26.02.23 — Journal

Between Chef, Model & Tour Guide

Well, after some weeks of quiet I’m still here, I’m still in Madrid, and it’s still bitingly cold. After returning from Gijón, we had a week or so of milder weather, but just these last few days have seen temperatures plummet back into the minuses. It’s not as bad as when Storm Filomena passed through a couple of years, but it’s well enough to keep me indoors for the time being.

I did brave the cold one weekend, though, as I’d agreed to act as tour guide for some special visitors to the city. After I’d had an absolute blast at their wedding last summer, Jess and Adam came to visit Madrid for a few days! Before I could meet up with them, I’d arranged to visit La Casa Encendida with a few colleagues. I’d been meaning to drop by this cultural centre in my neighbourhood for years, so it was lovely to finally get a look around and enjoy the warmth of the sun on its rooftop.

From there, the four of us stopped by a terrace and enjoyed a couple of vermouths before I’d to head off and meet Jess and Adam, who’d just arrived in the centre and were waiting to be allocated a room in their hotel. Jess came out and found me waiting for them outside and we got chatting, but once they’d been given their room key I headed up to the hotel’s rooftop terrace and had year another glass of vermouth whilst looking over the city. Not a bad Sunday at all!

Jess and Adam then joined me for another drink before we headed back down to street level and began wandering around the city. I showed them some of my favourite areas to eat and drink, but the streets were thronging with people and all the bars were packed out. I later learned that this was due to a huge protest that had finished just as we were setting off on our tour of the centre.

In the end we wound up sampling some of the local dishes in my local neighbourhood, after which we headed to mine for another drink and so that the two of them could see Casa Briggs, my humble abode here in the city. We then headed back to the centre for a meal at a tapas restaurant I knew they’d enjoy, followed by a visit to a sherry bar which turned out to be closed for a private event. We took that as divine intervention and headed back to our respective abodes for the evening.

It was lovely to show the two of them around and I was even happier to later learn from Jess that they’d enjoyed their time here in the capital. I hope to have them back over soon!

The next week saw the beginning of some of my culinary adventures, from a lovely caprese salad that I threw together to an early batch of torrijas, a Spanish Easter tradition. I first made these sweet cinnamon delights back in 2017 when I first lived in Madrid as an intern, the story of which has been retold again and again by my colleagues and goes something like this: one day my colleague Luis brought a torrija to the office that he’d bought, I tried it and liked it, and that same weekend I set about investigating how they were made and threw together a batch myself. I then brought them into the office and various colleagues insisted that I had done a better job of them than their own mothers!

The secret to my recipe is to add as much sugar and cinnamon as you dare.

That weekend I had some other plans which involved cooking as little as possible while eating as much as possible. This began with a trip to Sara’s house, where we were joined by Rocío for a night in with some wine and homemade pizza. It didn’t quite go to plan as we wound up so deep in gossipy conversation that we forgot about the pizza and it turned out a bit crispier than perhaps we would have liked, but we had a fab time all the same!

The next day I met up with Luis and we headed into the centre to join Carmen and participate in her photography project. This began with an initial photo shoot on the street, after which me and Luis went for some breakfast. We were joined there by more friends, with whom we wound up visiting an amazing bakery (I grabbed a chocolate croissant and Luis some bread similar to the loaf me and Megan bought in Montreal) and then treated ourselves to some new plants in a florists next door.

Whilst we waited for Carmen to wrap up, the group of us wound up in a nearby bar for some vermouth (my tipple of choice, in case you hadn’t noticed) and some little bites of food. As often happens here, this then turned into hours of snacking and chatting once Carmen arrived.

After having had lunch without even realising, Luis, Carmen, and I hopped in a taxi and down to Carmen’s house to carry on our afternoon of merriment. We put on some old silent movies, poured ourselves a glass of wine, and spent the rest of the afternoon munching on some jamón, cheese, and homemade bread that Carmen had made. Bliss!

The next day I spent at home cooking and cleaning. I made a lovely (even if I say so myself) batch of lentejas a la riojana, a lentil dish made with pork and chorizo and garlic all things tasty. I also popped some chicken wings in the oven according to my colleagues recipe, and they came out rather tasty too: even if they were an absolute sticky mess to eat once in the office!

At work, I had a lovely morning one day thanks to a visit by a bunch of design students from Valencia. I always remember the giddy excitement of having talks by top designers from local studios whilst I was at university, so it was an honour to sit and share our work and my experience with them all as well as answer their questions. I can only hope they found it as interesting and nutritive as I found it enjoyable!

This weekend is being a quiet one so far after a rather busy week. I’ve been catching up with people back in the UK and all over the world, organising my life a little bit, and even re-grouting my shower. Adult life is a never-ending list of tasks! I was rather proud of my breakfast yesterday though, which for once tasted as good as it looks in the picture!

I’m now sat waiting for Sara to head over for an afternoon of tea, sandwiches, and perhaps a cheeky vermouth. I’ve made a batch of coronation chicken and some biscuits for the occasion, but I’m missing a bowl of cheese and onion crisps as the my local British shop has closed down. I only discovered this after a cold bike ride down there this morning – what a disappointing way to start one’s Sunday!