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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

Spanish superstitions to keep in mind for the coming year...
29 December 2015

 
Nothing worse than being superstitious and working in a mirror factory, an umbrella shop ... or at Deloitte Touche. The 11-S attacks destroyed the Twin Towers and with them, the company’s New York headquarters. On 12 February 05, an inferno consumed, with the rest of the Windsor building, its headquarters in Madrid too. Was it coincidence or was the giant auditor jinxed for a while?
 
Now we are just about to enter 2016, everyone wants a fresh start for the coming year. Experts agree that in today's Spain, superstitions are on the rise. So I thought I would detail, along with their origins, some of the most popular superstitions in Spain (even though many are common in other countries) to stand you all in good stead for 2016. 
 
Tuesday and the Number 13
BAD LUCK: The Curse of the number thirteen is rooted in the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the twelve Apostles, when he was betrayed. It is believed that if thirteen people sit down to eat at the same table, one of them will die within a year.
The day of the week varies: in Spain, Mexico and Greece it is Tuesday and thirteen,In the UK and other countries it is Friday the thirteenth, because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
 
Starting the day on your left foot
BAD LUCK: Petronius  in the 'Satyricon' alluded that “misfortune” entered a room or a place with its left foot. In Spain, it may have originated from a  Celtic tradition and the solar motion, which always moved towards the right. To counter-act it one must do  the sign of the cross three times.
 
Throwing rice at a wedding 
GOOD LUCK: Before, everyone threw pieces of sweets at the bride and groom, symbolizing happiness and fertility. But in lean times they threw wheat or rice, as it was much cheaper, to this day in Spain, they throw rice.
 
Feeling a buzz in your ear
GOOD LUCK: When you hear or feel a whistle like buzz in your ear ask someone to give you a number. The letter of the alphabet that corresponds to that number will be the first letter of the name of the person you expect to marry. "The Left ear is for love and right for spite." If you pinch the right ear immediately when you hear the whistle, the person who is criticizing you will bite their tongue!
 
Somebody casts an “evil eye” (spell - mal de ojo)
BAD LUCK: It is traditionally believed that if we are completely reflected in the pupil of an eye, we could be trapped by it. Therefore, from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, those who had cataracts or other visual defects were often sacrificed at the stake. In Greece, Turkey and Egypt is widely believed that there are people with evil powers in their eyes, even unconsciously, one with these powers could cause harm just by casting their eyes over something. For protection one needs to carry garlic, gold and silver, blue glass eyes and horseshoes.
 
Spilling salt

BAD LUCK: Its origin dates back to 3500 B.C. Then, they believed that salt was incorruptible, which is why it became a symbol of friendship. Hence the belief that if you spill it, the friendship would break. To counteract this effect, one would take a pinch of the spilt salt and throw it over one’s left shoulder.

 
Saying "Jesus" or "bless you" when someone sneezes

GOOD LUCK: It was because sneezing was the beginning of many different diseases and so one asked God to drive away the danger of infection.
 It is also said that it was to keep the devil from entering through the mouth.
 
Spilling wine

BAD LUCK: When you spill wine on the table, you should immediately put a little of it on your forehead for good luck and if it was champagne then you have to touch it with the tip of your fingers and put it on the earlobe to achieve eternal happiness. The origin of this belief is thought to be related to the fetus as it begins life with the earlobe. For this reason, when you soak it in champagne you’re wishing that your life will be surrounded by all kinds of happiness and joy. 
 
Bringing a used broom to a new house
BAD LUCK: You mustn’t take a used broom with you when you move house, as doing so, will bring bad luck and all the misfortune from the previous home.
 
Breaking a mirror
BAD LUCK:It is said to curse you with seven years bad luck. The mirror was a magical element of divination, so if it broke, it was so that it couldn’t show the frightening future ahead. Seven years is due to the belief that the body renews itself every seven years.
 
Placing bread upside down on the table or dropping it on the ground
BAD LUCK: Bread is a staple food. Therefore there have been several superstitions that have arisen related to making it, cutting it, eating it and offering it to others. Placing it upside down is supposed to bring bad luck because it's treated as an insult to the body of Christ, also, when it falls to the ground it is custom to kiss it  and do the sign of the cross three times  to ward off misfortune.
 
Parsley
GOOD LUCK: In Ancient Greece parsley was considered a sacred plant that symbolized  triumph and resurrection. Driven by this belief, the Greeks adorned graves with wreaths of parsley.
 
Putting a hat on the bed
BAD LUCK: Putting a hat on the bed is an omen, in Spain and Italy, that means something bad will happen. This superstition has another meaning: that your mind will go blank. This belief probably comes from the symbolism of the hat, which represents the head and thoughts and is a symbol of identity.
 
An off-centered picture hanging on the wall or falling from the wall where it was hung.
BAD LUCK: This idea has its origins in ancient Greece, where it was believed that if the portrait of a monarch or a celebrity fell to the ground suffering serious damage it meant that they would soon die.
 
Putting a cactus on the windowsill
GOOD LUCK: A popular belief says that this plant wards away the evil of the house. It’s great ability to absorb moisture from the atmosphere makes it a powerful protector against evil spirits, that need moisture to grow. The custom of placing a cactus by doors and windows, observed in all the Mediterranean comes from the belief that if spirits find water along the way, they could drown crossing it and be trapped there forever.
 
Sweeping the feet of a single women or a widow
BAD LUCK: This meant that they would never marry. Related to witches.
 
A falling eyelash
GOOD LUCK: The Devil collects eyelashes and, according to tradition, losing one meant running all kinds of dangers. So if one falls, put it on the back of your hand and throw it over your shoulder or place it on the tip of your nose, blow it upwards and make a wish.
 
Throwing coins into a well or fountain
GOOD LUCK: It comes from ancient divination, the ritual of throwing stones or hair pins down a well, in order to know whether a fact would be fulfilled or not. If bubbles rose to the water surface it meant that they would be fulfilled.
 
A black cat walking towards you or which crosses your path 
BAD LUCK: Although in Egypt it was believed that the cats were the reincarnation of the gods, centuries later, the Catholic Church regarded them  as the reincarnation of the devil, so they were burned. Black was identified with the devil being the color of night. In most of Europe and North America it is believed that a black cat brings bad luck if it move away from you, but good luck if it walks towards you. In Spain it pretty much in any direction, but its always bad luck!
 


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Turrón - Spanish Nougat
15 December 2015

Turron is recognised in Spain as a symbol of Christmas. It evokes festive spirit and socialising over the festive period. It is a very old, traditional sweet similar to a nougat, believed to be of Moorish (Arabic) origin. It was a desired dessert of King Felipe II of Spain, and there was even a book "Conduchos of Christmas," which was written by Felipe's chef Francisco Martinez Montino, that described turron in detail. It was often served for special occasions and when guests would be visiting, and this has remained a tradition ever since. If you ever go round to a Spanish family’s home during Christmas there will always be some turrón on the table.

Turrón has been a popular sweet for centuries, even outside Spain’s borders. It is said that the Moors invented turrón during the 15th Century in Jijona, a small town about 30 miles or so north of Alicante.
 

Jijona’s economy is entirely reliant on the production of turrón and there is even a museum of turrón that chronicles the process and history of the sweet.  There are two traditional types of turrón. Soft turrón referred to as Jijona, which you won’t break your teeth on and hard turrón referrred to as Alicante, which is like a thick almond nougat candy, similar to peanut brittle, and is pretty hard on the teeth but the almonds are fantastic once you get going!
 
The area of Jijona is an important region for almond and honey producers. The wild flowers which are abundant in the region combined with the almond tree flowers créate an ideal ecosystem for the bees. The honey, together with the almonds makes for the two main ingredients used in turrón. Sugar is also added and egg White for binding, producing a exquisite sweet. However if you do not have a sweet tooth it may not be for you! In 1939 The turrón from Jijona was protected by a designation of origin defining exactly what is traditional turrón and how it should be made, establishing different levels of quality, as with olive oil.
 
Alicante or Hard Turron is made by roasting, then chopping the almonds and mixing them with honey. The mixture is then simmered over heat and stirred constantly with large wooden spoons. Egg white is added to bind the mixture and it is cooled. Once cooled, it is cut into pieces that resemble bricks, wrapped in paper-thin rice paper and packed.
 
Jijona or soft turrón is  alot more work. Once the hard turrón has cooled, the blocks are ground up with almond oil to form a sticky paste. Then, it is reheated and beaten for hours until it forms a soft, even mix. Egg white is then added as a binding agent and cooled in square metal containers to be cut into thick slices and packed, due to the almond oil this neve goes hard and has a much softer consistency and is also easier on the teeth! Although these are the main two varieties of turrón, as you can imagine it has opened the door to whole range of different flavours which include egg yolk, nuts of all sorts, chocolate, dried fruits, truffles and even on ocasions rum ó brandy. In essence it is a very simple tradicional sweet that can easily me made at home. 

 

 



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Discover the Costa Tropical
02 December 2015

All along its 100 kilometres of coast, Granada has plenty to be proud of. In this strip of welcoming beaches and pristine coves, a warm and bountiful climate reigns, one of long, sunny days, long evenings and starlit nights. Christened the Tropical Coast, exotic fruits grow here such as the chirimoya, or custard-apple, which can only flourish at southerly latitudes. Boxed in between the provinces of Málaga and Almería, Granada's coast is scattered with towers and ancient fortresses that in another age acted as sentinels in a hostile and turbulent Mediterranean, a haunt of pirates and knaves. The villages appear as tiny white specks among the high hills and rugged valleys.

La Herradura was once a humble fishing village. Now it is a tourist centre between Cerro Gordo and Punta de la Mona. Its bay is host to naturist beaches such as Cantarriján and leisure ports such as Marina del Este, which in recent years has become a popular haven for scuba-diving enthusiasts.

The N-340 road acts as an umbilical cord between the coastal villages. From the La Herradura exit it passes curves, gradients, viewpoints and sheer ravines before arriving at Almuñécar. The oldest of the region's villages has its most identifiable postcard image in the form of the beach of San Cristóbal. 

The maritime drive continues between tall, leafy palm trees. On the way lies the bronze statue of Abderramán I, the Umayyad prince who disembarked one morning in the year 755 ready to make Cordoba the capital of Muslim Andalusia. He arrived in  Almuñecar, which in previous centuries had welcomed the Phoenicians, attracted by the fishing and fruit of the fertile coast. Almuñécar was crowned by an Arab castle. 

The Archaeological Museum is in Cueva de los Siete Palacios. There is a bird park and footpaths leading inland towards the valley of the Río Verde, where the chirimoya plantations extend. The uphill route to the villages of Jete, Otívar and Lentegí is marked by farming cooperatives. 

Though once woodland in which nothing grew except broom and holm oak, since the middle of the past century these valleys have been filled with medium-sized trees brought from different parts of the Americas. The three villages found in the valley of the Río Grande are small and have Morisco churches. 

 

Salobreña is the most beautiful village on the Tropical Coast. Its houses are white, a dazzling white. It is crowned by an Arab fortress and surrounded by a tortuous, narrow network of streets. Its neighbourhoods carry the names of Albayzín, El Brocal and La Fuente. Among these towers the campanile of the Mudejar church of the Virgen del Rosario. 

Further along you come across Motril. Granada's second most populous city lies inland, in the heart of a fertile plain surrounded by impregnable mountains. The fields of crops that reach towards the sandy line of the sea are sowed with mango, banana, avocado, chirimoya, papaya and guava. 

The tree-lined avenues lead to the hill where the shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza is sited. Centuries ago, this place was the palace of retreat for the sultana Aixa, mother of Boabdil, the last Arab king of Granada. At the foot of the shrine is spread the park of the Pueblos de America. The Church of the Incarnation is Mudejar and the Casa de la Palma, an old sugar refinery of Arabic origin, is today a cultural centre.

Here ends this route, which brings together the fertility and the grandeur of the mountains, which are constantly leaning towards the sea. 

 

Granada's Tropical Coast lies trapped between the foothills of the southern Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean. It therefore produces a unique climate, hence the name of the coast in this area.

The star of its subtropical crops is the chirimoya or custard-apple, a green, heart-shaped fruit with ivory-white flesh, which leaves a soft, somewhat sweet taste on the palate. 

The fruit is native to southern Ecuador and northern Peru; the first Spanish explorers to reach these lands were those who brought it to Europe. 

The indigenous varieties of Fino de Jete and Campas are those that benefit from the status of Protected Designation of Origin.

It provides an average of 103 kcal per fruit. 
20% of its weight is made up of carbohydrates in the form of sugars. Rich in calcium, vitamin C and fibre, it helps intestinal movement.

The cuisine of Granada's Tropical Coast is mostly determined by its fruit. The chirimoya, the avocado, the mango and the guava are exotic fruits that have been used to make delicious salads for some decades now. They are usually accompanied by other fruits such as kiwis, heart of palm, strawberries, pears and apples. The Tropical Coast is a pleasure to all the senses but especially sight and taste.



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