Friday favorites 6/10
Loquats, an article on US food in Italy, and the best vegan banana bread in Madrid
Welcome to the (almost) weekend!
This week was special because we celebrated el día de mi santo.1 Saint days, also called name days or feast days in English, are a long-standing Catholic tradition. In Catholicism there is an official calendar of saints, with each saint having their own day assigned to them throughout the year (typically their day of death, which is also considered their day of birth into heaven). Since there is a strong history of Catholicism in Spain, many people are named after Biblical figures (even if their own family isn’t particularly religious). As a result, most Spaniards have a saint day that corresponds to their own given name. For example, today (June 10th) is el día de San Asterio, so in theory everyone named Asterio would celebrate their saint day today.
I’m not Catholic and there’s obviously no Saint Kiki, so I don’t have an official name day. Although many people barely give them notice, David’s family takes saint days fairly seriously and celebrates them like mini-birthdays. The person being honored usually gets a small gift and there’s always a special meal involved. A few years ago I (semi-jokingly) told David that it was unfair that I didn’t have a santo2, so we sat down with the calendar to choose the future Saint Kiki Day. My requirements included not sharing a month with major holidays as well as not being too close to any other special days for us, so after much scrutiny we landed on June 7th. It actually took a couple of years for it to catch on (the first year we both forgot and didn’t celebrate until August, oops), but now it’s tradition and his family even calls me on the day to felicitarme.3
You can read about what we did this year to celebrate below, along with the rest of my favorites from the week.
Before we get to the saint day celebraciones4, let’s talk about another reason to celebrate this week: the fruit on our níspero5 tree is ripe and ready to eat! I had never seen or heard of nísperos/loquats/Japanese plums before moving here, so it was super exciting to me to not only have a new fruit to try but to also be lucky enough to have a tree in our garden. I’ll be honest, while loquats are delicious (they kind of taste like a cross between an apricot and a peach), something about the way their seeds look me da yuyu.6 I think I may have a very mild case of trypophobia7 so maybe it has to do with this? Luckily I eat them quickly enough to (mostly) ignore the seeds. Like most fruit, I munch on nísperos raw, but I also read recently that they lend themselves well to making preserves. The birds usually start stealing the fruit before we can eat it all, so this year my goal is to harvest them early and make a jam. I’ll report back on my results!
This week’s newsletter from Domenica over at Buona Domenica talks about the rise of American food in Italy. It also includes an interview with Laurel Evans, a Texan who lives in Milan and writes American-themed cookbooks in Italian. As a fellow transplant from the US, it was interesting to read about the Americanization of food in another Mediterranean country. There are more and more US-style eateries here in Madrid, and it’s interesting to compare what the food scene was like when I studied abroad in Valencia 15 years ago to what it’s like in present-day Madrid. I actually talk about this a bit in the comment section of Domenica’s article, and it’s something I’d love to write a newsletter about in the future.
Saint day celebration time! Since el día de Santa Kiki8 fell on a Tuesday this year, I wanted to do something low key. At my request we made homemade pizza for dinner (we had frozen dough from the last time we made it so it was less work than usual), but I also wanted to do something out of the house. Santa Kafeina has been on my list of cafes to try for literally years, and for some reason I had just never made it there. Given the name, it seemed like the perfect place to celebrate the day, so we stopped by for a breakfast treat. I got an oat milk latte, David got his usual chai latte9, and we each got a slice of the vegan banana bread. Guys, this banana bread was amazing. I actually knew that it was going to be delicious as soon as I saw the nice barista bringing it to our table. It had been warmed before plating, and the smell of the caramelized banana was intoxicating. Vegan baked goods can often end up dry, but this was incredibly moist and studded with warm, slightly melted chocolate chips. It was hands down the best vegan bizcocho10 I’ve eaten in Madrid. If you live in the city or visit sometime, you have to try it.
Final notes to wrap up the week:
If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it, my newsletter from Wednesday talks about gazpacho and my complicated relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow. If you like cold soups or Goop, check it out!
This is not related to food, but I just discovered the podcast Normal Gossip (available on both Apple and Spotify) and I’m obsessed. I’ve been listening to it while hanging laundry and I literally cackle out loud it’s so good. My neighbors probably think I’m insane now but it’s worth the judgment for the laughs.
It’s already time for another Sunday Sobremesa this weekend! I have a topic in mind, but if you have a question you’d like to discuss with the community, I’d love to hear it! You can comment it below or shoot me an email.
Nos vemos el domingo!11
El día de mi santo: My Saint day
Santo: Literally “saint.” People here sometimes shorten el día de mi santo to just mi santo.
Felicitarme: Felicitar in this sense is to send someone good wishes. So in this context, felicitarme means to wish me a happy saint day.
Níspero: Loquat, also known as Japanese plum.
Me da yuyu: Freaks me out
On trypophobia and my unease at níspero seeds: I’m not sure if it’s actual trypophobia, but I definitely have a history of being oddly disturbed by innocuous flora. As a child, I was wildly terrified of the symbol for cotton that was often on clothing tags, and I would burst into tears out of fear anytime I saw it. As you can imagine, this led to awkward and stressful shopping trips. Thanks for putting up with me, Mom!
El día de Santa Kiki: Saint Kiki Day, as you probably guessed
On David’s chai latte: David is the only member of our house who doesn’t drink coffee. This includes our cat, who I literally have to shoo away from my coffee cup ever since he accidentally knocked over my americano when I lived in Chicago and got a taste of the sweet, sweet caffeine. I obviously don’t let him drink it, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.
Bizcocho: The RAE defines bizcocho as a sweet and spongy baked dessert, generally made with flour, eggs, and sugar. I sometimes get confused on the difference between a bizcocho and a tarta, which the RAE defines as a large and usually round baked good, filled with fruit or cream but also possibly made of bizcocho or other types of batter/dough. From this, my understanding is that a bizcocho is something like a quick bread or a pound cake, where the dessert is baked and served mostly as-is, whereas as the bizcocho can then become a tarta by adding elements such as frosting, cream, or toppings. Whew, complicated!
Nos vemos el domingo: See you Sunday