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Tapas – AKA Toast

With the tales of tapas built by the hipster bars spotting the streets of Toronto promising authentic tapas and sangria, there was a certain image of what tapas included. Imagine, for a moment, piles of roasted ham stabbed by a toothpick just to stay upright, little portions of the main offerings of the menu as taster previews, and stuffed olives fit to burst.

This is the image I, and certainly my mother, had when eating tapas in Madrid. Surely we’d be sitting there eating “authentic” tapas with the ability to return to Toronto and sneer at the Toronto tapas bars run by men with oiled mustaches and tattoos of geometric shapes. ‘This isn’t tapas you uncultured swines‘, we’d sneer haughtily with all the pompousness of a well travelled asshole, ‘I’ve been to Madrid and tasted real tapas!’ Then we would throw in a few random Spanish words for credibility.

Sadly this dream may be down the toilet because for the grandeur that tapas back home had, the tapas here are… well… toast.

I think maybe part of the appeal to the locals is how low brow it is, though I can only assume since I’ve yet to ask because of my appalling Spanish. I kind of get it, and I kind of don’t (the appeal, not the Spanish). In our first tapas meal, although I use the word “tapas” lightly since montadito is a sort of sub-genre of tapas, my mother and I arrived at 100 Montaditos hungry, jet-lagged, and just looking for something that resembled food after the scary pasta on Air Canada. At this point we had no idea what “montadito” even meant but hell it didn’t matter.

100 Montaditos seemed perfect. Young couples speaking Spanish were pouring out with tinto de verano in their hands, and you ordered on pieces of paper. Unpretentious, and oh look there were pictures of nice big sandwiches!

Except they weren’t. I think we should have noticed that no sandwich should cost 1euro and be expected to be large… but we were naive and ordered one each and a third to split because we were feeling positively gluttonous.

They instead were micro-sandwiches. 

What is this? A sandwich for ants?

What is this? A sandwich for ants?

Mind you, despite the size of sandwich, they were pretty good! Especially the one with potato tortilla and garlic mayo. My mother was less impressed, but she also called it the “McDonalds of tapas”. (This one week with her has been filled with so many exasperated sighs that I’m afraid I’ll lose the ability to speak English all together and adopt exasperation as my mother tongue instead.) The tinto de verano may have also just beat sangria…. but just by a fraction.

After a long day of shopping to fit in and no longer look like hideous, Birkenstock wearing tourists, we stopped off at Taberna La Descubierta on calle de Barcelona at the recommendation of Paula, the young Venezuelan ex-pat working the desk at Hostal Gala Madrid.

Alright, real tapas at last. Bring on the undeserved foodie ego. The place had bright colours filling in where there lacked bricks and the bar was lined with local wines. It was dark, cozy, and all locals to the point after my mother successfully pronounced “caipirinha” the man stopped part way through giving us the one and only English menu and instead gave us the Spanish. We were not tourists, no, we were tapas experts with (Toronto) tapa experience, no English menu for us!

We ordered ourself some calamares a la romana along with a table tapas. I was (am) still having a hard time breaking my vegetarianism, especially with the Jamón ibérico leg sitting with a hoof pointed out straight like a ballet dancer right at my head, but regardless I looked on with some interest at the real tapas experience.

We ate the calamari with lemon and then waited as the tapas arrived. Except when our waitress laid them down on the wooden table I could see the moment my mother’s face fell in disappointment.

Toast. More bread.

Each and every tapas sat on a piece of baguette toasted with olive oil. Even the ham and cheese were spread out extremely thinly. The cheese was semi-hard, sharp and delicious, and sure, even I appreciated how smooth the chorizo was but god damn so much bread.

Atkins would hate this plate of tapas.

Atkins would hate this plate of tapas.

“How do they even stay thin here?” My mother asked as she munched on another piece of bread. “It’s all bread! There’s not a vegetable in sight and they are all skinny.”

It must be all the walking?

Now full of carbs, we walked back through Puerta del Sol, past the immigrants illegally selling knock-offs and pulling the strings of their stores into bags to run from the police, and the chirps of the men selling LED twirling copters. We bought alright lemon gelato from Palazzo along the road and walked back both a little disappointed.

This is not tapas everywhere, and I’m almost certain this is just two coincidences and that tapas in Madrid are different elsewhere. Or maybe that is just how “real” tapas are and I’m truly the uncultured swine who knows no better (this is admittedly most likely). Either way, I don’t want to eat another piece of bread for a few weeks. The sight of a freshly baked loaf alone makes me feel bloated.

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And we’re off – a pretentious reflection from inside a horrible Air Canada Rouge plane at 3 am

Countdown to lift-off: 0 days

As I write this I am sitting in a plane that belongs in a museum nestled beside fertility jars and terrible educational taxidermy displays rather than in the air. No touch screen entertainment system? No inflight movie screens? For a seven hour international flight no less. This may be the first place where someone reads Air Canada’s enRoute cover to cover and clings to every word of the feature piece on Eugene Bouchard with the tagline “the Canadian tennis champ on poutine, diamonds and infinity pools”.

This is of course all hyperbole, but it did allow for the absorption of the scenery as we took off instead of flicking through the screen trying to find out if they had “Guardians of the Galaxy” yet.

I watched as my home was yanked out under from my feet and the land I have known all my life grew small enough that the lights of the cars appeared to be working to pump golden blood through the freeway veins of Toronto. The veins ran through the dark and feed into the glowing, pulsing organs of activity that I used to be a part of.

Canada is the body I understand. I know it’s aesthetic; from the poutine that Eugene Bouchard’s mother picks up at Montreal’s Gibeau Orange Julep, to the need to apologize for someone else bumping into you. I know not to eat the devil spawn they call Coffee Crisp, to not question what precisely constitutes “all dressed”, and that despite French being on every product and sign, I will still be unable to understand it when trapped in a one way street in the suburbs of Quebec City.

In Canada I get the clusters of light the stream of cars pump into. I understand it. And as I say goodbye to all I understand, I leave with the same trepidation, nervousness, and excitement that comes with exploring a new partner for the first time.

Madrid will be the new place I crawl into the skin of, the place I seek the new map of golden veins, the hubs of life I attempt to insert myself into. I’ll get to understand it’s likes and dislikes, it’s favourite food, lifestyle, and sense of humour. It’s dating someone new with all that entails.

Sure I’ll miss Canada, I’ll miss the familiar and routine, despite it being less sexy, but it’s time for a break and to see other people.

After all, if everyone stayed together for the sake of the familiarity there would be way less divorces. And like the next white suburban upper middle class pseudo-intellectual, I do appreciate a good divorce.

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The Farewell Five – AKA NO MORE GOODBYE DINNERS I BEG OF YOU

Countdown to lift-off: 3 days

With my flight right around the corner not only have I started to have miniature panic attacks at the sight of suitcases, but it has finally set in that I’ll be apart for eight months from… my dogs.

My dad keeps trying to hug me close as he gets weepy and, while god I’ll miss my family too, I just beeline it for my favourite pooch Jack and suffocate him in affection. Since the dogs are too dumb to understand the logistics of Skype (or to not eat their own poo) I’m probably going to miss him and my other dog Maggie the most. God damn it.

It’s all starting to sink in that I’m really leaving. I’ve got my travel adaptors, my backpacking backpack (Osprey Farpoint 55L), enough maple candies to give cavities to an entire country, and the most telltale sign is that the goodbyes have started.

Oh god, have they started.

I’m super thankful that I have enough people in my life to warrant all these goodbyes, it’s a sign that I’m truly lucky. The only issue is THERE ARE SO MANY GOODBYE MEALS. So many. Since I’m going to be leaving to a country with a different cuisine, people keep encouraging me to eat worse and worse foods. Perhaps even worse is I’ve started to adopt that mindset.

“Eh, what’s a fourth Tim Hortons jalapeño bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese going to do? We both know there won’t be Tim Hortons in Spain.”

“Come on, eat that mint Aero bar, who knows when you’ll see it again?”

“Sure have a whole bag of party-sized all dressed chips is bad but it’s so Canadian.”

Oh god I’m going to die without these hooked up to an IV.

I’ve been eating like a bear storing up for a Canadian hibernation. It’s not just me though, like I mentioned I’ve been taken on so many goodbye meals with so many fattening dishes that I’m putting on what I have dubbed “The Farewell Five”. It’s the five pounds you gain before leaving the country on a long trip where everyone thinks you are going to die and fattens you up with Jane Bond’s Fat Ass Grilled Cheese (I mean look at the god damn name) and Cora’s inhuman omelette portions (amongst other things). 

I’ll end up waddling into my Getafe residence and then will gain a second round of the “Freshman Fifteen” from the cafeteria food.

On a slightly unrelated tangent—because who needs logical order in these posts anyways—my Spanish is going splendidly.

I recently reblogged this post:

“i want a blowjob”

quiero una biblia

“call a prostitute”

llama a la monja

“where is the strip club”

donde esta la iglesia

“i want to get laid”

quiero leer la palabra de dios

With the caption “the only Spanish I’ll need to know“… with no ounce of sarcasm. For those of you who, like me, have zero Spanish knowledge past mumbled attempts at singing Enrique Iglesias, each of the “translations” are really religious references. For example, I’ve been informed that the “I want to get laid” line is translated to “I want to read the word of God”. Fuck.

I would be religious too if this was where you read the word of God.

I’ve signed up for an intensive course (but will be missing the first, most important day due to La Tomatina) and I also have the Spanish semester course, but jesus it was a harsh reminder of just how far I have to go.

So with all that being said… I’ll try and fit a few more posts in as I settle into lift in Madrid but with the courses and the chaos I’ll be lucky to sit down and write some cheesy fiction, never mind a semi-intelligence blog post. Although on further consideration “intelligent” has never really been my style.

Ladies and gentlemen, and all you lovely non-binary people, cue the dramatic music! Only three days left… and I’m still trying to figure out how to stuff my dog into my carry on and get through border security. If you have any tips, let me know.