PART II: Co-author Golzar Kheiltash gets a taste of Spain
Before my family immigrated to California from Iran in the 80’s, I had already lived on two continents, across 6 cities. I was bilingual – in Persian and English – and felt the singular childhood excitement that comes from hearing different languages, seeing smiling new faces, and exploring vibrant new locales across the globe.
Happily, this excitement carried into my adulthood, starting with my last summer at university when I traveled across Europe on my own. During my trip, I visited Barcelona, Spain, not once but twice! ¿Por qué? Because one trip wasn’t enough to take in Barcelona’s lively energy, welcoming residents, rich cultural landmarks, and…seriously delectable eats (even on my student budget)!
Whether you’re a tourist or native to Spain, one thing is for sure: food – and gathering to eat it – is an integral part of life here. Geography also plays an important role in the fresh and diverse flavors of Spanish cuisine: Located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, most of Spain’s borders are with water, namely the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Bay of Biscay (it also shares land borders with Portugal and France). This coastal landscape plays a key role in Spanish food, with distinctive culinary elements ranging from region to region.
In Barcelona (located in the region of Catalonia), I started my foodie adventure with a visit to the bustling, 800-year old Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boquería. With an abundance of fresh meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and much more (including some tapas bars), La Boquería was a veritable feast for the senses, and the perfect place to get acclimated to tasty Spanish eats. The universally recognized Spanish dish – paella – was what I was keenest to try, and locals assured me that this beloved, saffron and olive oil infused dish was best homemade (though some top-notch restaurants do their best to compete).
Despite traveling alone, I didn’t eat alone – often a table of friendly locals, or even the restaurant owners themselves – would keep me company as we spoke in Spanish and enjoyed our meal. On my second visit to Barcelona, I was lucky enough to have homemade paella (with a Catalan twist). Paella originated from the neighboring region of Valencia as a hearty dish prepared by farmers. A proud symbol of this region, paella is also enjoyed throughout Spain, particularly at family gatherings and holidays. Traditionally shared right out of the wide pan it’s prepared in, paella depicts the essence of coming together over a delicious meal.
I hope little ones enjoy our taste of Spain in ¡Números, Baby! as they learn to count from uno a diez!
Speaking of counting – we’re also counting on YOU to help us ensure that fresh food with local flavors gets to communities affected by natural disasters. We are deeply proud to announce that proceeds from the sale of every ¡Números, Baby! book will go to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization reaching vulnerable families from Puerto Rico to Guatemala and beyond. Founded by renowned Spanish chef and Washington, DC resident, José Andrés, WCK is at the forefront of providing comfort and sustenance with homemade, locally-inspired meals to communities in need.
Next spring, I’m returning to Barcelona – this time with mi marido y mija (both of whom also happen to be HUGE Barça fans). I can’t wait to venture to this beautiful, historic, and lively metropolis with my family to revisit old haunts and discover new ones. I especially can’t wait to have my little one try paella and practice her números en español!
De mi familia a la suya,