Jesse Cape: AU COSAM – Spring Program in Alcalá Henares, Spain, Spring 2019
My favorite part of my study abroad program was the home stay with a host family, or in my case, host grandmother. Oma was a 78-year-old Spanish widow who took in exchange students because she loves to cook. She made us the most delicious food I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. For breakfast, she made us fresh squeezed orange juice, warm bizcocho with jam, an array of pastries and always fresh pressed coffee. For lunch, she made us the largest spread of multiple entrees that always left us so full. She always served bowls of tomatoes, mozzarella, and the freshest avocados as an appetizer. The entrees ranged from potatoes with chicken to fried fish to miscellaneous beef dishes, always served with a baguette. My absolute favorites were the fried squash and her chicken fingers. She made all sorts of classic Spanish delicacies such as fried calamari, croquettes, and empanadas.
Dessert was always fresh strawberries smothered in whipped cream and occasionally flan. After every lunch, we would be tucked into bed for the siesta nap with a warmed lavender heating pad and a handful of chocolate bon-bons. Dinner in Spain is smaller than in the United States, but Oma still made sure we were very full before bed by feeding us yet another larger than average meal. Every Friday, Oma’s entire family would come over for lunch, making it her favorite day to cook for so many people. Whenever we had visitors from the States, she insisted on cooking lunch for them. Every day when I would return from school, the pajamas I wore the night before would be clean and folded. When we left for weekend trips, Oma always packed us a bag of snacks and treats. Oma cared for us so tentatively, which made studying abroad so familiar and personal. She made the experience so special, and I can’t believe that when I return to Spain in September, I will not be living with her, but I look forward to trying to recreate her dishes. When we were leaving Spain unexpectedly in 2020, I remember her waving to us as we descended the stairs for a final time, thinking that this is not good-bye, just a see-you-later. I hope to return to Oma’s kitchen soon to eat all the wonderful food and relive such fond memories.