Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rolling Your Rs: Tortilla a la Española

Ian has always been a musical child.  From the time he was little, he would sing his way through an entire day; sometimes real songs, and sometimes songs with made-up words and melodies.  I'm convinced that when I sing things to him he pays more attention to me than when I simply say them.  This, on its own, wouldn't surprise me; though I wouldn't call us a "musical" family, we do have a shelf full of child-sized musical instruments (mostly percussion, which is useful when we have musical parades around the house), we have a piano (though I don't play it very often any more), we have a guitar and octave mandolin, and I've been singing to Ian since before he was born. Lately, though, Ian has been singing in Spanish.

Not really in Spanish.  Well, sometimes in Spanish.  But more often in a made-up language that really does sound like Spanish.  Complete with beautifully rolled "r"s.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised about this, either; the children at Ian's school have Spanish once a week as a "special," but in addition to that, when we drop him off in the morning, before he goes to his regular classroom, Ian is in before-care with Señora Alice, the Spanish teacher, who speaks to the children in Spanish (or in a mix of languages) during the entire time they're with her.  Still, I'm always caught off-guard when he starts making up Spanish words and songs.

I love that he is learning the language, though, because I want Ian to have an appreciation for his Spanish heritage.  Ian knows that his Grandpa Carlos was from Spain, and loved gardening and bread and singing (ever so slightly off key in his deep baritone voice) and black bean soup.

My father didn't cook much in our house (that was women's work, you know), but when he took out the olive oil and potatoes and onion, I knew we were in for a treat.  Though we never ate them for dinner, tortillas made a regular appearance as appetizers for dinner parties, and as cold lunches at the beach.  Sometimes we ordered them at the Spanish restaurants in the Newark Ironbound section, where my father seemed to know all of the restaurant owners.  My mother tried to make them, but they were always missing something, it seemed.  I found this recipe a few years ago on Epicurious, and while it's a lot of work, it's become a staple in our house.  Though it includes kale (that would never have happened in my parent's kitchen), it still reminds me of home, and my father, who would doubtless be very proud of his r-rolling Spanish-singing grandson. 

Kale and Potato Tortilla 

1 lb boiling potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 lb kale, center ribs discarded
8 large eggs

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/3-inch dice (2 1/4 cups). Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then reduce heat to moderately low and cook potatoes, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
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