Following my favorite restaurants list, I present to you all one of my favorite people in the whole world, my host mother, Ana Lorente (and her cat Maga).
Ana runs a cooking school/culinary book shop (A Punto, check it out!) and classes go till 10:00pm so she usually isn’t home for dinner until 11:00pm, but the food she whips up is absolutely worth the wait. I can recall a few times where I was about to eat dinner without her when she would come sweeping into the apartment carrying multiple bags full of dishes that she (and other chefs) made during her classes. Now I know to wait for her no matter what my stomach tells me. My personal favorite dishes have been a mint and curried chicken quinoa salad, roasted quail with dragon fruit, make-your-own sushi, and of course, paella. Every dinner is paired with a delicious wine (another area of expertise for her) and excellent conversation.
When Ana isn’t home, Maga, who just turned 21 on Sunday, keeps me company. Like most 21-year-old cats, Maga likes to sleep. She is also a conversationalist and likes to meow very loudly in the middle of the night and early morning when she can’t find anyone to talk to. I like to think that she has warmed up to me, but her running away from my affectionate pats tells me otherwise. She also pooped directly in front of the apartment door and let me step in it so, I think I still have a ways to go.
While Ana and I do not see each other much during the day, she has found many ways to integrate me into her work and social life. I have had the opportunity to take several cooking classes at A Punto through which I have met some of her closest friends and colleagues. I was also able to attend Madrid Fusión, ¨the most important international gastronomy congress in the world¨ through Ana and the A Punto book shop. Ana also frequently invites me out to tapas with her and her friends which has really helped my ability to understand Spanish in loud, crowded settings.
When Ana and I are both home, we have nice long talks about anything going on in our lives or in the world which really helps my Spanish vocabulary and grammar. I also like to keep her company while she cooks so we probably spend about two hours chatting each night. Since food is such a big part of our lives, I make sure to contribute every once in awhile by cooking dishes that aren’t typical to Spain. Last time, I whipped up a chicken-pot-pie and mashed potatoes, and this weekend, I will be showing her how I make gyozas and apple pie (very Japanese-American cuisine). For all of the fancy food we make, I think our favorite part of the week is Sunday TV dinners, when we bake a frozen pizza, toss a salad and watch whatever movie is playing that night. It’s a simple, always-delicious dinner and a relaxing way to get back into the start of the week.
While food is a strong unifying aspect of our relationship, Ana is also a wonderful listener and incredibly supportive of me. I am currently taking a watercolor class and while I think all of my paintings are garbage, Ana looks at them and showers them with compliments and constructive criticisms which definitely help me appreciate my work. She is always full of energy no matter how late she comes home and she always knows how to put a smile on my face. I guess what I am trying to say with all of this writing is… she’s simply the best.