For me, these conjure up sultry, rum-soaked Havana nights, perhaps with Ricky Martin draped over me en déshabillé, temporarily hétero just pour moi. To my mind, you just can´t beat a down-draft of cool air on your skin on a suffocating night with the windows flung open, the pzazz of pizza delivery bikes and the wheel of Romanian manele music riding up with the chirp of the crickets.
Persiana window blinds
Do you remember tugging at floral chintz curtains that refused to budge along rails erected during the Second World War? I do, as well as grappling twice daily with floral tie-backs to get a little privacy and keep out the early morning light. Spanish blinds lack the aesthetic of the English garden print cotton but they are the most practical things in my house.
Ready-cut garlic, onion and parsley
Almost every Spanish meal except Holy Communion starts with a sofrito of garlic, onion and parsley in olive oil. This is a wonderful start to exceptional meals, except for the fact that twenty years of fine-dicing is not only boring and laborious but could quite possibly cause Repetitive Strain Injury. So now I buy these three staples ready-chopped from the frozen section of Mercadona. Cooking is now faster, free of tears and more fun.
Clothes-drying sun and breeze
One of my mother´s greatest joys was a sunny day and/or “a rerr breeze” for drying clothes from our tenement window (in between visits to the steamie). This meant she could go about her business in a relaxed manner because mostly she was forced to sprint to the shops and back since it could downpour out of a cloudless sky at any minute and she´d need to wash the lot again. Here, I suffer no such stress. Three coladas a day? No problem. Each load is hung, dried and folded in half an hour. (Well, that last bit´s a lie, “folded”, aye that´ll be right). How I wish my mother had lived to see it, sniff.
These belong in the “Exotic Spain” category since there are none in Britain, except for Simon Cowell, of course. I think they´re incredibly cute, with their shiny eyes and big “hands”, but unlike my cats, I don´t eat them (the lizards. Or the cats). Years ago, our cat Pepe clawed the tail off one before it got away and it was great to see it grow back over the next few weeks. Pepe suceeded with successive hunts but always vomited the mangled, green salamanquesas up, finding them indigestible. Bit like Simon Cowell, really.
For many of us, this poet and playwright from Graná was the one who started the whole Spain shebang off. Ian Gibson, the Irish/Spanish hispanist, has spent decades bewailing the untimely fate of the young artist but to me, Lorca simply encapsulates unadulterated pleasure. Frankly, if you haven´t read Lorca´s Romancero gitano, you don´t know Spain.
Geraniums equal easy gardening for all. True, you won´t have the deadheading woman´s bit of crumpet, Monty Don, flying in from Bali in those dreadful trousers to address your garden´s (or in my case, pot´s) “idiom” but you will have a splash of colour where before there was only dirt or concrete…. which also gives you the perfect excuse for getting rid of all those Laura Ashley-style curtains.
This is one of Spain´s greatest cultural legacies to the world. Who could resist this most sexy, most portable, most democratic and curviest of instruments? (Okay, so the French horn is curvier but in a gruesome intestinal fashion). Spain refined renaissance “chordophones” into this quintessential string instrument and gave the world flamenco. ¡Éle!
Your bashed tomatoes and peppers and stale bread used up for soup, salad and cold drink all in one!
Jamón serrano (Serrano ham).
This, obviously, must go on the list. The Spanish expats on Españoles por el mundo (Spaniards Around the World) claim to miss this most from Spain, after their families. Serrano ham is a deity in Spain and it is consumed in sacred, pagan communion. To refer to a woman as jamona is a compliment and to say that someone has un cuerpo serrano is to tell them they have a beautiful body… not that they´re a fat pig!