Tuesday, October 31, 2006

OF BIRTHDAYS, BBQ'S, HARVESTS AND HALLOWEEN.

Wow! The past week has been incredibly busy, but at least I can’t complain that I’ve been deprived of US culture. Or partying!

For starters, my daughter’s fourth birthday was Sunday. But that’s a deceptive statement, since the birthday celebration actually started last August when my family—in what is becoming an annual tradition—threw Inés a way, way early birthday party while we were in Chicago.

But party train hit full steam last week.

We had a birthday party for Inés’s friends and classmates on Thursday at the local kiddieland park. You know...it’s one of those storefronts in which 700 toddlers jump into a pit filled with 700,000 plastic balls and remain merrily submerged for 7-8 hours.

The only difference between US kiddie parks and Spanish ones is that the Spanish ones all have bars serving beer to the parents. No joke.


The next day (Friday), Inés had another birthday party with exactly the same kids attending—but this time, it was *in* school. Yes, Daddy dropped Inés off at school...along with an arm-load of grocery bags filled with pastries and juice boxes.

When Daddy picked-up Inés, she was wearing a large, cardboard crown and a even larger smile.

Then on Friday night, we were invited to a “Fall Harvest Festival” at an American-run, English-language, evangelical school a couple of towns over. Here’s where the American culture bit really kicked-in.

It was like stepping into Mayberry—only with much better weather. This Festival had everything that a homesick American boy could ask for. Bobbing for apples. Tractor-pulled hay rides through the moonlit corn fields. Face painting. Country line dancing (not for me, of course!). Apple pies. Pumpkin pies. And hot dogs and s’mores roasted over a campfire.

Do you know how long it’s been since I had last seen a God-damned marshmallow?! Let alone, setting one ablaze and stuffing the entire black-encrusted ball of molten napalm into my mouth. I almost wept with joy.

After the Fall Harvest Festival, I put Inés to bed and started cooking for Sunday’s Birthday BBQ.

Actually, that’s not true. I started cooking the previous Sunday, when I dusted off The Salivator and spent twelve hours smoking 11 lbs. of pulled pork—which I then froze, because I know that the art of smoking has no respect for tight deadlines.

But, anyway...on Friday night, I made the sauces—both a vinegar-based Carolina sauce and a tomato-based Kansas City sauce.

On Saturday night (again, after Inés went to bed), I made the salads—creamy coleslaw and a macaroni salad that nearly everybody on earth seems crazy about, except me.

Sunday morning was a whirl of activity. After weeks of waiting, I was finally able to give Inés her IKEA drafting table—which she put to good use by covering every square inch of it (and much of the floor) with masking tape.

Then, the manic cooking phase began.

Thawed pulled pork moistened with apple juice went into the 220ºF oven to gently warm. Beer went into the ice-filled cooler. Green beans, pimientos de padrón and bananas were tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper (and, in the case of the bananas, sprinkled with curry powder) and tossed onto the grill. Chicken thighs (for the kids) were brined in a salt and sugar solution and also grilled. And all the while...Inés appeared in the kitchen every seven minutes wanting my help stringing plastic beads onto pipe cleaners.

The guests arrived at 2pm—which was 50 minutes before I finished cooking. But still, that’s a much better on-time performance than I’ve exhibited in past BBQ’s.

We had two families over for the birthday BBQ. A British family whose son is in Inés’s class. And an American family from Pittsburgh that lives down the street.

The Americans are not only incredibly nice people and the closest thing that I have to a family over here—but they’ve also proven to be an invaluable source of peanut butter.

And thank God for the mother...who saved me from certain exhaustion by volunteering to bake the birthday cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.


And then, just when I thought it was safe to rest...today was Halloween.

I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that Halloween is still a fledgling holiday here in Spain. But a Spanish family down the street seems hell-bent on changing that. They threw an incredibly ambitious, well-organized Halloween party this afternoon for all of the neighborhood kids (and for quite a few adults, also). Inés went as Superman. I went as Michael Myers.

After the party, the kids went trick or treating—which, judging by the perplexed-yet-horrified looks on the faces of seven out of every ten neighborhood homeowners, has not yet gained a foothold in the collective Spanish consciousness.

At least I was prepared. I had a bushel-basket full of chocolate chip and COCONUT granola bars sitting in my foyer.

And now that birthday and Halloween season is over, it really is time to rest. Inés is with her mother for the week. Thanksgiving is still a month away. And I’ve got 2/3 a bushel-basket full of chocolate chip and COCONUT granola bars vying for my attention.

BTW...does anybody want the chocolate chips?

14 Comments:

At 4:57 AM, Blogger tatiana said...

Wow! Sounds like a fantastic couple of days.... Glad you guys had such a good time - also glad to hear that some spaniards are taking halloween by the horns and trying to incorporate it into their culture! Who doesn't like dressing up & eating candy?!?!? All the food you described makes my mouth water! Yum!!!

 
At 5:37 AM, Blogger Kurt said...

Every time you say "pulled pork", I giggle a little hehe.

I really should put some effort into learning how to cook a little. I've been living on microwaved frozen food for too long!

Glad you guys had a fun Halloween...giving out candy to the kids is almost more fun than it was being a kid during Halloween.

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

A week of partying is exhausting, but fun, isn't it.Happy to hear children and adults had a great time.

By the way, that drafting table looks huge compared to Inés. I'm sure she'll "grow into it" soon enough, though. :)

 
At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! & here I thought my life was busy! It sure sounds like you had a great time, though. Here in Ohio, my wife took our six year old granddaughter, Savannah, trick or treating, while I stayed home and passed out the candy. I called my wife after they had been out about an hour for an update on their progress. My wife explained that they were heading home because Savannah wasn’t feeling well, and just then, she started shouting, “Oh no!”…Savannah had thrown up, but that little girl had one more trick up her sleeve…she nailed Grandma right in the coat pocket!! What a shot – too bad no one caught it on tape. Well that capped off the trick or treating and Savannah was sent home to bed, without eating any candy. I’m not sure if she got anything coconutty. I hope all of you had a slightly less adventurous time than my wife on Halloween! Happy All Saints Day! And of course happy b-day to Inés!!

-- DJG

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Tatiana: Next on my wish list is to have the three Charlie Brown holiday specials on TV over here. Then again...who need TV when we have YouTube?

Kurt: When I started Q'g two years ago, I had the same problem with pulled pork. But now I'm over it. Still giggle at "Jerk Chicken," however.

C-Swiss: If you think she looks silly sitting at that huge drafting table, you should see her futon.

To all readers (especially the Mexican ones): Happy Day of the Dead! ¡Feliz Dia de los Muertos!
Sal

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Dan:

I think that's a common Halloween affliction; although usually not until after the twelfth Zagnut Bar.

The irony is this: As Savannah and your wife were walking home with that mess all over them, people were probably thinking, "Wow! Awesome costumes!"

Sal

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger christina said...

(I can comment again! Right click on "post a comment" and then open in a new window. Go figure.)

Wow, when you said you'd been busy you really meant it! You think YOU get hungry reading MY blog? You produced and incredible menu. How about we call you Iron Chef from now on? I'd also like to know what makes macaroni salad so attractive to some. They're all over it here too.

And what a great dad you are. I'm sure Ines loved all the fun birthday and harvest/Halloween activities. She looks so adorable at her new table. We bought two of those very same IKEA chairs for the kids last week - one in white and one in green and I'm seriously considering getting a pink one since I found out how comfortable they are.

 
At 11:00 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Christina:

There's another thing that I like about that chair. It doesn't roll very well (at least, the one that I bought doesn't). This is a definite advantage when a four year old is in the driver's seat.

COCONUT!
Sal

 
At 11:51 PM, Blogger woman wandering said...

Delicious ... !!

This is an 'ohmygod, 8 comments and I'm late' kind of keeping-my-place-in-the-club comment. I'm two tired to write or think, I had to entertain Americans tonight, and drink their wine ... exhausted, going sleeping. Will read and write more on the morrow.

P.S: Damn, do you know how complicated my word verification thingy wotsit is ... whszdzau

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger christina said...

LOL, Di! You are so funny when you're tired. Absolutely right - entertaining Americans can just suck the life right out of you.

(I'm actually only commenting to see what my secret word is: dzjzdll - not easy at 8:30 in the morning)

 
At 9:29 AM, Blogger woman wandering said...

Lol Christina ... superb work for 8.30am. Sal's lucky to have us over here, isn't he.

Halloween is still an unknown for me ... New Zealand was thinking about it when I left back in 2003.

Love the drafting table :)

utkggq - I feel like word verification is some kind of mind exercise that will keep my mind young ...

Dammit, ywvyd ...

 
At 9:01 PM, Blogger Calamity Tat said...

Happy birthday to your little pumpkin Sal and not so many coconuts in sight I see...has the passion died? are you not coconutty anymore??

 
At 9:16 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Tat with the adorable dog:

Au contraire. My passion for COCONUT continues unabated. In fact, it is twice as strong as yesterday; ten times stronger than last week; a hundred times stronger than last month.

And nothing or nobody can stop it--including the 12 kg of COCONUT cookies that Kath sent me and I ate in a little over two weeks. And not without some pain, might I add.

I've just been so busy with work and home life lately that I haven't had much creative energy. This birthday/Halloween post took an enormous amount of will-power to start and finish...plus a bag of espresso beans, which I munched on like popcorn while writing it.

Still...despite my exhaustion, I managed to finish the length piece with two (TWO!) very solid references to COCONUT.

The last gasp of a dying man? Perhaps. But lots to dying men continue crawlling toward the sunset for long after others have left them for dead.

You know what? I don't know what the hell I'm talking about here. Sigh! Just take-away from this rambling Comment that I still love COCONUT. And always will.

I'm rather fond of your little black French Bulldog, also.

Sal (ahem, ahem...still conspicuously absent from Tat's sidebar...cough, cough...)

 
At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh coconut..I have a bag of Bounty Bars....all for me..just me...tra la la la laaaaa....

Nice drawing table...verreee verreee neece. (French accent please).

 

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