-the world as I see it
Story so far-I have a new roommate and she is from Barcelona. Some sort of weird coincidence considering the fact that my ex-roomie who was Czech, had left for India on a holiday, I, being Indian and currently staying in the Czech lands was heading to Barcelona in a month and here was this Spaniard who had landed in Prague.
Well, I had made my first mistake- I had called a Catalan a Spaniard. To you it seems quite trivial, but to them it makes a world of a difference . The fierce look I received along with the lesson ‘ A Catalan is NOT a Spaniard and a Spaniard is NOT a Catalan’, drilled this fact into my head. Barring this initial hiccup, the rest of the conversation was pleasant enough and we bonded over Barcelona. She said that she’d tell me all about Barca-the dos and don’ts, and more importantly, the difference between anything Catalan and Castilian. As she needed to pick up a few things from the supermarket, I directed her to the Tesco near our apartment, which according to me was this ginormous place that stocked up everything under the sun. By the time she got back it was past 7 p:m and she found me pottering around in the kitchen. I was going through my groceries to whip up some dish other than pasta, which had become my staple diet. She said she would join me for ‘la merienda’ – an evening snack, but her eyes almost popped out when she heard I was having ‘la cena’ -my dinner. She then explained to me about the meals in Spain. Apparently, they start their day with a light ‘el desayuno’ or breakfast, as we know it. This is followed by a snack at around 12 p:m and the main meal of the day-la comida (lunch)- is served between 1:30 and 3:30 p:m. La merienda happened around 7 p:m and la cena came way past 9 p:m. Wow, THAT is some crazy amount of eating and here I was, thinking that my stomach had transformed into this bottomless pit that never ceased to be satisfied in the cold Prague winter. I immediately felt better about my appetite, which now seemed non-existent in comparison.
While she hunted for a snack for herself, she expressed how disappointed she was in the jam available in Prague. I was a teeny bit stumped at this statement because it is a common thing for you to compare things from your home country with the ones abroad, but never before had I heard someone complain about jam. Anyway, I told her that I was quite okay with the jam here and Tesco offered a lot of international brands and had quite a variety. She didn’t seem to agree with me and said that none of them were anything like the jam available back home. ‘Too finicky about jam, are we?’, I thought to myself. Anyway, I shot her this ‘tough-luck’ look and thought -to each, their own. I heard myself saying, “I guess you have jam quite often.” ” Yeah, I do. It is part of almost every meal of mine.” She must eat more jam than I do !!! I never knew that was possible. Back in NITK, I must have consumed dozens of jam bottles. Save for the methi and aloo paratha times, jam was an integral part of my breakfast. The lumpy idlis and soggy dosas would only go down my throat once they had been dipped in generous amounts of jam. Lunch and dinner consisted of just roti and jam when the curries seemed indigestible, which happened almost every other day! Initially I used to get weird looks from people, but they got used to it with time and I even inspired some people to follow my example.
All that aside, now, I am really curious to know what is so special about Spanish jam and what is it that sets it apart from all these other jams. It then crosses my mind that the answer must lie in the flavour, so I ask her ” Is it a pineapple or a grape or some sort of nut flavour that you are looking for?” She looks at me like I have just said the dumbest thing on the planet and that I must be an incompetent nincompoop when it comes to anything remotely related with jam, or so I interpreted. Strange, something is not right here and she realizes it too. She tells me that she is going to show me her Spanish jam and insists on my tasting it, so I know the difference too. The next thing I know I am looking at the ‘Spanish jam’ and I catch myself saying “Ohhhhhhh !!!! Ham.” We both had a hearty jajajaja about the entire episode and sealed this deal where she would teach me a little bit of Spanish (she knew it would benefit me more if I learnt Spanish rather than Catalan because of the larger Spanish speaking population worldwide) and I, in turn, would help her improve upon her English. I dug into the ham and man, it was goooooood…..
P.S: In case you are wondering, jajajaja is pronounced hahahaha in English.
Also, ham is Jamon in Spanish, the J is pronounced like a H