Generalife (a massive garden) on my way out, I found a Calico cat that accompanied me for quite a bit of the walk. She was so cute, and there were actually wild cats everywhere that were all quite friendly. 

Had I been in Granada another time, I could have partaken in an olive oil tasting about an hour outside the city, but unfortunately, it’s closed at this time of year. Granada was really fascinating though, and completely different than Barcelona or Madrid. I’m really glad I came, despite not being able to cook. Rapha told me that this part of Spain is historically poorer than most parts, so stews are very common, and they use a ton of pork in this region. As for the city, the Islamic influence is evident everywhere, from the restaurants to the Turkish baths, to the hookas for sale everywhere (don’t worry-- I didn’t buy one), and of course, the impressive Alhambra that looks approvingly over the entire city.

Oh, by the way…any idea what “Granada” means? Anyone? It’s Spanish for “pomegranate.” I guess my visit here was food-related whether I knew it or not.

Next Stop: Cooking Class#4 in Sevilla