About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Spanish Heaven
Ever feel connected to another country for no particular reason?

One country that I feel some connection with is Spain even though I've never been. It probably started early for me as we had a family friend who was a painter, Nora Foy, who traveled the world and spent quite a lot of time in Spain painting and bringing back ideas to be canvassed later. The first painting of hers that I came to know was of a Spanish man on a mule loaded up with some goods, on his way to somewhere, maybe a market or perhaps he was changing address, good paintings are like that, they leave you to imagine.

As I got older I purchased some of her works and the Spanish theme never left her or her paintings. Imbued by some of her spirit, in my own way through food I often sought out the Spanish influence, whether through a Spanish ingredient or recipe or wine or sherry. There is something exciting about Spanish cuisine, it has a definite X factor, sculpted as it is by the passage of time. One of the finest restaurants in the world, Feran Adria's challenging El Bulli is tucked away on Spain's Costa Brava.

Even my own little blog has a Spanish influence, as most of you already know that Ximena of Lobstersquad designed my gorgeous header.

I can still remember holding my breath when I emailed her asking if she, the wonderful professional illustrator, would be interested in working with me and how happy I was when she said yes! Then the delicate negotiations over what such an undertaking was worth. We danced around this question until Ximena asked if I would consider sending a food parcel for her. Would I? Absolutely YES!

So off I went collecting various things that I thought would interest her, the longer it went the more things I found that I wanted to send, in the end I had to force myself to stop as the cost of the postage was becoming horrendous. And so our deal was complete.

Or so I thought.

Ximena mentioned that she might like to send something my way, but I really wasn't expecting anything, she had more than delivered on the header. Then late last week when I got home, there was a large yellow envelope with unmistakable Spanish stamps upon it. A food parcel for me!

I wasn't the first to open it, my wife got there first in that wifely way of opening anything that appears remotely interesting. In my lovely package were dried chillies (noras), some packets of flavouring for rice dishes including arroz a la banda one of my absolute faves and another that features either squid or cuttlefish ink. There was a container of saffron that put my Spanish saffron to shame. All the strands were a uniform blood red colour, my little jar contains strands of various hue through to orange. This saffron is the real deal and I can't wait to use it.

Ximena also added one of her favourite things, Cola Cao, a powdered chocolate drink. We tried it both hot and cold and it has the deepest chocolate flavour, which shouldn't be very surprising when you consider that after the Aztecs, the Spanish have the longest history with chocolate.

Then there was the real treasure. If you go to the My Magic Pudding Moment post at Lobstersquad you will see an illustration. I now have the original. The computer just doesn't do it any justice. The colours are all alive and vibrant, the detail is sharp and focused. My daughter M loved it, but I think I love it more! It is shortly going to be framed and hung on our wall.

I love blogging. Thanks so much Ximena.
  posted at 10:03 am

At 11:51 am, Anonymous Tanna said...


At 11:59 am, Blogger gigi said...

So, I went looking for you in my Bloglines and you were missing, but lo and behold there was this new 'At My Table' blog that I didn't recall signing up for...

Neil, I love your new look! Ximena has done a wonderful job and well deserves her Magic Pudding package. Your new picture is delightful too, as is her blog ~ It's Food! It's Art! It's terrific.

At 4:33 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, and so unexpected too.

Hi gigi, sneaky, huh? Isn't it great when we all get together? I'm loving it too.

At 5:37 pm, Blogger lobstersquad said...

Neil, my pleasure, absolutely.
I´m just wondering, what is that so-called Spanish saffron that is orange? I´ve never seen anything like that in my life, am outraged, will speak to the export comission, etc : )

At 12:13 am, Anonymous Ellie said...

Blogging is fantastic in the way it brings us food-obsessed types together :) That sounds like a wonderful package to have received, and I would've been equally as excited about that darling illustration on Ximena's blog!

At 8:11 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi lobstersquad, I'm starting to wonder about that saffron too. It was bought from a reputable shop, maybe I'll go there with yours and mine and ask for an explanation ;-)

Hi ellie, I was just so thrilled with everything, it's such a buzz to get a package from overseas.

At 9:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello I read the articule "at my table" and was so interested to hear about Nora Foy with whom I studied art in Palma de Mallorce around 1974. she was my first teacher. I am still doing art and it is now 2007, I can still recall some of her tips and instructions. I would be thankfull for any additional information on this exceptional woman. rogerbischoff@t-online.de


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