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Arguing about all sorts: the third year of our Spanish adventure

This account of our life in Spain is loosely based on true events although names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories and from my diaries of the time. I may have also changed identifying characteristics and details of individuals such as appearance, nationality or occupations and characters are often an amalgam of different people that I met.

Taking up rural pursuits
27 June 2014 @ 09:46

By now we had a functioning kitchen and I decided to make use of it. Yes, I know I don't like to write about things that don't involve me having a big verbal punch-up with someone, but I thought I'd give everyone a little breather and talk about preserves.
At various times (I can't remember the months each fruit came out and don't want to make the mistake Chris Stewart did in his famous book when he described plucking oranges from trees in the summer), I made combinations of quince, fig, loquat and mango jam, depending on what I found on our trees. The jam worked out fine – a bit thick, because I had no idea about using thermometers and I always added water which you’re not supposed to, but it was tasty, and I used it to sandwich my Victorian sponges together. 
In previous years I'd also used our own almonds to make the traditional British Christmas cake. That was a real potch; I had to first pick the almonds, going native and sometimes risking life and limb to lean out over a drop to get some of them (almond trees are always planted next to precipices); then I had to get a stone and sit outside cracking each one of them – the ants had a field day with the bits of almond that broke – they’d heave pieces four times their body size back to their nests. I tried using a nutcracker but the almonds would go flying in the air because they were the wrong shape. 
I then had to blanch them in hot water and take off the fine skin covering each one and dry them out; only then could they be used. I used up a whole basket of them; some went in the cake and the rest was for the marzipan. Because I could never manage to dry them out properly though after 'blanching' and they were always soggy, it made the marzipan all runny and I had no idea how to dry it out so threw more icing sugar and even flour into it (this is how we women whose mothers run off to live with other men learn our domestic skills).
But I felt it was criminal not to use the almonds. I also felt that I must do a home-made Christmas cake each year or I would be a failure as a mother and wife – so every year I spent hours on the damn things. The cake would then sit there, slowly drying out until February, when a big remaining chunk would be thrown out. The kids hated it and it gave me the runs, so it was left to Adrian to tackle it and he was usually watching his weight by then. 
We also had plenty of oranges from December till May, most of which fell and rotted on the ground, because no-one was interested in eating them. We would occasionally make orange juice, but the kids preferred the shop-bought stuff, without the bits - and so did all the village children (Spanish kids are mega-fussy and prefer junk food). 
I also planted a banana tree and felt a frisson of pleasure each time a bunch of bananas appeared. However, they would always decide to grow high up on a branch over our neighbour’s garden and we could never actually reach them. (We couldn’t ask the neighbour to knock them down for us as we didn’t speak ever since the massive row with his twisted, nasty piece of a work of a wife.) 
So, there were nice fruits in Spain and one could engage in country pursuits whilst reading one's Casa y Campo. But one engaged in these activities in the way one would in the Wild West; the Home Counties it wasn't. 

To see the end result of all the work on the casa, take a look at the house now:

And also another of our completed projects:



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