Food memories : family vacations
For some earlier food memories, please read here.
Our family usually drove south towards a sunny beach destination each year. The year after my sister had been on a summer camp in Switserland , she asked for a mountain vacation for a change. My parents didn't mind a change and Carinthia in Austria would provide us with mountains and lakes. I was 6 years old then.
- On our way up to Austria, we stayed for a couple of days in Bavaria. I remember the typical chalet style of the hotel inside with lots of carved woodwork. A curly carved wooden staircase lead us towards the basement breakfast area where I always announced our entry with a loud "Gruss Gott". I loved that friendly warm greeting and all the people in Bavaria said it all the time and they seemed to quite like it when I returned the favor! Aaaah love and attention, what else does a child need?
It must have been one of my first conscious stays in a hotel. I was totally in awe with the little basket of tiny little fruit jams. At home I totally didn't care much about jam in the morning but these tiny plastic containers, each holding a different fruit taste, were very inviting for sampling. How cute and funny and colourful!
- Once arrived in Austria we lived in an apartment in a chalet and it came with a milk service: we were entitled to go and pick-up fresh milk each day at a neighbouring farmer. There were 2 metal containers in the house and with those we had to walk each morning to the farm to get them filled. I don't remember anymore if it had already been boiled for us or whether we still had to boil it.
Anyway the taste of fresh milk is something you must quite get used to if you've been drinking 2% tetra pack milk all your life! What a difference in taste!!!!! But somehow I didn't believe there was anything else available, so I drank it and started liking my fresh milk. I liked the walk to the farm even more. Upon our return in Belgium the tetra milk was very bizarre, but I have not drank fresh milk anymore since!
At the age of 7, 8 , 9 (and 16) my family went on vacation to a Spanish vacation village where we rented an apartment for a couple of weeks (after a more or less adventurous journey). The complex was built against a hillside with staircases and flowerbeds climbing up next to the whitely plastered archways. The appartment complexes were conceived as little villages with their own pool, supermercado, playground, ice cream stand, ... and there were a lot of other tourist children around that I became friends with. I am still in touch with some of them although on a very rare frequency.
My sister and I loved it and during the first kms back on our way home my parents could enjoy 2 sobbing kids in the back. Every year we suggested to go back to Spain. In my mind Playa de las Fuentas had become to the most idyllic vacation spot where I'd later come back with my children as well. I pictured my adult equivalent walking my offspring up and down the stairs and pushing them on the playground swing.
When returning later on as a teenager I had taken enough distance from my childhood location crush to also notice the loose tiles, plaster falling from the walls , the lack of entertainment possibilities for adults, the villa's on the hill cloning themselves eternally in a race to beat the urban development along the waterfront etc... Playa de Las Fuentas is honestly just an ordinary tourist town like 13 in a dozen but not to me when I was 7-8-9!
- Often my mother did some cooking herself but we were also regular customers at the local restaurant Sancho Panza further in town near the marina. There weren't many other places to go to to be honest. The restaurant was located on the first floor but you first needed to go through a gallery downstairs with a painting of a fat sympathetic guy on a donkey. I never forget the image or name of Mr Sancho unlike his boss...what's his name, the long weirdo who fought mills.
Upstairs the restaurant was filled with big round tables and big wooden chairs and big ventilators on the ceiling turning in vain to bring some cool air in.
We always took the gazpacho. After this nice cold soup was served a trolley was ridden next to us full of little pots. The waiter pointed to each pot one after another and we could nod if we wanted to add a bit of these goodies to our soup: cucumber pieces, bread crumbs, onions, red peppers, .... A small buffet of accompaniments to throw in the soup is quite exciting for a kid. Hot summer days still make me crave for gazpacho ...but Jan doesn't get it why I get all active and why I need to buy cucumber and start chopping onions etc in order to eat gazpacho. But you see: gazpacho without all the little add-ons is fake. There's no point eating gazpacho without them!
- Once every summer vacation in Spain we also phoned Sancho Panza beforehand to order our yearly paella!
The first time the waiter served me with a enormous intimidating pan of paella. When he added with a smile "Todo, eh! Todo " , I felt hopeless and discouraged. I ate and ate but each bite I took, miraculously got replenished in the pan again. I even think it was growing bigger in a very sneaky way. You simply didn't see that I was eating at all!
It was delicious but there was no way that I could finish the pan and I started feeling desperate. I seriously feared that the waiter would not take away the pan before I had finished it. I feared his disapproval for ordering a paella when clearly I could not eat it and I don't deal with disapproval well. I try to avoid it anyway I can. I pleaded my parents and my sister to help me. They did so for a bit, but since they were struggling with a huge pan themselves, their help was rather inadequate.
My sister noticed I was truly not at ease anymore and she quickly signalled at a different waiter that they could take away my pan. The original waiter came by later on again patting me on my shoulder and winking "Todo eh". Only then I realized he had never expected me to finish it at all! Phewww, how silly.
- Every Wednesday there was an evening market in the nearby village in Spain. Black people selling loads of cheap wallets and wrist watches, gypsys with colourful earrings, .... It was all quite exotic and exciting. Highlight of the evening was the churros however. Crunchy outside, soft inside....hot and sweet, covered with icing sugar. Lovely!
The most exiting was the discovery of the churros itself. In our childhood there was an educational child craft program "Kameleon" where they had shown us what churros was and how it was made. How exciting it is to all of a sudden find a churros stand on a market in a foreign country . The fact that I was in Spain and churros is Spanish so that it was rather logical didn't beat my enthusiasm and surprise!
- My sister had become friends with a group of young Belgians whom also had a girl my age in their family. We always hang out together around the pool and each afternoon they had the habit of getting a whole bunch of Chupa Chups. My parents didn't let me eat a lot of candy and I wasn't in the habit of asking either but a coke taste Chupa Chup could not be resisted.
A few weeks ago some people in the dive club arrived with a bucket of Chupa Chups at the campground. Aaaaah nostalgia!!!!