Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Colombian kitchen/Una Cocina Colombiana

After three days of unpacking bridal shower gifts, I finally have the kitchen I have so longed for. It's spacious with lots of counter space. Plenty of room to cook the Colombian food that will bring a smile to my future husband's face. He has been in the U.S. for almost 15 years, and food is one of the things he misses in addition to his family and the warm weather. I can't do much about the snow, but I can try to re-create a piece of Colombia for him here.

My biggest source of inspiration is this amazing blog My Colombian Recipes written by a Colombian woman who was looking to share her grandmother's recipes with others. One of the recipes most often requested by my future husband is milhojas. It's his favorite dessert. Sometimes, at the supermarket, I all of a sudden see the ingredients in the cart and a look on his face saying please make it. The best part for me is that every milhojas that he eats either here or in Colombia is now compared to my fresh, homemade one. It also gives him something to brag about. (Gracias, Erica!)

A typical Colombian breakfast with arepas
The next thing that we always have to have in the kitchen is arepas. They are basically a corn cake/patty usually covered with a bit of butter and covered with cheese. They are a staple of Colombian cuisine. Usually, we eat them for breakfast since that is the tradition in Colombian. Other times, lunch. If there is really no food in the house, well then, it's arepas for dinner. The best part is that they are very healthy. We are very fortunate to live in an area of Boston where we can buy these products although they do come at a cost. A few times, we did buy masarepa, corn meal, which you can find in the Hispanic section in any supermarket. Making our own arepas is cheaper than buying the frozen ones. Homemade ones are fresher, too. Now, that I am officially moved in maybe I can start making them from scratch again.

a family size block of Colombian Cheese
Pasteles de Gloria
There are a few other items that are a part of every shopping trip. Bocadillo or pasta de guayaba is a sweet guava paste/jelly. Usually, we eat it with the same Colombian cheese that we use for the arepas. Last week, I was so excited because I saw tamaño familiar, family size. I bought it thinking that now that I am buying for two, it should be enough. Actually, it was too much. It looks like as if I will have to stick to the smaller size. To use the cheese faster, I think I will cook something with bocadillo and queso like these pasteles de gloria.

Bocadillo, queso, and Turbana!
We also love plantain chips and our favorite brand is Turbana. I love to bring them into my Spanish classes for the students to try. They are great sweet and salty.


Last but by no means least is arequipe which is also know as manjar blanco (Ecuador), dulce de leche (Argentina/Uruguay), and cajeta (México). They are all different words for any thick caramel sauce. Many a days, I catch my future husband eating arequipe with a spoon right from the can and washing it down with a glass of milk. 

frozen pulp

from Colombia
Most recently, I found frozen pulp in a supermarket close to my parent' home. I bought guanábana and maracuyá. One of my favorite things about Colombia is all the fruit. One day, I tried four different tropical fruit juices. I was in heaven. It felt so good to have fresh fruit juice. I definately want to make these juices a regular part of our diet here rather than just a treat every one in a while.

There are some things that come straight from Colombia which are difficult to get here. By far the most important of these items is café, a word that needs no translation. Since coffee is so important, I will save that for another post. We also buy many candies and other treats since both of us have a sweet tooth. Also, on our last visit, my future husband made sure to come back with caldo de pescado, fish broth. Colombians love soups, and even have it on really hot days! We searched high and low for fish broth here, but we could not find it. It's one thing making chicken stock, making fish stock is quite another. I'm not going to go there. So, he bought enough bouillon cubes to last us through those winter months when we really could use a bowl of cazuela de mariscos, fish stew.

Now, there are a few kitchen items that are typical to the Colombian, or Latino, culture in general. The first is a pitcher to make chocolate caliente, hot chocolate. In Colombia, you make hot chocolate from real bars of chocolate not the powdery Swiss Miss that I love. The molinillo is what you use to mix the melting chocolate and warm milk. Usually, they have hot chocolate at breakfast. It's also great to have with warm churros, too. Finally, there are two parrillas, grills, to cook our arepas on. At my bridal shower, I also received a molcajete, mortar and pestle. It's an kitchen tool dating back to the times of the Aztecs and Mayans.

Cooking arepas on parrillas
Pitcher with molinillo

I will be glad to share any new recipes I make, any new foods I discover, or any kitchen item I receive or purchase.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Father's Day/Feliz Dia del Padre

One of people who encouraged me to learn Spanish was my Dad. When I was just six years old, we would watch Sesame Street and sing along while we Luis and Maria taught us Spanish. Here's a link to one of the Classic songs - this one is about saying "hola". Classic Sesame Street - Hola with Maria and Luis.

In the second grade, my elementary school had an international week. My teacher asked us to bring in words in Spanish, and whoever brought in the most words won a prize. So, my Dad kept giving me words that he knew. I don't really remember what I won, but it doesn't matter because learning those words was the bigger prize.

As I got older and started to learn about the world, my Dad started to tell me about the places in the world he visited in the Navy. He loved Barcelona, Cannes, Italy, and Greece. As I entered high school, he told me about his high school Spanish teachers. My Dad often quotes one of his teachers, "M, you speak so well too bad you don't know what you are saying." My Dad's mother's friend Hazel told my Dad the importance of learning languages, too. He never forgot that, and clearly, passed that on to me.

When I was in high school, my Dad and I made a promise to each other that if I went to Spain to study abroad, he would come and visit. In 2002, we fulfilled that promise. I drank my first cafe con leche with him in the Cafe de Indias on la Avenida de la Constitucion in Sevilla. We visited Ronda and stayed in a Parador over looking the gorge. The yemas from Ronda were so good. We took a train to Granada to see the Alhambra. Then, we returned to Sevilla. The night before he left, we went to see flamenco at la Carboneria while sipping on tinto de verano. We stuffed our faces silly with jamón serrano and queso manchego at the Alfonso XIII hotel. It was a trip I will never forget.

My Dad and I in Ronda, Spain

I am grateful for a father who cultivated within me such a love of Spanish language and culture. Parents play an integral role in encouraging their children to be open to learning languages and by seeing value in it. Having supportive parents, of course, make the Spanish teacher's job that much easier.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One month to Uruguay!!

Well, after months of waiting, I finally received the agenda for my three weeks in Uruguay. It's  packed with so many great activities. Seeing the agenda is making this more real to me. It's fun googling the different places that I am going to be visiting and the hotels that I am going to be staying at. Maybe I shouldn't peek, so it can be more of a surprise, but I can't help it. The internet makes it way too easy. Plus, as anything, seeing things in person is always a different experience than seeing just a picture.

So, what does this agenda include?

1. Orientation - Many of the participants in my program are coming from all different parts of the United States and well, we need to get to know one another first. We also are going to get a crash course in the Uruguayan culture and their educative system.

(And my favorite, a visit to the Embassy!!)

2. Sightseeing - There are so many places scheduled for us to visit that I will just wait until I visit them to make comments.

3. Visit to a ranch - I have never visited a ranch before even here in my own country so I'm really excited. We will be there to have an all-day English Immersion camp for a select group of English teachers who are not part of the program and who could benefit from our visit.

4. Visits to local schools - My host partner has prepared an exciting agenda for me! Basically, I am going to be visiting her classes and interacting with her students as well as visiting other teachers who want to invite me in to their classroom. I know it's going to be a great experience.

This month is going to fly by. Luckily, I have plenty of time to start to prepare my presentations about the U.S., Boston, and our education system. I'm just going to find some nice outdoor cafes with wifi so I can work and still enjoy the summer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Do you know wedding vocabulary in Spanish? I should, I'm getting married soon!!

I am getting married in two months to a Colombian, and to be honest, I have had difficulties explaining the nuances of American weddings to him and his family.

For example, the word groomsman. Traditionally, in Colombia, the "madrina" and "padrino" were the ones to stand by side the bride and groom as witnesses. So, when it came time to ask his brother to be a groomsman, we had to invent a word to explain what his role would be. I think we said "hombres de honor".

Well, wonder no longer! My amazing department head bought me this book for wedding planning in Spanish. Not only is it practical for me in terms of planning and speaking in Spanish, but I think it would a fun lesson for Spanish class! My brain is already going crazy! I'm so grateful for this book.

After reading it, I promise to post about the new things I learned.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I am I doing this blog?

So, I have been following different blogs for the past few years now. Recently, I came to the decision that it was a good time to create my own blog.


1. It's a place for my students to keep in touch with me long after final exams. I have had some amazing students over the past four years, and it's very hard to say goodbye to them (or "adios" in our case) at the end of the year. Sometimes, I never had the chance to do so. {Insert sad face - RIP LGK} This blog is a way for me to keep opening their eyes to the wonderful world of Spanish through thoughts, pictures, and videos of the places I go and the things I do. (I hope this explains the "trips" part of the title.) "Adios" now becomes "hasta pronto".

No matter where my students end up going in the future (or me for that matter), they always know where to find their "Srta". It's the best job in the world, and I thank them for that. {Insert smiley face} I look forward to the day when my students make it big, travel the world, and do things I've always dreamed about. Then, all of this work (both on the blog and in the classroom) will all be worth it.

2. The next reason I chose to do this blog is for the other Spanish teachers who have shared so much with me. I have learned so much from them, and I hope to be able to share my many "tips" with them. Collaborating with other teachers near and far online is such an amazing experience, and I am excited to contribute more to my PLN (professional learning network).

3. Finally, this blog is for me. It is a place for me to archive my journey as a Spanish teacher. I've always wanted to journal my experience as a teacher, and this seems the easiest way to do that.

Although I am not Sra. Toro just yet, I will be soon. I think blogging will help me make the transition from Srta. Berry to Sra. Toro easier. It might appear as if a lot is changing, but in reality, nothing is. I'm still here.