Cooking class one of top Spanish experiences

A simple, but tasty, appetizer consists of small bread toasts, topped with cheese, honey and walnuts. Warmed in the oven, they are delightful.
By : 
Melissa Vander Plas
Out of my Mind

It’s a bit odd that I’m continuing my series of columns this week on my trip to Spain when my niece and her family are currently in the same house as I am.

The reason I went to Spain in April was to visit my niece and her family. As I write this, Katelyn, Chris and Emily are back in the United States visiting for a few weeks and have been staying with my brother and his wife in Mankato for the past several days.

Luckily, I can do my newspaper editing and layout from nearly anywhere that has a good internet connection. So, I decided to pack up my home office and my work computer and moved into my Mankato family’s home so I could get as much family time in as I could.

I basically took over a room in my brother’s home, having set up my computer in the guest bedroom and bringing my two cats along for the visit. I moved in for the weekend preceding the Fourth of July holiday and stayed through Thursday when I needed to move back home so I could work at my second job at the Preston Public Library on Friday. It’s pretty hard to do that job remotely.

I was grateful for every small snippet of time I could spend with Katelyn, Chris and Emily and we had a lovely Fourth of July holiday with Emily decked out in red, white and blue and waving her flag at the parade and experiencing fireworks for the first time.

While the Spanish visitors were home, I wanted to recreate some of the food and drinks we made at the cooking class we took on the first night I was in Spain. So, on the Fourth of July, we enjoyed sangria and an appetizer of cheese toast with honey and walnuts. I had also made sure we had the ingredients to do a tortilla espanola, a potato and egg dish we learned to make at the class. However, with all the activities and visiting we had done during the day, it just seemed too daunting to peel potatoes, cook them in the olive oil and then make the individual egg dishes. So, we ordered pizza instead. We snacked on the cheese toasts and drank the sangria for a bedtime snack after enjoying the fireworks.

When Katelyn asked me what I wanted to do during my visit, I had responded that I wanted to get to know my great-niece, Emily, and experience their surroundings. I didn’t want a packed itinerary, filled with tourist destinations and events that we had to work around. I wanted a low-key vacation with my loved ones and I wanted to experience the region and the country through its food and wine.

So, the cooking class became one of our planned events and we were welcomed into a Spanish home and were able to observe several Spanish dishes being made as well as help with certain tasks along the way. We made a tomato soup, an appetizer of cheese toasts topped with walnuts and honey, a dessert flan and a pitcher of sangria. As we tasted our food and enjoyed our wine, we learned about Spanish cooking utensils, ingredients and more about local culture.

It was a fun experience to participate in a hands-on class in the woman’s small, but efficient kitchen.

Since returning home, this past week was the first time I had recreated any of the dishes I learned. While the tomato soup and the flan were good, they were not something I would recreate as I prefer other soups and other desserts. However the recipes for tortilla espanola, the cheese toasts and the sangria will make it into my cookbook filled with my favorite recipes.

As I sipped sangria on the Fourth of July, I remember the excitement I had at arriving in Spain and the experiences I enjoyed after that first night. The trip went way too quickly, but I have lots of memories to cherish for years to come.