Since we moved to our Spanish mountain village, we’ve discovered that the Spanish are incredibly resourceful and find ingenious ways to recycle items that Brits happily throw away. The previous owner of our house used an upside-down frying-pan to cap one of the chimneys to stop the rain coming in, and sparks flying out. Itʼs a little quirky but works perfectly well. So we kept it, giving it a new coat of black paint every now and then.
Walking in the countryside, one soon encounters gates barring entry to private property. Closer inspection often reveals that many of these gates are home-made and can be quite elaborate. One such exists, close to our village, half way up a mountain. The owner has fixed two metal bed frames, with springs and all, to posts. The frames meet in the middle and are padlocked together making a very serviceable portal.But the Spanish attitude to garbage is very different to that of the British. Our part of Spain hasnʼt really embraced the re-cycling ethic yet, and all rubbish, whether it be glass, paper or general waste, is hurled into the same bin, unsorted. People often leave the lid open, and village cats dive in to search for scraps. As the sun beats down, unpleasant odours of rotting food waft out. Then, at six oʼclock every morning, the refuse collection men arrive to take it all away.
When we first came to the village, communal bins were conveniently placed at most street corners. But times have changed, and since the economic crisis, cutbacks have been made.
“Itʼs gone,” said Joe one day, coming back into the house still carrying a bag of trash.
“The garbage bin. The one next to the cemetery.”
“Really? I expect they’ve just moved it.”
“Well, I canʼt find it.”
We traipsed round the streets looking for a garbage bin and finally located one near the square. For the few weeks, throwing rubbish away was a game of hide-and-seek as the bins never remained in the same place twice. Good exercise, but slightly annoying, and Joe moaned about it constantly.
Then, one day, a big, shiny new bin appeared in its original place beside the cemetery. It gleamed with newness, and around the base was a metal bar. For a while Joe wrestled to open the lid, sweating and cursing, then discovered that if he stood on the bar, the lid opened automatically. His good temper was restored. The village cats, however, were undoubtably upset. No longer could they gain entry and help themselves to the wonderful delicacies a communal garbage bin has to offer.
So Joe was happy, until a rather unfortunate incident occurred. He stepped on the bar, watched the lid rise, then absent-mindedly threw the car keys into the dumpster instead of the bag of rubbish he was holding in his other hand. Joe stared into the depths of the vast bin in disbelief before turning the air blue with Anglo-Saxon profanities.
There isnʼt space here to describe what happened next, but Iʼm happy to say that the sorry tale will provide good material for my next book…
~ 10 minutes preparation ~
~ 35 minutes cooking, including chilling time ~
A very popular starter or lunchtime tapas dish that is served all over Spain, lovely with a beer or a glass of Fino sherry.
3 medium potatoes
150g (51⁄4 oz) frozen peas
120g (4.2 oz) green beans topped, tailed and cut in half
1 large carrot
1 small onion
1 small red pepper
2 tablespoons green olives
1 medium tomato
1 tablespoon capers
For the dressing:
200ml (61⁄2 US fl.oz) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon French mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Wash the potatoes and cut into chunks or thick slices, and peel and dice the carrot.
2. In a saucepan, cook the potatoes and carrots until just tender.
3. Add the peas and green beans to the same pan and cook for a further 5 minutes until all the vegetables are done.
4. While the vegetables are cooking, place the eggs into a pan and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
5. Drain the vegetables and place in a large bowl or serving dish.
6. Peel and finely chop the onion. Finely dice the pepper and tomato, peel and slice the hard-boiled eggs.
7. Add the pepper, onion, eggs, capers, tomato and olives to the other vegetables, and mix together.
8. Make a dressing by mixing the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice in a separate bowl.
9. Spoon the dressing onto the salad, a tablespoon at a time, and mix together. Don’t overload the salad with the mayonnaise dressing.
9. Chill for 20 minutes before serving.
10. Serve with a garnish of chopped parsley and ground black pepper.
by Victoria Twead.
Victoria is a New York Times bestselling author. In 2004 she nagged poor, long-suffering Joe into leaving Britain and relocating to a tiny, remote mountain village in Andalucía, where they became reluctant chicken farmers and owned the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. Village life inspired Victoria’s first book, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, and was quickly followed by two more in the Old Fools series, all of which fast became Amazon bestsellers.
Victoria and Joe continue to enjoy life keeping chickens, writing, sampling the local wine and living alongside their colourful neighbours.
Read Victoria's other Expat Focus articles here or click the button below to view her own blog…