28. Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools
by Victoria Twead
fifth book for the Dewey Decimal Challenge 2012
seventh book for the Foodies Read 2 Challenge 2012
Nook book 8
There are many forms of bravery, and one of them certainly must be to pull up stakes and move - not just to another house or even another town but to another country. And that's what Vicky and Joe Twead did. They weren't twenty or thirty or forty. They were 50 and 53 when they got the idea to move to Spain. The start of their adventure is a bit similar to the ladies in the fictional book, Enchanted April. They cannot stand the English weather anymore. They want sun instead of rain, blue sky instead of gray.
Only two and a half hours flight from London, guaranteed sunshine, friendly people and jaw-dropping views.
Here are some weather stats about the place where they chose to move.
Average temperature - El Hoyo (°C)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
7 8 11 13 17 25 27 27 22 16 10 7
Average rainfall - El Hoyo (mm)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
39 33 55 43 54 23 35 18 49 107 53 35
She describes El Hoyo thus:
Deep in the fold of the valley, the village houses huddled together, protected on all sides by the ancient slopes. It was just a cluster of houses, most very old, many derelict. Narrow streets separated the rows of houses. In the centre was the square, boasting shade-trees, seats and a fountain. The church was imposing and astonishingly pink.A pink church!
What I loved was that they didn't choose a typical resort community with golf course, and myriad other retirees. They chose what might be called the 'real thing.' A genuine village, filled with Spanish people.
Victoria Twead is one of those wonderful authors who writes just as they must speak. Her words feel like they are spoken rather than written, and that she is sitting across from the reader just telling all these wonderful stories. She is very funny, and she makes situations sound like fun, even though I cannot imagine myself moving into a house that upon first visitation 'smells damp' and is 'so dark, even with the lights on.' There was a crack in the wall from an old earthquake. When they went upstairs, 'the cement steps were cracked and filthy.' The rooms had tiny windows, and there were beds with mildewed mattresses which housed beetles and spiders. Oh yuck, I shuddered. How could they do it? At first, they agree that they wouldn't live there for anything. But they unexpectedly found themselves becoming 'charmed' by the place. Whereas I would have run a mile, they were intrigued. Admittedly, they had bought and restored and sold a number of houses over the years, so they weren't strangers to hard work. But still. Live there?
Heart was fighting with Common Sense. It was a funny thing, but without warning, the house was growing on me. I found my mind churning with ideas for rooms. How to create a kitchen opening onto that walled garden. Perhaps have roof terraces to take in the stunning mountain views.
"Think of the work!" said Common Sense. "The place is a disaster!"If you are like me and can't imagine taking on such a project, particularly in your fifties, do buy this book. Or if you think this is something you might want to do now, or sometime in the future, you'll so enjoy this book. It is pure delight. You will absorb Victoria's enthusiasm and her energy. She makes the reader feel like you too can do this! All things are possible and fun in the world of the Tweads. I loved the book, and have already bought the second one.
"Yes, but imagine how it could be… Imagine being part of this little village. Look at those views…" said Heart.
… Common Sense gave up the fight. It didn't matter about frayed electric cables sticking out of walls like discarded spaghetti. Never mind the heaps of grit like dusty molehills in every room where the walls were forever disintegrating in avalanches.
Yes, I could see past all the decay. I could visualize this place as our home and project for the next five years, maybe longer. My heart hammered.
One of the many treats of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools are the recipes! Each chapter begins with one. It is done very nicely on the ebook. You can click it, read it, and then click to go back to the beginning of the chapter again. Also, the recipes are all listed in the table of contents under Spanish Recipe Index, before the first chapter, so it is very easy for the reader to find them. Here is one I want to try.
Crispy Potatoes in Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 kg. (2 lb) potatoes, peeled, and cut into cm (1 in) cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500 g (1 lb) tomatoes
3 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon tomato puree
Olive oil, for frying
Chopped parsley to garnish
Par-boil the potatoes for 5-10 minutes.
Drain the water.
Let the steam evaporate for a minute or so and then give the pan a good shake. This roughs up the outsides nicely.
Prepare the tomatoes by cutting a cross in the base and plunging them into boiling water for 10-15 seconds.
Plunge into cold water and the skin should peel away easily.
Chop the tomatoes.
Fry the onion until soft.
Add the garlic, paprika, thyme and cayenne pepper, then cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the chopped tomato and puree and cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
During cooking, add the salt and pepper to taste.
If the sauce seems too dry, add a little water.
Meanwhile, re-heat the frying oil and fry the potatoes until golden brown.
This gives them a crisp coating and prevents the sauce from soaking in too much.
They should be beautifully crisp outside and soft and fluffy inside.
To serve, place the potatoes in a serving bowl, then cover with the spicy sauce.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Sure sounds good to me!
Addendum: I should have mentioned that I first heard of the book here at Debbie's blog, ExUrbanis.
Addendum 2: In case you didn't see her comment, Victoria Twead now has her pictures on Pinterest:
Actually, the comments here have spurred me on to do something I've been meaning to do for ages. I've now made a Pinterest display board of all the pictures, and a few extras, that appear in 'Chickens' for readers who'd like to see the photos in colour.Click here.
Here is Victoria telling a bit about her book.