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Journal 6 - Tortillas EspaOoles

January 24, 2006

Tuesday's are the days for Spanish Tortillas, and being a favorite national food since arriving here, we wanted to take advantage of the chance to learn how to make them. We caught a ride up to the barrio/neighborhood Principe Alfonso XXIII, or just "Principe," where the Cruz Blanca has their other Ceuta facility. While the house we live in (Avenida Espana) works with older men and immigrants, the Principe house takes in the older women and persons with mental or physical deficiencies. I think forty persons or so are currently living there.

There are a few other things about the Principe house that make it unique. First, it is the first building to be used by Cruz Blanca in Ceuta. It also has a chapel area where they hold weekly masses for residents from both buildings. Smoking, still very much a part of European culture, is permitted in the lounge where most of the residents spend their time. The one in charge here is Hermano Diego, who is quite unique himself: clergy, nurse, singer, cook, and who knows what else. He's working his diet right now, but he has quite impressive stories about his days as an athlete who spent four hours or more daily in the gym.

For those at our Cruz Blanca house on Avenida Espana, the important thing about Principe is their kitchen. All the food for both facilities comes from Principe. The friendly Cruz Blanca hierarchy complicates the meal preparation, but it seems natural to everyone here. The first menu is for the immigrants and the mentally handicapped. A step up from them is the older people who are served mostly the same food, but are served with a little more class and get some extras like olive oil for their bread and cloth napkins. The next step up is the Hermano Aurelio and his gang who eat lunch and supper separately upstairs in our building. We are privileged to be invited to the Hermano's breakfast club who shares fresh bread and coffee and a variety of tapas. When we visit Principe, we really see where the class is at. Our chef Hermano Diego prepares all of the food plans for all the different groups, and his comunidad of around four or five eats food that they prepare to their own taste. During our first time at their table we were given some options, but we chose a spaghetti and tuna dish which was followed by a dish of fried pumpkin slices, chicken, and boiled pineapple slices topped with a mix of almonds and brown sugar. Dessert is usually fresh fruit. It was absolutely delicious, and we were full even when we sat down with them for afternoon snack with tea and Moroccan fig newton-like treats.

Today was delicious as well: a noodle soup followed by beef, potatoes and fresh fruit. After the meal we took a little rest, while some flipped through the digital channels on their big screen TV. At 4:00, the tortilla-making task was under way.

The Spanish tortilla is made up of potato slivers, onion, and eggs fried together something like an omelet pancake. On Tuesdays, the women volunteers in Principe make around 70 or 80. Apparently around a year ago the soup kitchen served many more immigrants until the police started to tighten their policy about who was allowed to receive food. Instead of the 20 or 30 that are served today, there were as many as a hundred or so. Every time I ask about how many of this or that are prepared, which ever staff member I'm talking to takes the chance to tell me about how it used to be when the comedor was full of people.

Anyhow, the ladies were quite eager to give us a chance to fry our own tortillas and we each worked one of the six burners they were using. Within an hour and a half or two hours, the group had turned out all the tortillas. They all encouraged us to take our new skill back to our states to feed our friends and family.