A Very Spanish Day at UC Berkeley

On Wednesday, April 24th we had the opportunity to live a very Spanish day in Berkeley, 12,000 km away from my home in Spain. (For Spanish speakers, I have included a translation of this article en español below.)

The day began with a very special activity suggested by Paulina, another a Program Assistant in the International House Program Office. She organized an activity with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, for which we cooked over 100 servings of paella in a homeless shelter. It was a beautiful experience, and also very special for me because we used my family’s paella recipe. Even though I have seen paella being made every Sunday for as long as I can remember, neither I nor the rest of our team (who were from many countries such as Nepal, Germany, USA, and Italy) had ever cooked paella in our lives.

We practiced making paella twice the previous week to get some experience and it was not easy. For instance, on our first attempt, we did not have a pan big enough and we put too much water, which ended up in some flooding. However, the result was better than expected, and many residents and friends enjoyed our paella that day.

On the day of the homeless shelter event, we were nervous because we had only two hours to cook the biggest quantity of paella we had ever made. But our teamwork and organization worked out really well! We cut all the chicken and vegetables while the oil was heated in two large square pans. We cooked around 70 cups of rice and used a large number of green beans, bell peppers, and artichokes. We made sure there was also a vegetarian option without chicken. After adding the water, the saffron, a lot of lemons, and the parsley, we just needed to patiently wait for the final result.

Luckily, everything worked out and we had a great paella! Everyone really enjoyed it, so it was very satisfying. Paulina will also work next year at I-House to make sure that this community service activity is continued featuring food from many different cultures!

Spanish Coffee Hour

After this paella feast, we took some of the leftovers back to I-House, where we would serve it later at the Spanish Coffee Hour! Many residents and the Spanish natives were very excited about this event. Some of the Spanish residents spent the afternoon cooking a delicious tortilla de patatas (Potato omelet), which we served it with croquetas (fried bechamel), jamón (ham), queso manchego (Spanish Manchego cheese, García Baquero, which we found in Safeway), sobrasada (Majorcan sausage), hot chocolate and the paella. All the food was sponsored by the International House Program Office!

Our Spanish playlist was also one of the highlights of the night, with hits by Las Ketchup, Los del Río, David Bisbal, Rosalía, La Pegatina, María Isabel, and many others! It was really fun to share our culture with other residents.

The Spanish Coffee Hour coincided with Festival of Sant Jordi, a holiday in Catalonia and Aragon that is always celebrated with an exchange of roses for books. The Catalan residents followed the tradition by giving red roses (which were sponsored by the Resident Council) to I-House residents.  Some of the residents also donated books which we distributed to a local charity in the Bay Area.

We worked really hard to organize this day but it was well worth it (valió la pena)! Without any doubt, it was a beautiful evening that made us feel a little bit closer to home.

And for our readers, how about you? Have you ever organized a Coffee Hour during your stay in I-House? What are your best memories of them? We await your comments below!


Spanish Version:

El miércoles 24 de marzo de 2019 tuvimos la oportunidad de vivir un día muy español en Berkeley, a 12,000 kilómetros de casa.

El día empezó con una actividad muy especial sugerida por Paulina, que también trabaja como Program Assistant en la International House Program Office. Tuvo la idea de organizar una actividad colaborando con la organización Berkeley Food and Housing Project, en la que cocinamos más de 100 raciones de paella en un centro para personas sin hogar. Fue una experiencia muy bonita, y también personalmente especial porque usamos la receta de mi familia. Sin embargo, aún habiendo visto como se cocina la paella cada domingo desde que tengo uso de razón, ni yo ni el resto del grupo (que éramos de países tan variados como Nepal, Estados Unidos, Italia y Alemania) habíamos cocinado este plato en nuestra vida.

Para no ir sin practicar, cocinamos en varias ocasiones la semana anterior, pero no sin complicaciones. Por ejemplo, aunque el resultado le encantó a todos los que lo probaron, tuvimos problemas con la cantidad de agua que cabía en la sartén.

El día del evento estábamos bastante nerviosos porque sólo teníamos dos horas para cocinar las cantidades más grandes de paella que habíamos cocinado en nuestra vida. Sin embargo, nuestro trabajo en equipo y nuestra organización dieron sus frutos. Comenzamos cortando el pollo y las verduras mientras calentábamos el aceite en dos “sartenes” cuadradas gigantes. También contamos unos 70 vasos de arroz y usamos una gran cantidad de alubias verdes, pimiento y alcachofas. Además, hicimos una opción vegetariana sin el pollo. Después de añadir el agua, azafrán, muchos limones (a la manera murciana) y perejil, sólo nos quedaba esperar al resultado final.

Por suerte, todo funcionó y nos salió una paella muy rica. Fue muy satisfactorio, y el año que viene, Paulina seguirá trabajando para asegurarse de que esta actividad se sigue haciendo con comida de todo el mundo.

Después de este festín, llevamos las sobras de vuelta a I-House para servirlas en la Spanish Coffee Hour. Por la tarde, varios españoles cocinaron tortilla de patatas, que servimos con croquetas, jamón, queso manchego García Baquero que nos hizo mucha ilusión encontrar en Safeway, sobrasada, chocolate caliente y la paella. Toda la comida la pudimos comprar con ayuda de la Program Office, que ofrece una cantidad de dinero para este tipo de eventos. La música fue de lo mejor de la noche, con éxitos de Las Ketchup, Los del Río, David Bisbal, Rosalía, La Pegatina, María Isabel, y muchos otros.

La Coffee Hour también coincidió en el tiempo un día tras Sant Jordi, un día festivo en Cataluña y Aragón. Esta festividad siempre se celebra con un intercambio de rosas por libros. Así, los residentes catalanes en I-House tuvieron la iniciativa de ofrecer rosas a todo quien quisiera (con la ayuda del Resident Council), siguiendo la tradición. Algunos residentes también donaron libros, que distribuimos a una ONG local de la Bahía de San Francisco.

Al final del día, todo el trabajo duro había valido la pena. Sin duda, fue una tarde muy bonita que nos hizo sentir algo más cerca de casa.

Y para nuestros lectores, ¿qué pensáis? ¿Alguna vez habéis organizado una Coffee Hour durante vuestro tiempo en I-House? ¿Cuáles son vuestros mejores recuerdos de ellas? ¡Esperamos vuestros comentarios!

About Juan Antonio Pérez

Juan Antonio Pérez (Juanan) is a 3rd-year undergraduate exchange student majoring in Global Studies. He loves music, especially playing piano and guitar. His hobbies include hiking, traveling, and learning about different cultures. He is currently working in the International House Program Office as a Program Assistant, and he is very excited to start working this Spring semester as a Social Media Ambassador.
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2 Responses to A Very Spanish Day at UC Berkeley

  1. Reblogged this on The Camino Provides and commented:

    Happy Friday! I’m pleased to share a guest post by a young man from Murcia who lives at International House. Juan Antonio Perez Lopez, or “Juanan” for short, shares his experience cooking paella for a homeless shelter, followed by a celebration of Spanish culture back home at I-House. I’ll try to get his family paella recipe before he moves back to Spain. There’s a translation in Spanish at the end of the English version. Enjoy!
    Laurie

  2. Pingback: 10 Things to Know Before Coming to International House at UC Berkeley | I-House: Where UC Berkeley Meets the World

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