A Much Needed Weekend Escape

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to leave my piso in Madrid and stay with some extended family who stays in a suburb of Madrid. At first, I was hesitant to go. I had just gotten back from London on Tuesday and had barely done enough laundry to make it through the weekend with clean clothes. Efrain had been really kind in his text messages and I could tell he really wanted me to meet his family, so I repacked my suitcase for the sixth weekend in a row and rolled it across Madrid’s metros to a place near the airport.

I was so glad I went. Efrain and his family met me with open arms, two adorable Labrador retrievers, and wonderful Colombian-Spanish food. The first night, they made me a soup with homemade Colombian arepas, made by my stepmom’s aunt. Arepas are similar to a Mexican empanada, with a fried corn wrapping and meat and cheese on the inside. SO GOOD! According to Loren, her aunt makes some of the best food of the family.

Efrain has two children– Valentina and Felipe. I stayed in Valentina’s room because she is currently studying in France to become a doctor. Felipe, the younger boy is still at home. He is learning English at school and I could tell his parents are very proud of him. When they boasted about his English skills, Felipe would shyly come around a corner and offer a “hello” with a smile. He didn’t speak much, but we enjoyed watching almost a season of Modern Family together in English.

Efrain has a golden retriever and a Labrador retriever – Copito and Orie. I had a golden retriever as a kid and I absolutely love this type of dog. They were both so big and so excited to see me. When I woke up in the morning and made noise before leaving my room, I could hear their tails impatiently thump-thump-thumping on the outside of my door. They seemed to say… “porque you no leave your room to say hello? We has many hellos to give.”

Friday night, I got to watch the family set up their Christmas tree. I didn’t know I was missing my mom’s usual Christmas preparations until I saw this. It was so sweet to watch everyone set out decorations all over the house. We found a cute reindeer headpiece for Copito to wear.

On Saturday, I went shopping with the family. We went to several grocery stores and grabbed food and supplies for the week. Efrain enjoyed showing me classic Spanish dishes available in the grocery store. I had to be careful asking what things were, because he always offered buy whatever I pointed at so I could try the food. I made the unfortunate mistake of asking what a weird box was, and found that it was a small bird unrefrigerated and preserved in vinegar. Efrain offered to get some, but I politely declined.

Saturday morning, I felt a little sick and had a rough time on the car ride home from the grocery store. Loren’s aunt saw this and made kombucha and warm salad for the family. Kombucha is a traditional Colombian soup made with pork and cilantro on top. SO GOOD, once again. It was very simple but the broth was incredibly flavorful. Soup was also the perfect meal after I had been a little sick in the morning. Its made with yucca, which functions as a sort of potato that makes the meal warm and comforting. Everyone should have a sweet Colombian grandmother make some warm Kombucha after feeling sick at least once in their life.

Finally, Saturday night Efrain showed me how to make tortilla Española, my favorite Spanish dish. He insisted on videotaping the whole thing so I could take the video home and show my mom how to make it for me. We pretended the whole thing was a reality TV show. Felipe took his job as camera man very seriously and re-taped the whole thing several times to make sure the directions were perfect. The recipe is great– the only problem is that it uses about a half gallon of olive oil. I’m not really sure it’s reasonable to cook with this much olive oil anywhere outside Spain, haha. If tortilla is done properly, there’s a nice layer of oil on everything in the kitchen.

The meal was wonderful. I’ve been getting better sleep and wonderful food for the last few days, and I’m so glad I came to visit. I came very close to saying no because I was exhausted, but I think a weekend away was exactly what I needed it. Hopefully I can return to say goodbye on New-Year’s eve.