by Noah Tebben
This article is a continuation of the experiences I, your humble writer/travel correspondent, had while abroad in my Spring 2016 semester. Now, I was *supposed* to be studying away in France, but as any study-abroad advocate will tell you, it’s really about dat travel travel travel (I went to all of my classes and did just fine, don’t sweat). For this installment, I’ll be giving you the real scoopa del copo on Madrid, Spain.
Spain: the true homeland of ham
Let me just start out by saying that calling Spanish slices o’ pig ‘ham’ is a true insult to the deliciousness that lingers here. Forget the salmon-pink slimy slices of deli sadness and vague meat flavor, and forget the chewy hunks of saltiness that some of you may enjoy at big family gatherings… no no no. From even the ‘Museum of Ham’ chain cafes, you order a ham sandwich at half the price of what you’d dream of paying, and out comes a meaty red slice of ‘ham’ on a simple roll (or croissant for wannabe Frenchies like myself), and the marbling is beautiful and you take a bite and realize that this is less ham and more government-funded bacon-steak hybrid designed to keep the general populace so placated that you could roll tanks through the streets and nobody would bat an eyelid so long as the ‘ham’ keeps flowing. Spanish ham. Forget about making America great again, any country that doesn’t have $1.50 miracle ham sandwiches could only be considered ‘alright’ at best. I, for one, will now be voting ‘Hamocracy’; and let me tell you, our party candidate would look good even if Santa Claus and Lassie were the top presidential candidates right now…
I wasn’t kidding. Government control never looked so tasty.
My favorite part is that Madrid is such a compact city. Even if you wanted to work off the several pounds of ham you’ve devoured for a tenner, you could jog a lap around the entire city and end up back at the ham cafe within the hour. There’s plenty in it, art museums (< ham museums) and a beautiful park and an Egyptian temple…of course. It’s all so nicely organized that I think that the stupid-powerful individuals that ordered the city to be built must have been Tetris experts, when they weren’t busy forcing the general populace to drink only wine back when the black plague was raging through Europe. Really. According to my Spanish history major accomplice, beating the black plague just meant avoiding drinking the water. Who knew?
Anyways, in a nutshell, Spain is for keeping it simple, stupid. No complex sauces or seasonings. The local favorite snack/lunch alternative is bocadillos de calamares, or calamari sandwiches for you uncultured Americans. And you know what it is? Squid. Fried. Plus bread. Enjoy and GTFO. No sauce. No special squid seasoning or triple-cream balsamic flourish. Gimme your three bucks and take your squid sammie without the fancy dance. And, in my opinion, it is anything but bland. The squid has its own subtle meaty flavor and the batter itself has hints of lemon juice and you can actually taste it without any garbage sauce in the way.
And that’s how it is. Eat your simply tasty food and keep your money and sit around because you don’t have to walk.
It’s hard to be sad in Spanish rain.
Bonus fun fact: the main cathedral in Madrid is called the Cathedral of Almudena and is noted for being terribly ugly in front because it faces the royal palace; the royal palace can’t have anything fancy facing it, so tough luck Almudena. However, the back of the cathedral is wonderfully ornate and fancy. Why do I mention it? Because Madrid locals (particularly the guys) will occasionally call certain girls they see ‘Almudena’. And I think that’s wonderfully awful.