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Two Old Fools And Spanish Water

In our part of Andalucia, we’re lucky. We’ve never suffered from a water shortage as natural springs abound. Just outside El Hoyo is a place where locals fill their water containers, and in the next village is a spring, still surrounded by cement basins and washboards where villagers once washed their laundry and exchanged news and views. Water flows freely, day and night.

However, I have one tiny complaint. When we lived in southern England, our water was extremely hard, and our pipes and kettles regularly clogged up with chalk. Moving to Spain, I looked forward to living in an area with soft water. Unfortunately, the water here, although natural, is the hardest, most chalk-filled water I’ve ever encountered. Our kettle becomes lined with a film of white limescale after only two or three boils. I know it’s harmless, but the water is cloudy, and the kettle element struggles against the caked chalk.To combat the problem, I tried limescale remover bought from the supermarket. It worked well enough, but needed several hours to take effect and getting rid of the smell was difficult. Neither Joe nor I wanted to wait around for our cups of coffee.

I searched the Internet and discovered that a mixture of white wine vinegar and water works very well. As an added bonus, it’s cheaper and much less smelly. The kettle still needs to stand for a couple of hours, to allow the vinegar to do its work, but it’s a big improvement on the shop-bought limescale remover.

“We need two kettles,” I told Joe. “Then we can use one while the other is being cleaned.”

The drive down the mountain is glorious this time of year. Crimson poppies and blue, yellow and white wildflowers dot the mountain slopes, and the grass and trees are lush with new growth. Silvery streams gurgle and meander their way downhill. A snake slithered across the road in front of us, and a green-headed, foot-long lizard watched us pass.

Spanish people don’t use electric kettles much, so there wasn’t a great deal of choice, but we bought another kettle, identical to our first, then finished our shopping. Back at home, I removed it from its box, rinsed it and plugged it in ready for use.

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“You make us a coffee, and I’ll finish putting the shopping away,” I said.

Soon we were sitting at the kitchen table, coffee mugs and a slice each of bizcocho (Spanish lemony cake) in front of us. Joe took a big slurp of coffee. To my astonishment, his eyes bulged and he spat it out, drenching me, the table and our bizcocho.

“WHAT THE..?” he spluttered, sprinting to the sink and rinsing out his mouth.

I gaped at him, then sniffed my coffee. “Which kettle did you use?” I asked, mopping coffee off myself and the table.

“The one you’d already filled with water.”

“I didn’t fill the kettle,” I said. “The old one had vinegar and water in it… You didn’t use that one, did you?”

Of course he had.

I highly recommend white vinegar for removing limescale, but please, not for coffee…

Mama Ufarte’s Lemony Sponge Cake
Recipe from ‘Two Old Fools ~ Olé!’
This is a very quick sponge, quite dense in texture with a lovely lemony tang.


5 large eggs
150g (6oz) sugar
150g (6oz) plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon


Divide the sugar in half. Separate the eggs and beat the whites into one half of the sugar until the mixture is stiff.
Beat the egg yolks into the other half of sugar, then fold the two halves together.
Sift the flour and baking powder. Add the lemon and add to the mixture, little by little.
Place in a lightly greased round baking tin and bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.
Note: The Spanish often eat bizcocho for breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate. It is also delicious as a dessert served with ice-cream.

Victoria is the author of 'Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools' (available at Amazon UK or Amazon USA) and 'Two Old Fools – Olé' (also available at Amazon UK or Amazon USA)

“a charming and funny expat tale” The Telegraph (UK)
“Weeks later you will be doing the dishes and recall some fleeting scene with chickens or mules or two old fools and laugh out loud all over again.” The Catalunya Chronicle

Contact Victoria by email on TopHen@VictoriaTwead.com or via her website at www.victoriatwead.com

Read Victoria's other Expat Focus articles here.

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