Retail Therapy and The Culinary Time-Machine

It’s been said before, many times, thar moving to Spain is like going off to . The first year is difficult. Until you figure out how to be so far from home, make friends, and buy bigger sweats. Because you’ll put on the dreaded Freshman 10, eating on the dorm meal plan. But then, you meet them. The person who’s parents let them bring their car to school. You can go to real grocery stores further away. And everything changes. Fir the people we know, we are the kids with the car.

Yesterday, a friend in Santiago who has a new apartment in Santiago, spent the day in A Coruña furniture shopping. And we had a blast! Frequent readers of this blog know that buying furniture is my greatest joy! As a kid I built forts in the woods near my parents house. As an adult, I like furnishing my fort.

My friend had been struggling to find nice furniture in Santiago. There are so few places there with really cool stuff. So we caffeinated ourselves for the drive north to Marineda City – a massive shopping complex built to celebrate the big retail gods. And we were happy to kneel at the alter.

Of course, IKEA is there. But the mall has an enormous El Corte Ingles outlet. A Maison du Monde. And, since Inditex headquarters is in A Coruña, the Zara Home store is at least three times the size of one anywhere in the world. And the Maison du Monde is a paradise. We stuck our noses into the furniture trough and kept feeding like gluttons who had been lost in the desert for 40 days. By the time we lifted our smiling, glassy-eyed faces up to the sunlight the station wagon was packed to the gills. But that’s not all.

Just like that first year of college when you are living so far from home, a care package arrives with all your childhood favorites. And suddenly, the sky is a little bluer. Inside the Marineda City mall is an American market, so I introduced my friend to it’s many joys. The look on my freshman friend’s face was of pure joy. It was worth the hour drive from Santiago.

‘Oh my God.’ She exclaimed, eyes wide. ‘Look at this stuff!’

It was all the brands from back home. And all the stuff from when we were kids. The prices seem exorbitant. But with inflation in the US being so high, they probably aren’t off from what we would pay were we back there. I bought Jeff some beef jerky at €7. And some of his other favorites. Sloppy joes – today’s lunch. Campbells Clam Chowder – I’ll wait for a rainy day, then go to the bakery in Melide for a rough Galicia round loaf, then serve the chowder in a bread bowl with a Caesar salad. Jeff’s all-time favorite lunch. He will probably cry.

For me, I got All-Spice. The only place in Spain I could find it was in Valencia in the pods. Then had to grind it myself with my mortar and pestle. And butter cream frosting. Cupcakes coming right up!!

Its amazing how much food takes you back through your life. Like a time machine. The other day we found four pieces of string cheese in a little package at the Gadis. I thought Jeff would cry. They were a million dollars. Our kids used to live on these as snacks when they were little. We’d buy them in packages of 25 or 50 at Costco. So, we bought the little pack to see if they were the same. We each got two string cheeses, sitting on the sofa. A big event. And they tasted exactly the like we remembered. I am very sure that upon our next Gadis shopping trip we will be spending ten million dollars on little packages of string cheese.

Our final stop yesterday was Starbucks on the top floor of the mall. I ordered my grande soy chai extra hot no foam. Rattling it off so fast, like muscle memory from 20 years in Seattle, that the girls behind the counter had their eyes spinning in their heads. Slowing down, I repeated it in Spanish. The girl made me laugh.

‘My english is good but you speak so fast.’

I apologized. I know how she feels.

We sat down with our giant mugs. And my gluten-free muffin. It was already nearly 6pm and we had been shopping so much we forgot to eat. That’s when you know you’re in the zone. Starbucks doesn’t put coffee drunk in the cafe in paper cups, anymore. Something I completely agree with. But it’s been so long since I’ve been to a Starbucks I have no idea when this change occurred in the past three years.

We drove down the A-9 back to Santiago to unload, which was a neat trick as my friend’s new apartment is in the historic center and I don’t have a permit to drive on those streets. But, luckily, as I have learned, the best place to park illegally with your flashers on in Spain is in front of a police station. The driving license exam expressly forbids this, but over the years, experience has taught me that driving law enforcement is contextual. And flashers give you a lot of latitude.

Then, I drove home in the dark, smiling. What a wonderful day. Jeff and Fergus greeted me in the driveway like a hunter returning from a successful hunt. And to assist with unloading the bounty in the back. When we were all put away, I broke out the elusive beef jerky and watched Jeff’s face transform into a big smile. And now that I know where to get it, I’ll happily drive more than a two hour round trip just to see him smile, again and again.

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