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Madrid: A Perfect Day for Bananafish, ehm, PICNIC in el Retiro

Passport & Plate - Recipe for a Perfect [Sunny] Day in Madrid

Spain | Thursday, 5 March 2015 | 4 photos

Equal parts Au Pairs to International friends
1 (or as many needed) boxes of cheap Spanish wine
1 (or as many needed) bottles of "casera" (Spanish lightly sweetened lemon soda water)
1 empty plastic bottle
Snacks of your choosing: Spanish olives, cheese wedges, crisps, veggies, jamón slices, etc
El Retiro Park in Madrid
Ample time to enjoy yourself
A travel journal


How to prepare this recipe
Mix liquids together in empty bottle, adding more wine/casera with each, according to taste. Results best on rare, sunny days in the wintertime. Enjoy your snacks languishly, adding as many friends as possible and taking the time to enoy the "sobremesa."

Location can be substituted for: the beach, a friend's house or any other park depending on circumstance.


The story behind this recipe
I spent my first year in Madrid as an Au Pair—a foreign nanny— in which my only responsibility was to live with a Spanish family as if I were their American family member and speak with them in English at all times. Until 18:00, the day was mine to explore my new home and discovered that El Retiro park was—and forever will be—my "happy place—I lost hours on end discovering every inch of that place trying to find just the right corner to have a lie down and record all my thoughts and discoveries in my trusty travel journals. I soon made friends with a fellow American Au Pair and we would meet daily in the park for picnics and discuss just how in love with Madrid we were becoming with each passing day.

Mention Spanish cuisine to the average foodie and chances are, thoughts wander to vibrant tapas scenes, molecular gastronomy and paella. Yet at its very core, true Spanish cuisine lies in its simplicity—the Spanish tongue does not tolerate much flavor—few key ingredients: olive oil, a little garlic, coarse salt, parsley and occasionally, pimentón (Spanish paprika) are its main ingredients. And of course one ingredient that is unique to Spain and the true reason for the infamously long meals: the sobremesa, a word with no direct translation to English: the art of long, unhurried chats shared with friends over meals, long after the plates have been cleared. Sure, there are tapas, delicious at that, yet even tapas themselves merely mean "small snacks." Ladles of olives, wedges of cheese, slices of the ubiquitous "jamón ibérico".... Entire meals can be created out of these simple snacks. So to me, the most memorable travel recipe is a simple one: friends + sobremesa + a tinto de verano + a picnic in a park and a travel journal = a Perfect Day. Life and [forever cherished] memories are what you make of it.

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