The Puente de Diciembre is a time for planning. Planning everything you have to do for the next five weeks, and survive.
Got my long-distance Christmas cards out a week before for the first time in years. I did that right after throwing last year’s cards which I just happened upon underneath a pile of books and realized I had never sent out.
Presents are on the way. I haven’t bought one, but they are on the way.
But what I’m really concerned about is making sure I have all of my Christmas meals in order before they start, which is tomorrow. The take up a large part of any Madrid resident’s social life and budget, and now that everyone pretends the crisis is over for some reason, spirits are high. Unemployment is dipping below 25% (don’t worry, it never was that high to begin with, especially if remove the 18-25 year-old labor force, which never worked that much anyway) and word from abroad is that everyone is slowly pulling out of hole. The government is even going to return 25% of the 7.2% of my salary it took away from all teachers two years ago. Without interest, of course.
That’s why it is especially important to sort things out eating-wise. Here’s what I have line up so far:
Dec. 9 – Dinner with my gastronomic club
Dec. 12 – Dinner with other teachers
Dec. 16 – Dinner with the school teachers from the language school
Dec. 19 – Lunch with the entire school
Dec. 20 – Christmas party with the gastronomic club
Dec. 21 – Christmas dinner with friends
Dec. 24 – Christmas aperitivo with the gastronomic club
Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve dinner with my Spanish family
Dec. 25 – Christmas Day lunch with my other half’s family
Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve Dinner with the other half’s family, if I behaved myself the first time.
Jan 1 – New Year’s Day lunch with my Spanish family, if I have behaved myself at Christmas
Jan 5 – Three Kings (The Twelfth Night) cocktail party
Jan 5 – Three Kings (The Twelfth Night) dinner
Jan 6 – Three Kings Day lunch
* Any last-minute celebrations have yet to appear on the agenda.
On a number of accounts, this was cause for worry, not the least being my health. But this was Christmas in Spain, and years of training had made me a hardened veteran. A new war was about to be waged.
If someone were to suggest going out that evening for some tapas after all that you have been through up to that point in the day, it would be perfectly acceptable to tell them to screw off. In fact, if you just threw up on them as a kick reaction that would do too. There is only so much the body can take and only it knows how to defend itself with the right measures. I can understand vomiting on another person, but don’t condone it, as a rule, unless maybe they’ve vomited on you first. It’s just not a nice thing to do, like crucifying a saint on an X-shaped cross without nails.
But, the return to eating must and does come. Thank God, there is hope. Dinner is actually a lighter meal, at least in theory. Most people slow down by that time of day and give their stomachs a break. At least if they stay at home. Fish, soup, cold meats, cheeses, salads and fruit are favorites, as well as sandwiches or even eggs. I know someone who actually has cereal, which makes me think that maybe some are actually trying to get an early start on the next day…or that the cycle is non-ending.
The first time I ever had dinner was when I was living with my Spanish family. They called me to the table and slid a small plate with a fried egg on it. At first I figured they were doing it out of courtesy because they had seen too many Hollywood movies and thought that was all we ate over there, but that wasn’t the case. It was a common suppertime meal. The fried egg, incidentally, is an institutional dish here and it is prepared in a special way. They don’t use butter. They pour a ton of olive oil into a small frying pan, then when it is hot they crack open the shell and plop it in. The egg literally floats in the oil. Then you take a spoon and flick bits of oil over the top half of the egg so that it is done too. The key is to make sure the yolk isn’t too done so you can dip your bread into it. The Spanish like dipping their bread into everything. They are pioneers in the technique, and I bless them for it.
Dinner is served no earlier than nine, unless you have kids who need to get to bed early. Some foreigners from other countries do not believe me when I tell them this, but it is quite true. Even ten o’clock is perfectly fine. The Spanish normally don’t go to bed before eleven or twelve anyway.
Of course, going out for a meal is a totally different matter, as you would expect…and should.