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LIFE/MEMOIR

Being A Cook In Barcelona

Innocence abroad

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

When I was young and stupid, I decided I would take a job in a soup kitchen in Barcelona. I had some Spanish, and speak French, so why not? It would make good stories. (I say this about anything. The good and the bad. Even the appalling.)

The accommodation was basic, to say the least. But my time off was my own to explore the city.

I had to go to the market to buy fresh vegetablesIn Spain, there is no queue or line for anything. It is the survival of the fittest. Huge women huddled in front of me. I was overwhelmed.

A young woman at the stall saw tiny me and beckoned me over. She asked what I wanted. Full of gratitude, I told her. She said to come to her every time I needed to buy vegetables.

I had friends from around the world. I spoke to locals in French and tried to improve my Spanish. One friend started having stomach pain, and it turned out to be constipation.

A group of us set out to get him a remedy. We went to a pharmacy, and used a Spanish word book and gestures. The Spanish love gestures, they use them all the time.

The pharmacist listened and watched carefully. Then his eyes lit up. Ah, we thought collectively, he is getting what is needed. However, he reappeared with Vicks, a rubbing on vapor for colds and coughs.

So, once more into the breach. We used more Spanish words from the book and started pointing at my friend’s anatomy. The pointing seemed to work well. The pharmacist produced some tablets with a flourish. We were relieved.

Twenty-four hours later, I heard my friend describe the enormous result. I wish I could unhear it. I am still in touch with that friend, and he will never forget Barcelona.

Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

We visited the cathedral, which was unfinished. It might be now, I lose track.

Toward the end of my stint as a cook, I was asked to cook for twenty-two people. I went to a supermarket to buy meat. Big mistake. Stick with what you know. The labels were unrecognizable.

I could not eat that meal. I think I bought horse. I am a horsewoman. I cannot eat horse. Ever.

I loved Las Ramblas. A pedestrian road full of mime artists, artisans, and pickpockets. So colorful. And Plaza Catalunia. A lovely space to sit in the sunshine.

It was bocadillas that gave my friend constipation. They are long, white rolls. Even filling them with tomato, peppers, and other salad items did not prevent his predicament. But he got a bad stomach in El Salvador, so I stopped feeling bad. At a friend’s wedding, all he could eat was plain boiled potatoes.

I’ve forgotten most of the vegetable names I used. I still have some Spanish. It all makes good stories.

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It hasn’t been easy today…

I’ve been falling a lot. My swollen thigh causes my other hip to be strained and my leg gives way. I fall. Usually on carpet, but my dining room has floorboards, and the kitchen is tiled.

I am nervous of cooking as I don’t know when I will fall. I haven’t eaten properly for 3 days.

My daughter is angry with me. I’m not certain why.

On Friday evening I remembered a school friend, and then I remembered my friends asking me about marks on my neck which were very identifiable. I told lies to hide the shame of the one who put them there.

My mother put them there. She sexually abused me. I remember wriggling, crying and yelling and she laughed.

It was her imputed shame I felt.

I am okay. I am coming to terms with this.