Many years ago, and far far away…I feel like the Star Wars theme should start playing now. Anyway, a long time ago I was in the Navy. Now, not that I didn’t do any good while I was there, but before you go thanking me for my service, please know I have done more as a Christian and a Witness to be proud of and to make a difference in my community. So thank me for that instead.
While I was in the Navy I was stationed in Rota, Spain. Unless you are military or related to military that passed through this little town, you have probably never heard of it. But, HEY! Spain! Europe is Europe and the Mediterranean sea is the Mediterranean sea! And while the consensus across the commands was pretty much the same…horrible, the country and its people were wonderful.
So I thought I would take you on a little trek down memory lane. I would pull out old photos, but they are all buried in a storage closet! Had I only known. I remember getting there and being very tired and yet very hyped. I ran around base getting all checked in, with my assigned guide who happened to be fluent in Spanish! What killed me was she was fluent and yet she had no desire to spend any time in town!?!?!? I’ll never understand. I couldn’t wait to get into town.
It took some talking on my part, practically begging, to get her to take me for my first meal in town for a traditional dish, paella. I was beat by dinner time, but I couldn’t wait to taste my first truly Spanish meal. That is until it came out and all the shrimps had their little heads still attached. It was all I could do to eat any of the rest as they stared at me accusingly with their little beady eyes. I never have had paella since.
I was assigned to the barracks, but I was super quick to get out into an apartment in town. Now there an apartment is when any building attaches to another. A house, very rarely seen in town, had to be separate on all four sides. And what we might consider a condo, there it was still an apartment. Okay, you probably didn’t need to know all of that!
My first apartment was a little three bedroom with one bath, bidet included, and a decent living room and a tiny kitchen. Something to note about the Spaniards is that they shop daily for meals. So they had very small refrigerators. Or maybe because they had very small refrigerators they shopped daily for meals. They came with an icebox that might hold 3 TV dinners. And no dining room just a small little table with two chairs in the kitchen.
Cooking was done using butano, or butane. You had usually 2 tanks and would use up one, swap it out for the other and then had to light the gas. That was both for your cooking and your hot water. When you were out you traded them in for a new tank. Not the easiest of tasks if you don’t speak Spanish or have a car.
So on my first night at the apartment I decided to cook a chicken dinner for my roommate and myself. I went to one of the many mom and pop stores that were around Rota, they didn’t yet have a big grocery store yet. I picked up the many things I was going to need. After all, I was starting from scratch food wise. Then I went back to the meat counter. Here’s where it gets interesting. I am looking at the various meats and particularly which chicken I wanted when I noticed they still had feet. I reasoned with myself, new culture, I can adapt, how hard could it be to cut feet off. So when the butcher came up I pointed to my chicken and he picks it up. Weeee, out swings the head! Culture or not I cannot cut the head off of, well, anything. The shrimp on the paella answered that question. Well there are two middle aged ladies standing next to me and they started laughing, “Americana, Americana!” Yep, Americana was right and I was not taking that chicken home like that. So I tried to motion I didn’t want a head. He took it as cut it all up, fine by me. But I will say, when I went to deal with that chicken, there were pieces I was not the least bit familiar with!
Okay, I have gotten long winded. I think I am going to stop there and come back to Rota another time. So keep your eye out!