Over the next few days, we will be publishing a student’s retelling of her stay with Barcelona SAE. Isabel Elliot is an undergraduate neuroscience major at Boston University and was a participant in our first 10-day January Term program called FOOD FIGHT: Constructing and Communicating Regional Identity in Spain and the EU with communications students from the University of Colorado Denver. 

In her own words, here are the first of Isabel’s entries that will bring satisfaction to both travelers and foodies alike.

Day 8 – January 14th

Today we had a wonderful presentation on Spanish food and culture. It was fun because we compared food idioms between cultures. Some English ones we came up with were: “it’s a piece of cake,” “don’t cry over spilled milk,” and “this seems fishy.” And Rich (Barcelona SAE’s Director) told us some in Spanish: “la media naranja (half orange).” It means finding your other half or soul mate.

In the evening, we had an AMAZING cooking class. We made a Catalan type of gazpacho, tortilla española, paella, and crème catalana. Learning how to make all of those made it easier for us to potentially cook Spanish food at home and keep this culture with us back in the United States. This was one of my favorite parts because it was the most hands-on experience we had with Spanish cuisine. I specifically helped make the paella and pan con tomate. We also got to use the tomatoes that are specially used for pan con tomate and it was interesting to see if they had a different consistency or anything. I thought they were easier to spread on the bread, which is probably why they are specifically used for the pan.

Day 9 – January 15th

Today we went to Park Agrari on the Llobregat River and had a presentation from Igualdad Animal.

Park Agrari is an agricultural park outside of Barcelona that is working towards more of the produce people eat being sourced from local farmers and responsibly used land. We had an extensive presentation on how the park works and why it was created as well as their goals in the future. It was interesting to compare how Spain is trying to change their farming with how the US farms. While there is a huge push for farming reform in the US, it’s not being implemented in such an organized manner. Something that all of us were very impressed by was the huge marketing effort that Park Agrari has made to brand themselves and be present in the local food market.

After Park Agrari, we ventured back to Barcelona for a presentation from Igualdad Animal. Igualdad Animal works to better the treatment of animals with a mission statement that essentially says that animals and humans should be equal and no animals should be used for human gain. It was an interesting presentation and was a great insight into how people that are part of a culture that uses a significant amount of meat are trying to combat that consumption. It led to great conversations about our own meat consumption and how our diets could be changed to limit our use of animal products.

Day 10 – January 16th

Today was so busy and amazing! We left Barcelona this morning to go to Figueres. The Salvador Dalí museum is in Figueres and was designed by Dalí preceding his death in 1989. We had a guide and it was great because there are so many subtleties in Dalí’s work that would be missed without direction. I knew very little about Dalí and it was great to learn about his life and some of his influences. My favorite piece was “Soft Self Portrait” that Dalí did during his time in New York.  He did it with the influence of the uneven status of white people and black people at that time in America and it was a commentary on aging as well as the black struggle. Something especially striking about this piece that I would not have noticed on my own is that the mask is made to look like Africa and Dalí made his skin darker as a way of saying that he wasn’t black but could sympathize or understand their struggle because he was not prejudiced as many white Americans were.

Following the Dalí museum, we took the bus to Palamos and went to the fishing museum. Palamos is a beautiful town and it was almost totally empty because it’s mostly a beach town that’s full in the summer.  The fishing museum was really fascinating because we learned about the different fishing techniques that have been used along the Spanish coast for centuries and how those affect the coastline and fish populations. Our guide also emphasized the effort to promote different types of fish for food in Spain so that some of the fish populations that are being depleted can reproduce. This was the first time I had heard a plausible solution for overfishing and I really liked that.

Day 11 – January 17th

Today we had a little bit of free time in Palamos to walk on the beach, but there wasn’t much to see as everything is closed for the winter. The beach was absolutely beautiful and the ocean was so incredibly blue. I also had some locally sourced fish for lunch and they were delicious, but an interesting experience to have an entire fish (head and all) set down in front of me. I think I met the challenge well.

Following lunch, we left Palamos for the Codorniu Winery. At Codorniu they make cava which is the name given to sparkling wine made in Spain. Most people would unknowingly call it champagne, but a sparkling wine can only be called champagne if it is produced from grapes in the Champagne region of France. Codorniu was the site of the first sparkling wine production in Spain and is the largest underground cellar in the world. They have the space to hold one hundred million bottles of cava. We had a tour through the cellar and some of the grounds and also got to try some cava. Codorniu was the perfect way to start bringing the trip to a close.