Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Orange juice anyone?

As I said yesterday, this morning we were off to Almeria to apply for our NIE, so we had to get up rather earlier than usual. This provided the bonus of seeing a very colourful and beautiful sunrise. We reached our solicitor's office in Mojacar for 9.15 as arranged, and after signing some forms we were introduced to a Spanish couple who, we were told, would take us to the Officina de Extranjeros (Office of Foreigners) in Almeria. They insisted Chris travel in the front of their car with the señor who was the driver, and I sat in the back with his wife. (The car was a mercedes and it gave us a very comfortable ride!). After a hesitant start, the lady and I started talking to each other. She said she understood some Enlish but spoke very little, and I said I spoke some Spanish but understood very little, but between us we managed very well and actually held a conversation in Spanish for the whole journey! We covered such diverse subjects as family, houses, relative costs of living in our respective countries, and even what recipe I use to make marmalade from bitter oranges! I explained that I hoped to need to use more Spanish when we live in the village, but it is difficult when so many people speak good English, so we used Spanish all the time unless we got really stuck, and even hand signs didn't help, and then she tried the odd word of English. I was really pleased with myself, and she said in three months I could be speaking really well, so maybe all those evenings at college were worth it. Even Chris was impressed and he doesn't give compliments too freely. It is the first opportunity I have had to talk to someone apart from asking for things in the shops etc.
The actual application for our identity numbers was very easy and quickly done, so on the way home we stopped at a market and bought incredibly cheap tomatoes and garlic. It was while we were there, looking at all the citrus fruit on sale, that I asked whether it was possible to buy bitter oranges. The lady (I didn't manage to get her name) was delighted to learn that I make marmalade and told me she has a tree of bitter oranges in her garden. The next thing we knew, we were driving through the gates of a beautiful cortijo, her house, where we were given a guided tour of some lovely rooms with very traditional furnishings. The 'garden' turned out to be over an acre of vegetables and fruit trees. She gave me a carrier bag and told me to pick some lemons. She kept urging me to pick more, and then she filled it with sweet oranges as well. Telling me to pick more lemons, she disappeared to the next field and came back with a bag full of bitter oranges. By this time I had learned that the couple are the parents of Angela, our solicitor. They took us back to her office where our car was and we drove home, stopping on the way to buy several bags of sugar! So guess what I am doing tomorrow. Making marmalade here will be a challenge as I have neither my pressure cooker nor my preserving pan here at the minute, nor even anything to accurately measure water in. But I do have plenty of time, so I will give it my best shot, though there is no way I can use all the oranges. She gave me enough to to supply marmalade to the entire hamlet of El Calón! I am happy to have the lemons as I use them in all sorts of things, and the sweet oranges are delicious.
Bouyed up with my new confidence in using the Spanish language, I dug out a bag of flour bought when we first arrived and once again read the information on the side. It was flour 'specially prepared for bizcocho' which is a plain cake, sold in all the supermarkets. I followed the recipe on the packet which contained such gems as 'add a vaso of extra virgin olive oil'. A vaso is a glass but as I have about six different shapes and sizes of glasses, it's not a helpful measurement to give, and non of my cookery books or the internet could tell me what capacity it should be. I plumped for the middle sized one and hoped for the best. It then said 'introduce the mixture to the oven'. That was a puzzle, not the least because I don't have an oven, but if I did I could imagine opening it's door and saying 'Hello. Allow me to introduce this bizcocho'!! Fortunately my remoska was behaving and it actually made a quite decent cake, so another success story. I'll let you know later this week if the marmalade is an equally happy experience.

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