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café con leche throughout Spain and Gibraltar

Café con leche throughout

Spain and Gibraltar


Coffee spread from Ethiopia through the great port of Moka on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, into Yemen and the Arabian peninsula, where it was cultivated and from where the Arabica coffee variety takes its name. By the sixteenth century, it was transported to Turkey and the rest of the Ottoman Empire. There it was roasted on bonfires, acquiring its color and a wonderful aroma that spread through the air of Muslim lands, carrying the secrets to achieving health, strength, and virility. Coffee drinking became widespread. The bean then continued its journey toward Persia, Egypt, and Syria.

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The coffee beans and the beverage prepared from them were from then on regarded as a luxurious stimulant. Middle Eastern legends tell about a black beverage that inspires love and loyalty, heals the sick, comforts the exhausted, and allows long nights of prayer and meditation.

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So last week I arrived from Spain and realized café con leche is their favorite drink we inherited whey the colonized our territories. I flew from Panama to New York then after a couple of days with my granddaughter and daughter –funny how the granddaughter now comes first to mind, I flew to Madrid. I had to stay awake the first day in order to avoid jet lag, so I had the obligation, and immense pleasure of ordering café con leche all afternoon, and night since dinner was set for 10 p.m. Actually on of the great things of avoiding jet lag in Spain is that their hours almost coincide with the time change. We had breakfast almost at noon, lunch around 3 and dinner at 10 or 11. Went to bed by 3 and so the actual time change was only of about 3 hours! Wonderful time we had in Spain.

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My youngest daughter was there for her semester abroad and we had this amazing mother daughter Easter week, with a couple extra days. So there was no need for her to be up early, at least when I was there; lucky me! Next day after I left she had 9 am class at the Carlos III University 45 minutes by train from the city. Well, we all did those things when we were young; it was fun back then to sleep 3 hours one day and 12 the next.

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Back to café con leche, I tasted all of the café con leche in the city. We had the time to stop at street cafes which we did, and drink my beloved café con leche with some amazing whole grain breads, crusty outside with seeds and grain, soft and airy inside. One thing I couldn’t do was to dip the bread in the café con leche as we used to when we were kids. I missed this. I believe I took pictures at all the different cups of coffee I was drinking, hope to get some back from my daughter, but was able so send some to my family to tease the somewhat. I was having the time of my life.

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As we traveled south, on train, we took a real road trip, first all the way south to Gibraltar. That tiny English piece of land, or rock may I say that is an amazing place to be at. I would have never thought I would go there by train, at least. May be on boat, or cruise, but inland at Gibraltar was not on my bucket list. Well let me tell you they serve café con leche at tea time, as well as tea, of course. There our sleep got a bit more updated, for the next part of the trip back to Spain.

As we arrived in Granada, we were ready to see the processions for Holy Week; the town was bursting with people. Now café con leche seemed more imminent and maybe necessary. We had to keep our eyes wide open to all that was going on. We walked up to THE ALHAMBRA, almost died, especially when I realized we could have taken a cab up tose 750 meters up, at a 45 degree angle. ‘More café con leche for Pachi?’ No… Then it was water, water, water. I thought I was going to melt. It was 30 degrees, with a cool wind in the shade, but not too much shade except for the plaza coffee shop.

We also wanted to watch the procession with all the beautiful religious and art pieces, as well as the dresses or costumes that were being worn. I felt as if I was back in time, and we were all watching from a bubble. There were hundreds of people on the street, walkers and watchers. Every one was in a great mood; it was the rising, the party, the day to dress up in coat and tie.

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We arrived at Seville much sooner than we had expected. A larger town with a feel like my Colombian town of Cartagena: built by the Spaniards during the Conquista. But best of all, was the personality of the people here. To me they felt like a mixture of the dark English satiric sense of humor, and the relaxed, foul-mouthed, seaman of my Caribbean. I felt at home, being the granddaughter of a Scottish boat captain and born in the Caribbean town of Barranquilla in Colombia. My mother’s mother was Italian, so there you have a mixture that some say to my husband is very hard to understand. I love it, the stranger or crazier people think you are, the more honest you can be and not be judged. Lets make it clear though, I never talk bad about others, but maybe a lot about me.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 7.25.48 AMBack to café con leche, it was in Seville that I found the most amazing people while waiting in line to pay for the only terrible dinner I had on my whole trip. It was Sunday after resurrection, and everything was packed full by 10 p.m. So we sat at this place that had space, no wonder, and were served chicken and beef with out even salt. We walked back to the hotel, laughing about our courage to go out without a reservation and expect something else. So as we arrived we decided we needed something sweet and good to fill our unhappy tummies. Unlucky at first the kitchen was closed, almost midnight. But amazing as you might think, the man opened the kitchen, un locked the freezers and came to our room with 4 cups of amazing ice cream and sorbet. Oh my God, those were the best treats we had during the whole trip. Midnights joking in bed, with 4 cupfuls of ice cream that began disappearing minute by minute until we finally ate it all. Now we felt like we needed café con leche, nooo…, plain dark coffee to digest all that food. We couldn’t but we wished and had to stay up for almost two hours before going to bed with a full stomach that meant a definite nightmare.

With love you to and to my daughters for your time.


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Patricia McCausland-Gallo is a nutritionist, pastry chef, teacher, and food writer born in the Caribbean town of Barranquilla, Colombia. She has a B.S. in Foods and Nutrition from Louisiana State University, attended a School for Retort Operations, and completed courses of instruction prescribed by the Food and Drug Administration.