Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Taking Responsibility For Christmas

Repeating History

Anyone who travels regularly becomes acutely aware of how America is perceived by the rest of the world. We are revered, envied, despised, and remain a source of puzzlement to other residents of planet earth.

This year our holiday season has demanded a full range of national emotion. While surrounded by the symbols of joy and rebirth, we have had to come to terms with senseless killing. We are a nation of partygoers who wake, stare in the mirror and see dark circles of anguish etched under our eyes.

Thoughtful people openly wonder why America "just gets crazier and crazier". And, surrounded by immersive media, it is easy to let our collective memory drift to a romantic time and place where Andy talked to Opie and "stuff like this" just never happened.

Now, with the benefit of a little over a half century as perspective, I suggest that the world has always  been coming apart at the seams.

I was born to parents whose childhoods endured the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Parents who faced world wars on both oceans followed by the advent of weapons capable of ending life on earth.

I remember the Cold War and wondering if the world would end during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember an unimaginable string of assassinations: President Kennedy, Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy, Oakland's School Superintendent Dr. Marcus Foster and San Francisco's Mayor Moscone.

I remember the gore of the Sharon Tate and later Nicole Brown Simpson murders. There was the University of Texas sniper, Dahmer, Gacy, and Judge Haley being taken hostage and eventually being murdered in Marin County. I remember the collective terror we all felt thanks to the Zodiac killer.

Then came mass shootings in Stockton, Aurora, Columbine, Fort Hood and Lynchburg. The list never really ends.

So, whats the point?

Just this. "Crazy" has no code date. Yet, I believe that as long as inexplicable murder results in profound national sadness, there is hope. And, with hope we must take the responsibility of mustering the strength and courage to create a better world for our children.

Hope is what Christmas is about for me.

It is the knowledge that we are loved, we remain capable of love, and that every birth renews hope for a better world.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 in Food


As 2012 comes to a close I look back fondly on a year of wonderful food!

The epicureal highlight of the year was found in Spain and Portugal where we immersed ourselves in the wonderful mercats selling fresh fruit, fish, ham and olives. Then there were all of the cafes that incorporated local foods. 

New things to love? Well one of them was Catalan Cream. It is Spain's version of (what in France would be) Creme Brûlée or (in England) Trinity or Burnt Cream (it was served at Trinity College, Cambridge). 

We enjoyed it at Granja La Pallaresa in Barcelona. It differs from Creme Brûlée in that the custard is infused with citrus zest and cinnamon and was traditionally only served on Sant Josep's (Saint Joseph's) day. Now this crunchy top delight is available year round. Also, in Spain the top is caramelized using a hot iron or broiling, not a flame.

Tea Time at Barcelona's La Pallaresa

I also loved the wonderful fresh combination juices at the various mercat's throughout Barcelona. The stalls have hundreds of the brightly colored cups each featuring two or three juices. It is a visual treat as much as a taste treat.

Juice at a Stall at Barcelona's La Boqueria Mercat  

In Madrid we trolled the restored (and very wonderful) Mercado San Miquel. Even in mid summer Its aisles were filled with olives, ham, and those delicious little bocadillo sandwiches (filled with salmon, ham or roast beef). 

In one stall a vendor made me the most amazing lemonade granita ever. But you can also shop for pastry or sip a glass of reasonably priced wine or beer.

The Mercado San Miguel

We left Barcelona with memories and a new cookbook from Spain's most famous avant garde restaurant El Bulli. How avant grade? Well it closes for 6 months of the year to experiment on recipes. When it opens for reservations each January about 1,000,000 people will request one of the 8,000 available bookings.

In Lisbon we enjoyed some wonderful cafe food. We found Lisbon to be a joy. There are lots of parks and each has a little stall selling sandwiches, beer and wine. This is a city that loves to eat, and knows what to do with its seafood (both fresh and canned.)

Lisbon Adores Canned Fish
(And I Love the Packaging)

In Lisbon we also quickly became additcted to their little custard pastry (Pasteis De Belem) which we found everywhere. Luckily our hotel always had a tray of these little gems out for breakfast every morning. 

During the rest of the year I enjoyed other great dinners. In May there was a visit to Bliss in San Antonio which featured a great entree of scallops and finished with Grapefruit Tiramasu desert.

Grapefruit Tiramasu

Other highlights included (another - can there ever be too many?) visit to that mecca of Southern cooking The Wilkes House in Savannah. I also visited Elizabeth's on 37th for the first time. If I lived in Savannah I'd double my weight in record time.......

The year also included great coffee at the Royal at the Biltmore and a few lunches at the Grand Central Market in LA.

LA's Grand Central Market

Soon it will be 2013 and Roadboy looks forward to another year of great markets, street food, and, hopefully, some fine dining thrown in for good measure!


Roadboy's Travel's © 2012