little sarah Big World

Month: March, 2010

Europe by Train, with Strings

So I’ve gotten into this really bad habit of retroactively posting stuff, BUT NOT THIS TIME. Here is something I wrote TODAY about something that happened BACK IN DECEMBER–Europe Tour 2009 with Will Sartain. Enjoy!

(For a more in-the-moment experience, you can read excerpts from my Tour Journal. Which I posted retroactively.)

First off, minus six points at least to Mr. Will Sartain for outing me as an American. You see, what with my ambiguously ethnic looks and intuitive knowledge of underground transportation, combined with a decent scarf collection and an efficient, determined stride, I tend to blend in when I travel—I’m more likely to be asked for directions than to be offered directions (in fact, today a couple stopped me in Madrid to ask where the nearest McDonalds was. And of course I knew the answer). But with Will we spoke English and got lost and looked quite American.

Then minus, like, six thousand points to the European Union for getting all United States-y and not stamping my passport every time I change countries. I WANT MY PASSPORT TO BE A RAINBOW OF VARIED ETHNOGRAPHIC TRAVELS, IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?


The currency blew my mind. It’s, like, 7 Danish Kroger to the euro, so everything costs 100 this and 75 that and seems really expensive.

I had the most delicious pancakes in this little vegan café where Will got what he deemed “The best veggie burger [he’d] ever had.”  And there was fresh juice.

People seemed happy, healthy, hard-working. Like everyone had a good attitude. Like, even though it was December and cold, they still put out little tables and chairs in front of the cafés, as if to say, “Why fight it?”

Mental image: our host, in the morning, stretching in his bright orange tighty-whiteys, completely unashamed of his massive boner.


I was really, really awed by how clear and beautiful everyone’s skin was. A healthy glow, all around, and when we went out to the bar everyone made an effort to speak in English, even amongst themselves, because I was there.

The café we played at, the people we met, the fashion, the music—it all seemed to me to be a hipster’s paradise. And I mean this as a compliment—I really wanted to move there and surrender myself completely to hipster-dom.

There was also this very cozy, homey feel that appealed to me. Stina (one of our hosts) brought us a late-night snack of brown bread with pinto bean spread and homemade pickles, arranged on a tray with tea. We snacked and drank tea in their warm little apartment.

Mental Image: Jacob, our other host, materializing out of nowhere in the crowded café where we were anxiously waiting, removing his big hood and announcing that he was there to take us home.


Homemade spaghetti dinners, tea and gingerbread, walks through the park. Bremen and our hosts were very simple, quiet, sincere.

We went to a music festival in a warehouse by the train yard. I talked to the touring American songwriter, and Susie and Uly taught me the German alphabet. I missed home and thought about Wachira, but I also felt so lucky to be exactly right where I was.

Mental Image:

"Look, Sarah--you're a ghost."


Best quiche/salad/quiche-salad combination I’ve ever had in my life in the kitschy little café/bar where we played.

They fed us, paid us, and then gave us a place to stay for the night. We had a “roommate” from Spain. He let us do laundry.

The part of town where we stayed was very “funky” (for lack of a better word) with lots of good graffiti, but it was a huge city, with a classy business district and also the random neighborhood where I bought this book.

Mental Image: The Vietnamese kid who performed before us, rocking back and forth and squirming on the piano bench like a little kid who has to go to the bathroom.


Amsterdam was an accident—we got on the wrong train trying to go to Paris and then just decided to make the best of it.

We stayed in a hostel room with a bazillion other beds, but the only other people in the room were three French girls. Turns out December is a good time to visit Amsterdam—it’s cheap and there’s not too many people.

We went to the Anne Frank house, something I’ve always wanted to do and didn’t know that I would be doing on this trip. It was different than I’d expected (did you know there’s no furniture left?), but absolutely worth it. We also checked out red-light district.

Mental Image: The deep, hollow, colorless depths of my own despair, where I swam for a good part of the night after having two drinks and then picking a fight with Will.


Oh, man, did I have that Metro system figured out. I was like, “We’re here, we need to get here, we take this one and then transfer here.” Bam.

Drank a LOT of beer and couldn’t find a place to crash so we wound up staying at a cheapy hotel, but we did talk them down from 60€ to 50€.

The weather was really nice, pleasant, like early spring, but I couldn’t even enjoy it because it felt too much like global warming. I wanted winter, and I wanted to sit in a café and drink a hot beverage and eat French pastries, but Will’s vegan so instead we had shitty pan-Asian food.

Mental Image: Me, crouched-down like a little squirrel in the shower, trying to maneuver the hand-held shower head and the low, low shelf with my shampoo and razor.


We stayed with friends of Will, Coralie and Arnaud, and they showed us the town. It was a cute college-y town, with a precious little historic center and some mighty fine beer.

I got to speak French with Arnaud!

We dried our clothes in a dryer—first time for me since September.

Mental Image: Coralie, rolling and smoking cigarettes, very slim and slight in her tall black boots.


All three bands ate together, family-style, at a big, long table in the backroom of the venue (a big space separated off by an even bigger curtain), before the show. The bartender/chef made us a raclette/potato/ham casserole, which Will couldn’t eat. So he asked Will “Do you eat rice? (Yes) Olives? (Yes) Tomatoes? (Yes) Onions? (Yes). Okay.” Then he brought out a big bowl of all that, topped off with a huge amount of tuna fish. Which Will couldn’t eat.

Chatting in French with Eric, who saved me from the creepy older dude that wanted to talk to me about the same thing on a loop all night. I mouthed, “Help. Me.” from across the room, and it worked, but then later I still had to let that aging, lingering thing kiss me on the face.

We all slept at Antoine/Marie Laure’s house in the foothills, and in the morning we went for a walk in the mountains and got dusted with light snow. I think we needed the breath of fresh air, if you will.

Mental Image: Will, running like a wild child up and down the frozen path in the woods, while the rest of us looked out over the valley.


So much delicious food—flammkuchen, and then gluhwein, then dark, foamy beer followed by late night durum falafel (best I’ve ever had) with little crunchy bits. Good thing we didn’t pay for anything, because Zurich is EXPENSIVE.

We made a music video! Who knew that was going to happen? NOT US. My fingers were frozen, and I felt so self-conscious because I’d been sleeping in random places and riding on trains for a week and wasn’t wearing makeup. But it turned out well.

Our host, Tito, and his sister Olivia were friendly, optimistic, open, generous and light-hearted. Also tall, thin and beautiful. And they run their own café/restaurant.

Mental Image: Olivia taking long, loping strides through the slick stony streets in her neon parka while Tito grins affably and Will and I shuffle along, dazed, on our way to a jazz club.


Home Sweet Home, except that I realized that while Will was going to wrap up the tour and go back to Salt Lake, I was going to stay in Madrid. I wasn’t going “home,” and that bummed me out some.

Still, it was nice to speak the language, see my roommates, SEE LAURA (who brought me a Santa Claus cactus—Planta Claus), and sleep in my own bed. I showed Will the sights (Sol, Plaza Mayor, Museo de Jamón, El Retiro) and made us late-night microwave rice with tomato sauce and veggies.

Mental Image: María Oviedo, running down the stairs, scarf flying, breathless, to catch the last bit of the last song we played.

Mental Image: Will and I, sitting on my bed in our PJs, watching music videos on YouTube. Then the next morning I got up and went to work, and when I came home Will had already left for Barcelona. Just me again.

Easy As Pie Tart

Did you know that the way to say “easy as pie” in Spanish is “pan comido”? It means, “eaten bread,” except translates it as “piece of cake,” but that doesn’t make sense with this entry’s subject, which is:


Did I mention that my oven here in Spain doesn’t have degrees? Well, it doesn’t. It has either “fuego arriba” or “fuego abajo.” It’s basically just a glorified broiler.

And I have not been able to convince my roommates (or anybody else here, for that matter) that a no-degree oven means extremely limited baking possibilities. I also keep losing the argument that baking, unlike cooking, is more of a science and therefore requires more specific measurements, temperatures, timing, etc. (will somebody back me up on this?).

Anyways, even without degrees or measuring cups/spoons (did I mention I’m in Spain?), I still made this super-easy tart:

Easy As Pie Tart

Ingredients for the Crust (from The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer):
● 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
● 1/3 cup sugar
● 1/4 tsp. salt
● 1 stick butter (salted or unsalted, whatever)
● 1 egg yolk
● a little cream or milk (I used soy milk)
● 1 egg white, beaten


1. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together. Using your hands, squish the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture should look like cornmeal with a few larger lumps of butter.

2. Break up the egg yolk with a fork and add to the flour/butter mixture. Continue to work with hands until the dough comes together in a ball. Add a splash of soy milk (or cream, or regular milk) to keep dough from being too dry.

3. Don’t overwork the dough–it will become tough. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes.

4. Pat the crust into a 9″ or 10″ pie or tart plate. Prick all over with a fork and chill for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. (This is when you will probably want to start pre-heating your oven).

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, or until it starts to become lightly golden.

6. Remove from oven and brush the inside with the beaten egg white.

7. Return to the oven and finish baking until crust is golden (like, 5 more minutes).

Ingredients for the Filling:
● about 500g plain, full-fat greek yogurt (I used three 170g containers of Fage)
● about 300g honey (slightly less than one bear, if you will)
● fresh fruit (I used clementines, kiwi and banana)


1. Spoon yogurt into completely cooled crust.

2. Cover with a layer of honey.

3. Then arrange fruit in a pretty pattern! (You may want to start from the center and work your way out. I did it oppositely and the fruit really wanted to slide around in the honey. But I managed).

And that’s all! I made this same tart last summer for the 4th of July, using Greek Gods Honey Yogurt (instead of yogurt and honey), with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries (it was very patriotic). It’s a very versatile tart. And did I mention easy?

Just Like the Cool Kids

My new thing is reading baking/cooking blogs and drooling over the pictures/recipes. There’s this one, simply breakfast, which is basically just food porn, and I’m way addicted. It’s my new thing.

Anyways, I want to play with the big kids, and sometimes I bake things. So now my even newer thing is that I’m going to post about what I bake/eat.

Speaking of hanging with the cool kids…I have friends! Well, I have a Jorge friend, and he has roommates, and sometimes we cenar (eat dinner) together. Like this:

¡Viva Plaza de Castilla!

Jorge, Andoni, Anna, Guillermo and Lara

Lara made appetizers:

Anna made the dinner:

And I BLEW THEIR MINDS with chocolate chip cookies:

Really, though, Spaniards aren’t really a baking people. So stuff that to me is very simple and common-place (like cookies and pancakes) is a big, fancy deal for them, and it leads to hilarious/frustrating Q & A sessions. Like this:

Q: Is it part of the recipe to make the cookies round? I’ve only ever seen them flat.

A: No, no–they flatten out in the oven.

Q: Don’t we have to wait for them to cool all the way before they eat them?

A: What? No, we…you’re supposed to eat them while they’re still warm. With a glass of milk, traditionally.

Q: Ew, why are you eating the dough? Don’t you want to wait until after it’s baked?


Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yield: about 45 cookies
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

● 2 cups all purpose flour
● 1 tsp. salt
● 3/4 tsp. baking soda
● 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
● 1 cup sugar
● 2/3 cup light brown sugar
● 2 large eggs
● 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate (a big chocolate bar, cut into 1/4 inch chunks)
● 1 cup ground almonds

1. Preheat oven 375 degrees. Lightly coat the bottom of a baking sheet with vegetable oil.

2. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together.

3. Mash the butter with a fork until smooth. Add the sugars and mix with a wooden spoon (or whatever) until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring for a minute or so after each egg goes in. Then add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing in between but don’t over-mix. Then stir in the ground-up almonds and then the chocolate. Then put the dough in the fridge for about a half hour, but first eat as much as you feel like.

4. Using a big spoon and/or your hands, make tablespoon-sized balls and arrange them on the baking sheet, with about 2 inches in between (I also like to stagger the rows).

5. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10 minutes, or until they brown on the edges and golden in the center. COOKIES WILL ALWAYS LOOK A LITTLE BIT LESS-DONE THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE. So err on the side of caution. Let cookies cool before you eat them. Or not.

Why, hello there, mucus membranes!

“We’re going to inject you with something, and you’re going to feel a very strong heat, burning sensation in your throat, and your vagina. You know, your genitals.”

Oh man, was he ever NOT kidding.