Guest Post: Mario

Please welcome my second-ever guest poster, the one and only Mario. You all know about him, so there’s no need to say that much about him. I’ll let him speak for himself for once!

Kaley asked me many weeks ago to write a guest post for her blog. I don’t usually procrastinate, but somehow many weeks passed and I still hadn’t been able to find a topic that would be interesting enough for those who read her blog. I knew for sure that my topic choice would be about the USA. But what could I say about it? I know that NYC or LA are a big thing for Spaniards (Europeans in general, I would say) who want to visit the States, and I’m pretty sure there are a bazillion blogs praising the magnificent skyscrapers in Chicago or how cool San Francisco can be or how intercultural NYC is.

Suddenly, as I was watching Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, I had a light-bulb moment. In the movie, Colonel Rufus J. Plummer (Millard Mitchell) mentions he comes from Indiana. That reminded me that in North by Northwest the famous plane attack against Cary Grant is on a road between Chicago and Indianapolis (although it seems to be a movie mistake), and I started to remember all the movies and TV series in which Indiana is mentioned: one of the soldiers in Band of Brothers comes from Kokomo (Floyd Talbert); the Notre Dame football team is mentioned in The Simpsons. In another category would be films about Indiana, where Hoosiers ranks number one. The name Lew Wallace probably says little to you. Maybe the film Ben-Hur sounds more familiar. Before the film, there was a book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, whose author, Lew Wallace, wrote part of his famous work in Crawfordsville, which happens to be in … Indiana!

Let’s face it: a European is very unlikely to cross the pond to visit Indiana, unless you are a talent scout from a basketball team and you want to find some exceptionally good players in Indiana University (Florentino, Cody Zellermust be signed by Real as soon as he graduates). You would also visit Indiana if you were my father who has always wanted to see the vast fields of crops he has seen in documentaries.

You know what? It’s a pity a European would never visit Indiana. These are my five reasons why foreigners should visit Indiana:

1. People are very nice.Okay, my view might be a bit biased, since Kaley’s family is super nice to me. Helpful people will open their hearts to you. Whenever I’ve been there, Kaley’s parents have always scheduled all kind of activities so that I could have the best taste of Indiana: Spring Mill State Park, Indianapolis Zoo, a good rib-eye steak, tailgating …. Her dad, a great sports fan, has taken me to a Cubs’ game and Indiana University basketball and football games. I had never owned the Spanish national soccer team jersey, but when Spain won their first World Cup in 2010, they gave it to me, and I will proudly wear it this year to support Spain in the Euro Cup. He also got me a Miami Dolphins’ jersey!


2. Nature. Not the scientific journal, but the green stuff. You can find it in two forms: wild and farmed. I love hiking and nature, and I think it’s a pity we don’t have more places where you can go hiking. In Indiana, in a two-hour drive you can be in a park. I have been to Brown County and Spring Mill State Parks (I was so excited to see a raccoon), but there are twenty-six more state parks remaining to be visited; there are fifteen state forests, one national forest, etc. Visit Indiana and you can enjoy them! (I sound like Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation). Indiana, with its large extensions of crops (mainly corn and soybeans), is located within the US Corn and Grain Belts. An interesting visit would be to drive in the countryside and stop to enjoy the traditional red-painted wooden barns. Last summer I visited the farm owned by the Kaley’s brother’s fiancée’s father. Man, it was huge!


3. Good food.My brother and some friends recently returned from a trip to NYC. They all are on cloud nine but agree that the food could have been much better. American food tends to be tagged as “unhealthy” or simply “not good.” I disagree. My point is that it takes all sorts and that you have to find the right place and know what to order. When I was there and had lunch or dinner out, I only at fast food twice: once at Pizza Hut and once at Buffalo Wild Wings. I’ve been to many other restaurants, and the food has been good. I have to admit I like meat, and whenever I had the chance I ordered a burger. I was never disappointed, whereas in Spain if you order a burger, the outcome is unexpected. I can’t remember the name of that restaurant we stopped on our way back home on Black Friday, but I clearly remember telling the waiter that the burger was supreme. I still salivate thinking about the rib-eye steak at the Steak House in Covington. I have had good Mexican and Italian food. We went to a restaurant in the Amish area, and it was delicious. I have never had heartburn because of the food, and I didn’t gain weight (and—believe me—I eat a lot). Plus, in Kaley’s family there are great cooks, so when we had lunch or dinner at home, I could enjoy great meals. I was there for Thanksgiving, and I was happy because everything was delicious: the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce made from scratch. And, of course, the desserts—especially cookies. It’s true that you don’t usually find lentils or chickpeas in restaurants, but it’s not that they just have meat on the menu; they do have veggies, and they usually serve a salad as a side order.


4. WYSIWYWIF: What You See Is What You Watch In Films.This particular reason applies to all states. People in films usually live in houses with a front and/or backyard; you find that here. Yellow school buses? Check. High schools with these amazing gyms that you can’t imagine in a Spanish high school? Check. Enormous SUVs and trucks? Check. Huge Wal-Mart with long aisles with thousands of different types of cereal? Cheeeeeeeeck. A farmer wearing dungarees and a John Deere hat? Check. Amish people riding in their buggies? Check. A huge green campus? Check. A bake sale? Check. Tailgating? Check.


5. Basketball. Do you like basketball? If you are a fan of hoops, Indiana is a must—the basketball state par excellence. But forget the NBA. In the States there exists something better: college basketball. Some college kids do the required “one-and-done” to jump into the pro league. Indiana University’s philosophy is quite different: basketball players graduate, so along with their basketball experience they have a diploma, which comes handy in case you get injured and can’t keep playing basketball. Thanks to Tom Crean, the current coach, who is forging a very competitive Cream and Crimson team, Indiana basketball is back. This year they made it to The Sweet Sixteen. Next year? My bet is that they will be in the Final Four.


Visit Indiana and remember: it’s Indiana!

My First Thanksgiving

This was not, actually, my first Thanksgiving. It was, however, my first Thanksgiving in which:

  • I was in charge of all the dishes
  • I was cooking in Mario’s mother’s kitchen
  • I was the resident American expert
  • I got very stressed out

Thanksgivings past involved much less stress and much more Cool Whip. The Wednesday before was the baking day. Up to our elbows in flour, butter, and sugar, we’d bake into the night, pie after pie emerging from our poor, overworked oven, the smell of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg filling our house. My mother always made too many pies, more than even our large extended family could eat in one day. Her staples were pumpkin and pecan. And oh, the crescent rolls, we mustn’t forget those buttery, crispy pastries, the ones that could only be improved by, yes, more butter.

This Thanksgving started unceremoniously with 95% alcohol, a match, and a dead female turkey.

No big deal.

As was explained to me, this is to 1) clean the bird and 2) remove any feathers that might still be lurking. As one who is currently opposed to the ingestion of any and all feathers, I was all for it. Plus, it involved fire in a small Spanish kitchen!

The next four hours involved lots and lots of chopping, weighing, and conversions from English measurements to metric. How much is 6 tablespoons of butter? As Paula Deen would say, NOT ENOUGH. Add more delicious butter, lick it off the knife or your fingers, and again add some more. Butter should never feel superfluous. Not in my kitchen. Not in yours. I only had one small breakdown when Mario’s mother questioned me rapidfire in Spanish until I no longer knew how to say my own name. (I exaggerate.) I was trying to say “Bring it to a boil, lower the heat, and let it simmer.” I knew boil and I knew heat, but I couldn’t say “Bring it to a boil.” Now I know and I will surely never forget it. Ingrained is the word I’m looking for here.

Finally, it was time to eat. Mario’s brother Victor had spent some time designing a menu, which was completely adorable. Unfortunately, he asked me to revise it in the midst of the midmorning madness and I must admit I skimmed it. Thus, we ended up with parsil instead of parsley and pumpkin cake instead of pumpkin pie. Oh well, close enough.

My favorite part includes croutons in quotations because there is no word for it here, smashed potatoes, and the fact that both “piña troceada” and “surtido de dulces variados” mean “sliced pineapple.” Obviously, Victor knows better than that; it was just an error. We mustn’t forget the wines and various liquers either. Victor brought a cognac that Mario invited me to smell in order to clear out my sinus cavity. No thanks.

Turkey resting in the oven

Finished product. I am happy.

The dinner was a success. The two biggest winner were the stuffing and the maple glazed carrots. (I didn’t add the orange juice to the carrots.) Also, the “cranberry sauce” (actually made with raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries) was a hit.

María José, Mario’s cousin and godmother, made a pumpkin pie. Actually, she used butternut squash, but, as I’ve informed my mother and Aunt Diane, Libby’s pumpkin is actually a variety of butternut squash (I know. Totes scandalous!), so it was pretty much the real deal. Too bad I’m not pumpkin pie’s biggest fan, but it was very good!

At the end of the day, I was quite happy with how it all turned out. María José kept asking for the stuffing recipe, and I think they’ll eat it at Christmas time, too. The turkey was good and not dry. Good conversation was had, even if their style of discussion seems like a heated argument to me.

After they had all left, Mario and I went out running, which turned out to be just what I needed. However, when Mario’s mother found out, she reprimanded me, telling me I should’ve just taken a nap, there was no need to go out running, you crazy girl. Oh well, you win some, you lose some, right?!