Feeling the Heat in Mallorca

The Boss and I have taken to living like vampires. The doors and shutters (persianas) of our finca in rural Mallorca are closed most of the day and windows are firmly shut against the searing summer heat. We stay out of the bright sunlight and keep cool with our air conditioning. We’re so pleased we have a solar-powered electricity system: we don’t have alarming summer electricity bills to pay so can be liberal with air conditioning – until the sun disappears from the solar panels.

Mallorca – like other parts of northern Europe – had a heatwave in June. To be honest, I haven’t noticed that it’s ended yet. We have regularly registered temperatures in the upper 30s, in the shade on our terrace, and last night’s low, for instance, was 24 degrees Celsius.

On Monday morning I had to go to Palma and emerged from the railway station to feel fat drops of rain plopping onto my head. Sadly, this was not the start of a good refreshing shower, but what’s called cuatro gotas – four drops – which afforded little relief from the clammy heat.

But that night rain did fall. In the form of mud. This was our black car the next morning…

Looks like snow, but it’s mud.

Specific outings aside (and they’re usually in the evenings at this time of year), we have only daytime dashes outside to feed the cats (morning and early evening), take out the washing (which dries to a crisp in, oh, about ten minutes), or put the rubbish in the dustbin.

We save our time outdoors for the early mornings and the evenings (when, ironically, the heat of the sun may be replaced by the heat of The Boss’s Weber BBQ). These are the times when we are likely to see our cats, who hide away during the daytime. They each have their own way of keeping cool and two, in particular, amuse us. Nibbles likes to cool his nether regions by draping himself over the balustrade. Shorty – our gorgeous ginger – favours a cooling tummy dip in one of our several birdbaths (which also serve as drinking stations for our feline family).

Whatever it takes, find your own way to stay cool this summer. Early-morning swim at Portocristo? Don’t mind if we do…

FOOTNOTE: I wrote this post on July 13th and I’m pleased to say the humidity has eased off and temperatures are a little more comfortable.

Jan Edwards ©2019

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Expat Book About Life in Mallorca (and Elsewhere) Published Today. But Not by Me.

Is it true that time passes more quickly when living in Mallorca? It certainly seems that way and I was shocked to see that my last post here was back in February. What have I been doing all this time?

In fact, I did log on to write a post a few times but was faced with the new ‘block editor’. I’m sorry, WordPress, but I just couldn’t get on with it and gave up in despair. Today, I decided I would push myself through the ‘block-editor’ pain barrier. It was only then that I noticed down in the corner of the screen that I could switch to the original way of creating posts. Duh! So I’m back.

#amwriting

This wasn’t the only reason for fewer posts of late. Last year I signed up for a novel-writing course (sadly no longer available) with Penguin Random House. I loved it, although it took a lot more of my time than I expected. I had started my novel not long after we had electricity installed at our rural finca (end of 2004), but domestic life and other writing stalled progress. Until I signed up for the ‘Constructing a Novel’ course.

The novel is now coming along steadily. A large amount of it is still in my head, rather than recorded on my computer. Like many other busy people, I could do with a few extra hours in my day, but I’m no longer able to sacrifice sleeping time to achieve this.

I blame my earlier working lifestyle in the UK, rising at 3.30am to travel to Oxford for my early-morning radio show and then the breakfast show afterwards. For a few years, between my radio and my TV continuity-announcing work, I missed out on a lot of sleep. These days I function better with my full quota of eight hours. Perhaps I’m still catching up – or remembering the words of my doctor when, during a medical check, he warned me that my working lifestyle was not sustainable.

I do lots of other writing too, with a second blog – Eat, Drink, Sleep, Mallorca – and other scribblings to satisfy my urge to write. Sometimes I think it’s not more time that I need, but a hefty dose of determination and discipline to help me prioritise what I’m doing.

A friend is way ahead of me…

Love the cover…

I know quite a few people who are published authors and have to admire them for their achievements. One of them is our friend James B Rieley – a born raconteur – who used to live in Mallorca, but moved to the Caribbean to live on his yacht.

Life dealt him (and many others) the cruellest of blows, in the form of Hurricane Irma in 2017. More than 130 people died in that category-5 cyclone but James was fortunate to survive – although his beloved floating home didn’t. I remember reading a magazine article he wrote about that experience and it gave me the chills, thinking about the fear and devastation he and so many others faced.

Today, James has published a book about his life on the two islands of Mallorca and Virgin Gorda. It’s called Living on Rocks: A Memoir of Sangria and Cyclones and it’s on Amazon as a free Kindle download for a couple of days (after which you’d have to pay for it).

It must be such an exciting feeling to see your book available to the wider public, wondering how well it will do and what kind of reviews it will garner. It’s a feeling I plan to experience one day.

I really ought to return to my novel after publishing this post, but I had my free Kindle download of James’s book earlier today. And my hammock, in the shade of our finca’s covered terrace, seems a very appealing spot for a little reading…

See what I mean about discipline?

Jan Edwards ©2019

A Flavour of 19th-century Rural Mallorca

Visiting Manacor on Saturday, February 2nd, we were surprised to see a large group of people wearing traditional period costume, gathered around a memorial stone. All soon became clear when we realised what day it was. These local people were honouring Antoni M Alcover, who became the parish priest of Manacor in 1886 but is best known today for having collected and written down more than three hundred traditional folk tales – known locally as Rondaies – from around Mallorca.

Antoni Alcover i Sureda was born into a farming family just outside Manacor on February 2nd in 1862. On this day, flowers are laid at the memorial stone and people in local costume of the 19th century come to celebrate the life and writings of the man often referred to as Mossèn Alcover. The town of Manacor has a number of events around the anniversary of his birth, including public readings of his stories.

Traditional Mallorcan dress

Local Manacor people wearing the traditional dress of Alcover’s era to celebrate the anniversary of his birth

We spoke to this group of people, proudly wearing the clothes of Alcover’s era. We are always fascinated by the locals’ willingness to dress themselves in traditional Mallorcan costume at every opportunity. I wouldn’t mind betting that most people have period garments hanging in their closets; we’ve certainly seen a few hanging in our local dry cleaner’s from time to time, freshly pressed for their next outing.

These garments would probably have been the ‘Sunday best’ of their time and not what your average rural Mallorcan would have worn when cultivating the land. I like to think that farming folk of that era would have worn more comfortable – and lighter – garb when working outdoors. The authentic 19th-century wardrobe looks a little warm for the Mediterranean climate!

Alcover didn’t just gather folklore from Mallorca; he also made notes for what would eventually become  the Diccionari Català-Valencià-Balear. The first volume of this magnum opus was published in 1930 – two years before Alcover died.

If you’re interested in reading some of the folk stories collected by Alcover, a selection of them is published in English in a volume entitled The Best Folk Tales of Mallorca, published by Editorial Moll in Palma.

Jan Edwards ©2019

No Smoke Without Fire in our Rural Mallorcan Valley

Bonfires are blazing at the bottom of our valley. We can’t see the flames from our finca, but smoke has been billowing from different parts for days. In summer, when the merest whiff of smoke tickles our nostrils, we’re outside peering all around in case a wildfire has broken out. Bonfires are forbidden in wooded areas such as ours for almost half the year and only barbecues are likely to be creating smoke during these months.

Bonfire smoke

Smoke billows from down in the valley

In the autumn and winter months, farmers and gardeners choose calm days to burn their mounds of combustible unwanteds. We sometimes see vertical columns of smoke making a lazy ascent towards the sky and can usually work out from its location which neighbour is having a burn-up. But the smoke that’s been wafting daily over our valley is not from ordinary bonfires.

Our torrente after the clearance

Our local landscape has changed dramatically as a result of the clearance work

Prevention is better than repair

I wrote a while back about the appalling floods that caused the loss of 13 lives in the northeast of Mallorca – the area known as the Llevant. As well as the tragic loss of life, property and roads suffered damage that in some cases is still being dealt with.

Since that incident, work has begun to ensure that the area’s torrentes – often-dry stream beds – are cleared of vegetation and widened to accommodate even excessive rainfall, such as that which fell on Sant Llorenç on October 9th.

For several weeks, enormous earth-moving vehicles have been trundling along the torrente at the bottom of our valley, ripping out trees and shrubs and reshaping the banks. The vehicles have fallen silent now and all that remains is for the workmen to burn the mountains of vegetation they’ve removed along the route of the stream. The bonfires have been happening for days and will probably continue for a while. Although they aren’t particularly close to our finca, our black car is dotted with ash particles – but it makes no sense to clean it yet.

Any excuse for a BBQ

Tomorrow evening the aroma of smoke will also hang over Manacor, our nearest town – but it won’t have wafted from our valley. The 16th of January is the eve of Sant Antoni and it’s traditional for fires to blaze in the streets during this much-loved fiesta. Tomorrow, butcher’s shops and supermarkets will do a roaring trade in Mallorcan sausages and pancetta, to be cooked alfresco over the roaring flames of the fires dotted all around town. And maybe also in our rural valley. Pass the BBQ sauce…

Jan Edwards ©2019

What to Do with Surplus Home-grown Produce

Beetroot ready to use

Sadly these didn’t come from our finca garden

After we’d bought our finca in rural Mallorca I had dreams of creating a vegetable garden, once we had set up home here. I would pluck sweet cherry tomatoes from their vines, unearth golf-ball-sized new potatoes, and harvest plump peppers for my culinary creations. Alas, it was not to be: the shallow layer of soil on our land disguises a foundation of rock – unsuitable conditions for a budding veg gardener.

I did once try to grow potatoes here. The several plants looked healthy enough above the ground, but when we eagerly dug up our spud bounty, it amounted to just five potatoes.

I do know, though, of people whose gardens produce such an abundance of fruit and veg that they can’t possible eat, freeze, or otherwise preserve it all. If they can’t give away the surplus, it goes to waste. Such a pity.

Trade your surplus

Anyone living in Mallorca with surplus home-grown produce this January may be interested to hear about ‘Beetroot Barter’ – taking place in Palma de Mallorca later this month.

‘Beetroot Barter’ is the brainchild of Sylvia Wynans, whose Facebook page Wholesome Living is worth perusing. Even after making a supply of chilli paste, Sylvia had lots of chillis left over and it prompted her to think about the amount of surplus home-grown produce that goes to waste.

Her thoughts led to the idea of a food-trading event, at which backyard ‘farmers’ across Mallorca could swap their surplus produce for someone else’s.  As the idea was formed, Sylvia realised the initiative needed a name and asked her husband for ideas: “The first thing he said was ‘Beetroot Barter’,” she told me. “We love beets!”

She then had to find somewhere to hold the event and turned to British businesswoman Justine Murphy of mymuybueno Deli in Palma de Mallorca – who loved the idea and offered Sylvia her premises as the venue.

Need to know

If you have a glut of home-grown goodies from your garden and would like to be part of the inaugural ‘Beetroot Barter’ (and perhaps help shape future events), here are the details:

Date: Saturday, January 26th

Time:  11:00-13:30h

11:00-12:00h – Allocated for a group discussion to design the guidelines for trading and organising similar events elsewhere (Sylvia would love to see this initiative spread to towns and villages around Mallorca – and indeed beyond our island). Anyone with food-retail, marketing, or other relevant experience, is welcome to join the discussion.

12:00-13:30h – Trading time. Swap your oranges for apples, your eggs for home-made jam, or simply donate your surplus produce for the benefit of others.

Venue:

Food at mymuybueno Deli

mymuybueno Deli

mybuybueno Deli* in Palma de Mallorca. Located in the centre of the city (on the first floor of the building opposite the main Correos or post office), the Deli is a very short walk from the Antoni Maura underground public car park.

*address is C/ Tous i Maroto 5B.

The event is free to enter, but you are asked to spend 8€ in the Deli (which serves delicious food that’s all made there and is free of lactose, gluten, and refined sugar).

Take your own shopping basket or boxes: no single-use plastic will be available for packing.

For more information, see the Beetroot Barter page on Facebook.

Hear Sylvia talking about this initiative on Saturday 12th January on Table Talk on Mallorca Sunshine Radio 106.1FM or streamed online at the station’s .com

 

Jan Edwards©2019

Merry Christmas from Our Casa to Yours

 

Wherever you are, however you celebrate (or not) this time of year, The Boss and I hope that this festive period for you will be blessed with the company of loved ones, delicious food and drink, happiness, and peace. And, in case you’re wondering, Mallorca does not have any snow at the moment…

Merry Christmas!

Jan Edwards ©2018

A Menu of Mallorcan Food Memories

Sobrasada in the supermarket

The ubiquitous sobrasada

Before we moved to rural Mallorca in April 2004, we tended to eat in the hotels where we stayed for holidays here. The cuisine would have been international, rather than Mallorcan, and I didn’t eat like a local until the day we began our lives here as expats.

Our plane touched down in Palma de Mallorca around lunchtime the day that we arrived and we headed straight to Manacor, to try a restaurant recommended as “fantastic value” by a British couple we’d met. In this establishment we would eat a three-course lunch – with wine – for five euros. Five euros! We might have paid the equivalent for two packets of gourmet crisps in a gastro pub back in Oxfordshire. It did, indeed, sound like a bargain and this proved to be the eatery’s real appeal.

Sensory overload hit us as soon as we entered the restaurant. The large dining room was packed with people and the buzz of conversation made me think of worker bees in a hive. Waiters bearing plates aloft weaved between the tables and the customers zoning in on the dessert buffet table. Unfamiliar aromas wafted from the kitchen whenever the door swung open.

A flustered waitress showed us to one of the few vacant tables, where we studied the short menú del día and made our choices before settling back to take in our surroundings. The ambience was different from anywhere we’d eaten out in Oxfordshire, but we had little time to make comparisons: the starters we’d chosen arrived on our table only minutes after the order went through to the kitchen.

For our main course, we ate roast suckling pig – a traditional Mallorcan dish that features on numerous restaurant menus. When expertly cooked, the meat melts in the mouth – and the crackling…well, it crackles in a most satisfying manner.

The quality of any dish depends, of course, on the ingredients used and this is related to the price paid. Having paid very little for our three-course lunch, we were not too surprised by the standard of food we ate that day. Suffice to say that we never went back to this place – which closed its doors a few years later.

The Mediterranean Diet according to Mallorca

One of my first impressions of Mallorcan cuisine was that it was as far removed from the much-lauded Mediterranean diet as Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quatr’ Saisons in Oxfordshire was from the above-mentioned eatery.

I could see that olive oil, olives, and tomatoes were healthy local ingredients common to both the traditional Mediterranean and the Mallorcan diets. Combined with the local rustic bread, these ingredients become the popular snack dish pa amb oli (‘bread and oil’). As fast foods go, pa amb oli ticks a few boxes for healthy eating.

But the amount of pork and piggy-derived products in the local diet surprised me. Roast suckling pig is only one example. That ubiquitous Mallorcan coiled sweet pastry known as the ensaïmada? See it being made and you discover that lard is an important ingredient.

Freshly baked ensaimada – a Mallorcan sweet treat (although laced with lard)

Then there’s sobrasada – the cured paprika-flavoured pork sausage that is almost a staple of the Mallorcan diet (and sometimes even makes an appearance in an ensaïmada!). The most common way to eat sobrasada is to spread it thickly on a slice of rustic bread. It would be some months before I discovered that this emblematic Mallorcan product – which has protected geographic status – adds a delicious note when cooked and used in gourmet cuisine.

The role of the pig in the Mallorcan diet became even more evident when we found a good local butcher’s shop, where one counter displayed an array of embotits – cured meats and sausages – all originating from the porker from Mallorca. Pork, lamb, and chicken were pretty much the only options on the fresh meat counter and all had been reared on the island. A neighbour in our valley owned a pig farm and a wagon would pass our house almost daily, taking another batch of squealing piglets to their doom.

Pride in Mallorcan produce

I soon became aware of the importance of the fresh-produce market to Mallorcan shoppers. In Manacor, we often had to dodge the wayward wheels of Rolser shopping trolleys, as we strolled around the stalls admiring the colourful displays of seasonal produce.

Market stall fruit and veg

Seasonal Mallorcan produce on a market stall in November

Early experiences of fruit-and-veg buying at our local market taught me that Mallorcans are rightly proud of their island’s rich bounty of produce. It was a revelation to see shoppers asking stallholders where this fruit or that vegetable had come from before they bought. Not Mallorca? Then the shopper would be unlikely to add it to their straw basket or pull-along shopping trolley.

We have always bought most of our fresh fruit and veg from a family-run greengrocer’s in Manacor’s market square. When we moved here, the shop’s operation was overseen by the elderly matriarch – a tiny but feisty lady in her eighties, with a wicked sense of humour. Her main role in life seemed to be keeping an eye on me to make sure I didn’t commit the sin of buying fruit and vegetables that weren’t cultivated on Mallorca; I needed whipping into Mallorcan-shopper shape. If my gaze lingered too long on plump peppers from the Peninsula, she would shake her head and wag her finger at me, before guiding me by the elbow to the peppers from her beloved island.

The Mallorcans’ loyalty also extends to eating traditional dishes. They may have frito mallorquín or sopes mallorquines at home, but these classics are also some of the most popular choices on traditional Mallorcan restaurant menus.

Variety may not be the spice of life

In our first few months here, Mallorcan neighbours invited us to their home for a buffet supper for a fiesta, adding that guests usually contributed an ensaïmada for the dessert table. Thinking that my fellow guests would appreciate a bit of variety, I made and took a tarte tatin. Though I say so myself, it looked irresistible – but not as irresistible to the locals as the seven Mallorcan ensaïmadas also on offer.

Whether eating out or shopping for food, doing it like a local gives an authentic taste of Mallorca.

This article originally appeared in the supplement Eat Majorca, published for last month’s World Travel Market in London, by the Majorca Daily Bulletin on behalf of the Council of Mallorca.

©Jan Edwards 2018