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Kamloops News

MORAN: Eating his surroundings on a tour of Spain



I love to eat my surroundings. Local, seasonal food is very important to me for reasons of health, environment, and culture. During a three-month tour of Spain I have picked up a few new foodie habits.

Spain produces the most olive oil in the world. It might be hard to believe, but even Italy imports a large portion of its oil from Spain. While I was volunteering on a farm in the southern province of Granada I happened to be housesitting and taking care of some chickens. With one egg and unlimited access to the farms main product, olive oil, I could whip up a batch of mayonnaise. This was the ultimate in local eating for me, and a great way to enjoy the flavour of the oil in large quantities. Instead of mustard and vinegar I am using lemon juice for flavouring the mayo. Fresh loaves of bread are readily available at every food shop. My favourite filler for an olive oil mayonnaise sandwich is boiled eggs or bits of roast chicken. High quality whole roasted chickens and eggs are two more things that are easy to find in any Spanish town. In Canada I won't be eating so much oil since it isn't local so I am getting as much of that omega-3 and polyphenol goodness in me while I'm here. If a person really wanted to replicate the experience it would be best to go to a niche oil shop and taste a few of their premium oils. The cheaper wholesale oil on the supermarket shelves isn't good for much, with such a low smoking point I don't even cook with it.

One of my new favourite pasta sauces is made with zucchini. At another farm I visited the owner had made dozens of jars of stewed zucchini. He had very little money and made a point of using up what he had, and this summer he had a serious zucchini crop. Now I am getting fresh zucchini from the local markets as I travel. I have often been in a situation where I am trying to use up giant unwanted zucchini from a B.C. garden and now I finally have a tasty recipe. I start by warming up a pot full of cubed zucchini and cook it down until it gets saucy, adding small amounts of water a few times as it reduces. In a separate pan I fry garlic and rosemary in lots of olive oil. I am collecting wild rosemary on my walk in the local Sierra Nevada mountains. I add the juice of one or two lemons to the stewed zucchini and mix everything together in the pan for fifteen minutes. The lemon juice will substitute the acidity that tomato sauce would have. Toss some pasta in while it is still a bit undercooked to soak up the sauce and you have a light and tasty pasta.

I must be the only traveler in Spanish hostels making mayonnaise and cooking with wild rosemary. Despite that fact, it is all very easy and makes great food for my companions and me, or to take on the train. Writing this has given me a fierce hunger and I'm going to get in to the hostel kitchen and cook both these recipes. I will surely get quite a reaction from the backpackers but will also get some great food conversation going and probably make some new friends.

— Scott Moran is a local forager discovering his own path to food freedom

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