• Plus Ultra
  • Post author
    Melissa Guerra

Plus Ultra

Plus Ultra

I would have loved to have blogged about my visit to Spain while I was there. But then, I would have missed Spain and all that was happening around me. Plus, the kids were hogging the Ipad, so I lost my keystroke apparatus. I went low tech, writing in my journal, and taking as many pictures as possible.

The Quick and Dirty One Word Summary for the Busy Folks That Don't Have Time To Read This Blog:


Or rather:


Spain was terrific, and everyone should go at least once in their life. My kids are still talking about the experience, comparing and contrasting the countries, the politics, the people, the attitudes€¦

And, of course, the food.

We are still having trouble readjusting to food in the US. Our hotel in Madrid was right in the Plaza Mayor, so we ate practically every meal in Mercado San Miguel. Inside the market was about 40 kiosks, serving everything from salt cod, to sherry, beer, freshly made potato chips, fruit, vegetables, bread, pastry, coffee€¦all of the food groups were represented in their freshest form. The portions were all tapa (snack) sized and priced to sell. Fresh, fresh, fresh, the fish practically winked at the customers, tempting them to buy.

It wasn't that the food was complicated, or presented by master chefs on silver platters. The food was simple and locally grown. Fruits and vegetables were rarely stored long term in commercial refrigerators, and had been picked only days before. Any given dish only had two or three ingredients, and was made from non-processed foods.  Maybe that is why food television has taken off in the US. The US has built a cult around star chefs and convoluted recipes. We are working twice as hard to make our super market, non-fresh food taste good.

And the wine, oh dear€¦

I visited a friend, Paco,  whose family owns a wine distributorship in Murcia (more on this later) and he said that the wine they purchased was bottled only at the moment that the order was placed. Again, fresh.  I drink very rarely, as alcohol gives me migraines (or so I thought) After spending a day with Paco, drinking the best wines and cavas (sparkling wine) from his bodega, eight glasses later, I realized that maybe my head wasn't the problem.

While running back-to-school errands with the boys after we returned from Spain, we stopped in at our regular make-due sandwich place to pick up something quick between appointments. We are dumbfounded as to how horrible it was. Nothing had changed about the sandwiches: same sauces, meats, breads and such. In a word, the sandwiches tasted dead (wait, I can't even honestly use the word taste, as they had none...maybe I should say felt, as we were basically chewing a flavorless texture. ) The ingredients had lost their soul ages before the sandwich was assembled.  Today, we noticed the faint hint of chlorine in our salmon at the sushi bar. Same sushi as always, but we were noticing off flavors and canned textures we had never experienced before. What had changed? Or should I ask, who?

The US is certainly the place I want to live. I am a big fan of capitalism. Love it. But it makes me wonder why we don't insist of fresher food. Most of our population seems happy with rubbery bread that comes in plastic bags, canned fruit, watery coffee, and artificial sweeteners.

Maybe, as we are the best capitalists in the world, we see food a value proposition. In other words, what are we getting for our money? If we buy it, then it should last for awhile, so we nuke it with preservatives. Or that the portions in restaurants are such a size (gargantuan) that we feel good about the value we are getting. I don't remember once requesting a to-go box after a meal in Spain. Cheap prices result in cheap food, and cheap food is bad food. Refined flour, refined sugar and hydrogenated fats are killers, and here in the U.S., are dirt cheap.

Not sure at what point a decent tomato lost the war to premium cable TV in terms of what a U.S. citizen deems necessary for quality daily living. Seems like the Spanish elected to go with the tomato. And that, my friends, is what I like about Spain. They went with the tomato.

Spain's King Charles the Fifth (reigned 1516-1556) adopted the motto Plus Ultra and incorporated the slogan into tile work on buildings, tapestries, and even into the Spanish national coat of arms. Plus Ultra means €œFurther Beyond€ and was meant to encourage citizens, explorers and sailors to go beyond the known points, and achieve greatness for Spain. The Plus Ultra spirit is alive and well in Spain, and is rooted in the heart of every olive farmer, ham producer, winery owner and cheese maker.

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  • Post author
    Melissa Guerra

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