Monday, October 13, 2008

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains

The temperamental nature of autumn is truly evidenced in Andalusia. We have had rain showers followed by near summer days of warm southern sun and then rain showers again for the past few weeks. I am still finding my rhythm within the Spanish schedule and artist’s temperament. For one more week before the clocks turn back, the town is enjoying the evening paseo before the sun sets at 7:45. The fact that it is still dark at 8am makes lingering in bed quite appealing after my late nights, but the time change might help me to shift back to a slightly more average schedule.

For the first time in months I have a kitchen to play in again and I am indeed playing. My first weekend, I attempted the famed tortilla espana, not to be confused with the tortilla mexicana – which seem to have no influence here whatsoever. A tortilla, in Spain is more like an Italian frittata or an open omelet. Anything can go in one, but usually potatoes and onions are the classic version. I tried my hand, managing to flip the thing (there is a secret!) without sending the contents all over the stove. Aaron, the son of my hosts, who grew up in Spain and was back home for a weekend from Sevilla, gave my resulting tortilla a B- It tasted great but looked a little on the thin side. Next time I will have to fill the whole pan (they have special tortilla pans here!) to the top and see what happens.Osuna is in the heart of farm country. The olive harvest is beginning. Trucks of green olives for canning are carted from the groves each day. Soon the black ones will be hauled to the presses just down the road to make the delicious local brand of oils Santa Theresa 1881 that I find in the stores all over here. I think the reason my tortilla tasted so good to me what because I could taste the subtle flavors of oil holding all the tastes together.

Osuna is not on the tourist highways of Spain. It is industrial farm country, the gritty back-country that feeds much of Europe. Walking around town there were times when I would turn a corner and feel I was in Mexico. Buildings crumble behind fences made from old bedsprings and chicken wire. Stray dogs dig through piles of trash as they roam the streets. The occasional look on the face of an elder person I pass on an evening walk hints that this is not the happy pastoral peasant life that is so often painted in our minds when we think of the Old World. But neither is it a worn and weary existence. The town hums to its own rhythm. At 2pm the streets liven up from a quiet morning and children stop for dulce on their way home from school. By 3pm, silence has settled over the town as people eat, rest, and pause in the middle of the day to recollect themselves. Around 430pm things begin to stir again, reaching a crescendo of soccer matches, street games, paseos and housewives dashing out for pan caliente before everything shuts down after sunset. On a Friday night, the main drag, Calle Alfonso XII, plays host to the local youth popping wheelies on motorcycles and enjoying the 85cent tapas at El Ejido and other bars around town.

Next week we start talking about the TV program, which I am here to improve, or at least add an outside perspective and creative breath of fresh air. Luckily Don will be translating for me, so there is another opportunity for improvement. Nothing like hearing the words you wanted to say in Spanish immediately after saying them in English! I have mostly been learning through osmosis, with a little bit of daily study with the dictionary. Already, I have noticed an improvement. I can actually put together whole phrases when I walk into a shop, rather than just blurting out the occasional word. Hopefully by the time I leave I will be speaking in sentences!

Friday, October 10, 2008

osuna espana

After a very busy summer, I have the great fortune to be transported to a place of rest and inspiration. Some friends have kindly let me stay in their empty house in the small town of Osuna, one of the white towns of AndalucĂ­a, in the south of Spain. My purpose for being here is to shake the dust of daily life off my soul and excavate the new animated short that is underneath. As I step out of my social and professional worlds into this town of cobbeled streets, siestas and aceitunas, I find the autumn overcast and language barrier provide the right environment for creative work.

Yesterday evening, my first in Osuna, I took a stroll up to the plaza mayor to check out the scene. At 7:30pm the town square is bustling with children, old men on park benches, old ladies strolling. The sounds of sport spilling from the local bars and the bass from the university student's cars are drowned out by a saturation of swallows in the trees. They perch there, like an overabundance of ripe fruit chattering and squabbling away. Truely the social hour before la cena. As dusk falls, people begin to head to their casas for the evening and I wander down quiet streets to my own place of rest.