Saturday, March 27, 2010

in Madrid

We had a fabulous location for our home base. Emily had found a "studio" apartment for us to rent for the 2 weeks of our visit. Besides being right next to her office--so she could drop in with croissants each morning, we could meet her for lunch and take off from there after her work was ended--it was in the most incredible location for our tourist wanderings. We were in walking distance (did I tell you we walked 1000s of miles?) of 3 great museums: the Prado, Museo Reina Sofia, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the train station, a hard working everyday market, the fabulous new Mercado San Miguel, and Plaza Mayor (below).

There is no way to describe the collection at the Prado--everything for everyone. We spent one day there mostly focused on Goya--seemed a good idea to have a focus because there was no way to take it all in. The Reina Sofia had a wonderful collection of the great Spanish painters--Picasso, Miro, Salvador Dali, Jean DuBuffet, and, new to me, Lucio Fontana. I was very surprised to see some art work by the poet Fernando Garcia Lorca. The work of Dubuffet and, to a greater extent, that of Fontana (see a piece of his work below) were stimulating to me in relation to my ceramic work--I look forward to seeing how that might find expressing in my work (when I get back into the studio!)

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza had a wonderful special exhibition, "Monet and Abstraction". In the show Monet's work was displayed in chronological order accompanied by the work of artists who were influenced by Monet's work--leading to Abstract Expressionism. Very interesting and thought provoking.

We loved walking through the "old" section of Madrid--narrow streets, tapas bars, many small plazas with welcoming places to rest and have a cup of coffee or glass of wine, and those incredible, beautiful old-world buildings. The architecture of those buildings is so majestic--why don't we build like that any more? Maybe because there is no longer royalty who can order the work and pay for it by taxation!

In the old working mercado we found wonderful cheese and ham for our first evening nibble with wine in our apartment--after a late lunch of Spanish tortilla made for us by Emily's partner, Joel. At the new market, Mercado San Miguel, we saw the most beautifully arranged stalls with elegant foods--foie gras, caviar and champagne, wonderful cheeses, shellfish, wines, and beautiful desserts. All this elegant (and expensive) food is eaten in the market, out of hand, standing around the stalls. There are tall tables with bar stools--but not nearly enough for the crowd. Very surprising situation--it would not succeed here in San Antonio--perhaps in the capitol cities, but i wonder if it would make it anywhere here.

This gentleman is eating his cavier, with his champagne, at the cavier stall (above.)

An arrangement of dried fruits and nuts.

We loved shopping in the little speciality shops and at the huge Sunday Market--where my sister's new iPhone was picked from her pocket while we browsed the treasures there for sale! Very sad experience.

The last Sunday, just before our departure on Tuesday, we had raosted-suckling-pig dinner at a lovely old restaurant (in operation since 1725). That evening we attended a most wonderful performance of flamingo dance built around Lorka's popular poem, "Llanto Por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias." Most impresive and memorable experience--a perfect 'tapa' for our trip!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

cooking as in Spain

As you may remember from earlier posts I have become very interested in making some bakeware for our use here at home. So, of course, I searched for some traditional cazuelas in Spain and also for tagines. I had made a couple tagines a few months ago--still not fired--and I wanted to compare mine to the "real" ones! The cazuelas were every where and pretty consistent in form and finish though I found one that I thought especially interesting--which I bought and then had to struggle with getting it home safely.

My cazuela measures 9"X2.5" inside. The cazuela weights 3 lb 7 oz. It is finished in traditional style inside but the bottom and sides had been covered with a dark slip that contrasts with the clear glaze on the red clay. I like that a lot.

It might not have been so hard to get the cazuela home safely if I had not also found a tagine that I wanted to bring back! We looked high and low for tagines and found nothing until we asked in a restaurant where we could by a tagine (pot) and were directed to the Arab quarter. There we found a few in each of several small shops.

It was amazing how heavy both these are. The walls are very thick--5/16", fired and glazed! I was making my bakeware thick--I thought--but they are not that thick at all and are not yet fired!.
I looked for and chose a non-traditional style I had seen in an article somewhere, my sister bought the traditional one.

My tagine measures about the same inside only it is not so deep, it is pie plate shaped inside. It weighs 6 pounds--top and bottom.

I bought some saffron, too. I like it in a favorite tomato/rice dish and of course in paella. Since getting home I have made only one tagine dish (vegetable) which I cooked in the cazuela--the tagine was not large enough for what I wanted to cook. Before I went on my trip I had made a lamb tagine that we really liked so I'll be doing more of that now.

End of cooking talk!

PS I also bougt and brought home a paella pan....

Monday, March 22, 2010

home again, home again

Always great to be home again--but that does not diminish what a treasure the trip was. As I look through my photos I get to be in touch again what a wonderful experience it all was. And it brings me to realize how impossible it will be to describe the experience.

The trip was initiated by my sister (right) and hosted by her daughter, Emily (left). It would not have happened or been the incredible experience it was without their generosity. Each morning Emily came to our room with croissants and delicious coffee! Not so indulgent but most significant to the success of our brief stay was her role as guide and itinerary planner!
Each of our 14 day trip offered some very special treat. Our very first day, still in Boston, we visited the Pucker Gallery. Bernie Pucker, owner of the gallery, is a major promoter of ceramic art. He first promoted the work of Brother Thomas and has expanded to display and offer for sale work by many of my favorite potters: Phil Rogers, Randy Johnston, the Hamada potters, Ken Matsuzaki, Tatsuzo Shimaoka, among many others. The current show is The Ceramics of Onda--Japanese folk pottery. The exciting thing about the Pucker Gallery is their four floors of works by the artists they represent which they graciously and generously take their visitors through. We were ushered through all 4 floors and allowed to handle any of the work and take photos of any of the work. It was a fantastic experience that I have long wished for.