Jamón y sangría en Madrid


As I count down to my departure date, I'm going to share a few "flashback" posts to when I first visited Madrid last year and was sending emails home to my family.  This one is from February 3, 2018:

in front of el Palacio Real de Madrid
Hello hello! Time to write a quick update before starting on my next plans.

I am currently sitting in the hostel lobby area (which is big and has lots of hang-out space and music playing (mostly American songs that I recognize)). I did the walking tour that the hostel offers this morning. It was led by a woman named Viviana, from Colombia, and lasted for about 2.5 hrs. We walked around Madrid de los Austrias, which is the oldest part of the city. We saw famous plazas, the Royal Palace (from the outside), the Catedral de Almudena, which is Madrid's cathedral, and learned about the history of Madrid and these places.

Two things I found interesting related to why jamón (ham) and sangría are so popular in Spain today (at least according to this tour, though I have heard slightly different versions of this too). When the Spanish conquered the area in the 1400s and kicked out the Moors, who were Muslim, and began the Spanish Inquisition, you had to be Christian to live in Spain (or you had to leave or could be tortured and/or executed). If you were Jewish or Muslim you could convert, but you had to prove you were a good Christian. And because in the Jewish and Muslim religions it was forbidden to eat pork, a good way to prove you had converted for real was to go to restaurants and order ham, or cook it at your house so everyone could smell that you were indeed a Christian!

And for sangría, during the time of the Black Plague it wasn't safe to drink the water, so everyone had to drink wine and beer, and in Spain it was mostly wine (I think because the climate let them grow/make it here?). And when everyone had to drink wine all day to stay hydrated (even children), they needed to dilute it a bit so it wouldn't be so strong, so they added fruit and juice, and then you had sangría. And another way to combat the effects of the alcohol was to eat small portions of food periodically throughout the day, hence TAPAS! Also, bread is common with every meal here for the same reason.

Another interesting tidbit: do you know where the term "shit faced," referring to drunk, comes from? Apparently back in the day, when the contents of chamber pots were dumped out windows in the evening (accompanied in Spain by a shouted warning of "Agua va!" which means "water coming"), if people were coming home drunk they wouldn't pay attention to the warning, and would literally get "shit faced." (I believe that specific phrase was coined in England?) Adds a new perspective, doesn't it?

After the tour we ate at a restaurant that had a fixed price lunch menu, or menú del día. They didn't have a vegetarian option, so I had chicken for the main course (the first time I've had more than just a bite of meat in over a year!). It was good, but it didn't make me want to stop being vegetarian!

I finally bought a fluffy warm scarf today. It isn't full wool, because I didn't want to pay 80-100 euros and I was cold and didn't want to keep searching for a better deal! It is 40% wool though and it was only 7 euro! It is very cozy!

This evening I am going to see a Flamenco show with two of my new friends from the hostel.

Also, I had completely forgotten that a friend from college who I haven't seen in forever lives in Madrid! She saw my Facebook photo yesterday and messaged me, and we are going to meet up tomorrow for food and I'm going to take her yoga class!

I am glad I have several days here, but I wish it was even longer!

Love you guys!

Alex


Note: the hostel I mentioned was OK Hostel Madrid, which I highly recommend!

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