Expressing Love From A Distance

By Sofia

Hi there! I start my first blog post with relatively little to reflect on, as it feels that my gap year hasn’t really begun. I’m floating in transition between child and adult, the end of high school and the beginning of my gap year, COVID-19 lockdown, and whatever the “new normal” looks like.

My summer began like most everyone’s: sheltered in place. While the initial adjustment was difficult to say the least, I’ve found that I genuinely enjoy spending this much time with my family of six (seven with the dog).

The kitchen has become my refuge. Cooking has allowed me to connect with my family without feeling suffocated by their constant presence. The endless supply of breads, muffins, tarts, and other foods, are my love language.

Best of all, this passion of mine has become a bridge between me and my grandmother—she’s teaching me to make paella. It’s both intimidating and incredibly comforting to make such a classic Spanish dish. Her lectures on the traditions of making paella remind me that while much of my heritage is still rather unfamiliar to me, I can still deepen my Spanish roots from across the world. While my lack of bomba rice and Valencian water (many swear by these two as the most essential ingredients) has been a bit frustrating, so far, I’ve been successful.

Here is one of my early paellas. I’m beginning to experiment with different seafood ratios, more broth, and I’ve purchased a pan big enough to feed 12 people, though I have yet to face that challenge.

Cooking lessons I’ve learned so far:

  1. Never EVER take your eyes off the paella (not even for a second). And don’t forget things in the oven.
  2. A little bit of socarrat, the charred rice at the bottom of a paella, is a delicious accident, not a mistake.
  3. The taste test is key… In every recipe.
  4. Eyeballing quantities is okay (for most dishes), it’ll probably still turn out well!*
  5. Throwing spices that smell good in a pan is a bold move, but a good one. Know the risks.*
  6. Don’t forget the salt!

*these don’t apply to paellas!

As I learn to somewhat follow recipes (I’m an impulsive cook—I make adjustments on the fly), I’m beginning to view the gap year I had planned as a recipe, one that can be modified to my future tastes. I have no idea how much of it will pan out, but for now I’m planning, awaiting my first adventure (Outward Bound), and enjoying my family, my job, and my friends (from six feet away!).