Rota and Food

So a lot of people have heard of tapas and associate it with Spain. In Rota though they are really catering to American military (the Spanish military came out on the other side of the base in a different town). So not so much tapas. In fact I don’t ever remember going to a tapas bar while in Rota. The things we did have were not what you would expect. First there were loads of sandwich shops, particularly to cater to late night eating after hitting the town. You could find a shop at 3 o’clock in the morning easy. Other than serving sandwiches, always warm, you could also get a tortilla Espanola or Spanish omelet. I loved these. you take boiled potatoes, onions and eggs and cook it flat on both sides for what was like a giant potato cake. This and a ham sandwich were my favorites for late night.

A really popular place that sold sandwiches, also sold the best fried rice I have ever had in my life. In fact they ruined fried rice for me all together. It was rice, duh, little shrimp, deli ham, peas, carrots, onions, eggs, and I don’t know what else. It was soooooo good. I often wonder if it is still there.

Another really good place was an Italian joint. Not your Americanized Italian that you see here, but it was either real Italian or had a Spanish twist. I don’t know since I never made it to Italy. They had this really spicy dish that I loved, and chopped up sauteed mushrooms on toast, and spinach.

The other thing that was really popular for those in a hurry in the daytime was rotisserie chicken. These thinks just spun round and round dripping their fat on the chickens below. Couldn’t have been healthy but it was also good.

Some things that you wouldn’t see in Spain, at least in Rota are beef and corn. The only place for a hamburger or a steak was on the base. Now on the Spanish side there was a McDonald’s I went to once. This is when you wish you had been somewhere with some sense under your belt. It never occurred to me to look and see what was different on the menu, but just ordered a filet of fish and chomped it down. Might have been interesting!

The last thing I really liked was Lemon Kas. It was a lemon soda that wasn’t overly sweet. There was orange too, but that was too sweet for me. Although not nearly as sweet as a Fanta or Sunkist or Crush here in the states.

I do remember if you went to a sit down dinner, which we never did hardly, you would get marinated olives, carrots, and cheese as a starter. That was like your bread. I would love to get my hands on those carrots, best ever. But that was about it. Oh, there was a German bar and a British bar that served based on those nation’s foods.

At rooftop parties at a Spanish family’s home you would also be served snails. Not the big ones you usually see, but little bitty ones. You just reach in grab a handful and then suck them out of the shell. Again, wish I had been older and more adventurous as I never had these.

OH!!! How can I forget pinchitos! They are marinated bits of pork, skewered and cooked. Very popular and again very yummy. You can order on Amazon the spices for the pinchitos, I have it I just haven’t made it yet. It comes from England, but is very reasonable. So you can see that the Spanish delicacies were lacking. But that was okay since what I was offered was still good.

Have a great day!

A Combination: Spain and My Art

I don’t know why I didn’t think of my travels as a topic before. I have lived and traveled on 3 different continents. Today’s post is on 2 things though. I am going to continue on my topic of Rota, but also I am going to add a little bit about an art technique I have discovered. Seems like an odd combo, but when I get to the art you will understand.

So to continue. As Rota is a military town, both American and Spanish, Rota is not really a tourist hot spot, though east and north there are some popular destinations. But Rota’s main claim to fame is drinking. What do military personnel do better than that! Some of my favorite haunts were Don Quixote, Paul’s, Hard Rock Cafe (not affiliated with the Hard Rock’s most of us know or have at least heard of, though they do have the same sign), Guns & Roses and one more that is making me crazy because I can’t remember their name.

My favorite was Don Quixote. It was a small bar with a back room that was the actual bar and a screened in front that was more for the Americans. In the back they watched bull fighting and soccer and yelled at the TV. In the front we listened to rock and played pool and amused ourselves with a moody American beer and wine tender. For drinks you went to the back. You always steered clear of Michael (Mike to men) if it was a Jack Daniels night. That meant the “love of his life,” Shannon was messing with his head. Shannon always made me mad, she so took advantage of Michael, and I mean he was a nice guy when he stayed away from Mr. Daniels. It was a nice quiet place in the daytime, which I also liked. Just a “Cheers” kind of place. We all knew each other.

Sundays were a nice day for drinking too. The gang I hung out with had a routine every Sunday. First you went to Brandon and Vanessa’s place for Daiquiris and then headed off to the Hard Rock for live music from a group of guys that we knew. I remember when my fiance was leaving for Pensacola and they did a nice rewrite of Secret Agent Man. They rewrote it as Secret A Branch Man as that was his specialty with in the cryptographers, administration. It was a real kick in the pants for him.

Michael worked at the Hard Rock too. Generally he was in a good mood there, no Shannon to abuse him. There he was the DJ and that was where I usually where I hung out. I have always been shy of crowds, so while my fiance bounced around I hung out with the DJ. Michael and I had some good conversations, I just don’t remember most of them, all the drinking after all.

Another benefit of Rota being a drinking town was you could carry a tab anywhere. Each month I’d carry around a wad of cash to pay everyone off.

Now the change in topics. Once I lived out in town I was living first in a nice little 3 bedroom. But after awhile we moved to a larger 3 bedroom. It was really spacious. There was even room for a dining room and a screened in patio. Patios were rare in Spain. The reason for this was that everyone used their roofs as gathering places. Where I was in the second apartment it was a 6 level building so patios worked better.

Anyway, last night at bedtime I got really motivated to try the watercolor sketching and sketch the building we lived in as best as I could remember it. Since this post was about Rota I thought it would fit in nicely here.

Apartment Building in Rota, Spain

Now obviously the building doesn’t really look like that. If it did it would be condemned. But it is supposed to be kind of loose and fast so for a third watercolor attempt and first watercolor sketch I figure it isn’t bad.

Everyone have a great day, and I will chat with you later!

Rota, Spain

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!