July 2017--Spain, Italy and so much (too much) more

 L'Ametlla de Mar, where my father-in-law lives. Photo by me.

L'Ametlla de Mar, where my father-in-law lives. Photo by me.

I think I said I'd update throughout my month in Europe. Well, I have a day left and it looks like I haven't updated even a little bit. I was lucky to come into a lot of contracted work (rather than work I beg--errrm, I mean pitch for), which kept me busy and paid. Are you subscribed to my newsletter? That's another way to get updates on what I'm eating and where I'm going. Tinyletter.com/JackieBryant

 Park Guell at dawn. Photo by me.

Park Guell at dawn. Photo by me.

Anyway, its been a truly transformative month across the pond. Spending time with my husband in his home city of Barcelona is always more food for thought than I can handle--why do we live where we do? What happens when/if we have kids? Where do we feel most successful, rooted, comfortable, happy, alive? The truth is, Barcelona is home for us. So is New York. And we live in San Diego, where both of our careers are blossoming. I think we are where we need to be for awhile, but it makes us think about the future.

While things are very economically hard in Spain right now, and have been...and will continue to be...there is a lifestyle imperative that I think is almost impossible to replicate in the United States. People are a lot more laid back, and not in a selfish, flaky way. Our friends and family there are mainly concerned with getting what they need, possibly because they don't have a choice, but are not obsessed with appearances, status or "getting ahead" like many people we know in the States are (of course, I'm guilty of this. I spent 8 years in a career I hated for a paycheck and that industry's perceived prestige). Children are raised without the feverish obsession seen in America that robs parents of their identity and their children of their ability to function as reasonable adults. Everyone seems to have what they need and they definitely don't have to worry about healthcare. We feel engaged, creative and deeply connected while there.

That said, wages are far, far lower. Their political system is corrupt and a powder keg. Things there manage to be provincial while being cosmopolitan at the same time. Stuff just...doesn't work sometimes and all you can really do is shrug--I will say that my patience increases tenfold while in Barcelona, but I have my shameful moments of, "this wouldn't happen in the United States!" Convenience, in anything, is generally at a minimum compared to the way we've designed our lives and societies in the United States (public transportation being an exception). Getting paid to write in the United States is hard enough--the media industry in Spain is far more broke and less robust, and I'd have to rely on international work if I lived there. I don't know that Toni could make good use of his PhD and be paid anything but a bullshit wage. Like everything, there's a give and take. For now, we are doing the best we can to build our lives so that we can spend ample time both in Spain and New York with our families and friends.

 A ripollese sheep at Mas Marce in Siruana, Spain. I'll be writing a story about this little guy for Life & Thyme.

A ripollese sheep at Mas Marce in Siruana, Spain. I'll be writing a story about this little guy for Life & Thyme.

I relished the opportunity to dig into a culture I love and feel so connected to. I think it's my age, but it's not far from my mind that if I have kids, they'll actually, legitimately be Catalan, so that must count for something. Ever since I started writing professionally and seriously, I have been in and out of work trying to get my freelance career kicked off. Because of that, my husband's demanding work schedule and our distance from Europe, we haven't really been able to visit Barcelona while I've been a writer, until now. So, I took the opportunity to start developing stories and relationships in the region--like with Albert Adria, who I was able to interview, or with natural winemakers and organic cheesemakers. I am looking forward to more and will be writing a few stories based off of this trip in the coming months.

 Me interviewing Albert Adria. Photo by Sebastian Gomez: http://www.luzgrabados.com/

Me interviewing Albert Adria. Photo by Sebastian Gomez: http://www.luzgrabados.com/

The second half of my month here was dedicated to Salt & Wind and our growing trip offerings in Barcelona and the Costa Brava, which will launch next spring, and Milan and the Lakes, which will launch this fall, in addition to more Baja trips. It was a grueling schedule but we got impressive research done and I feel intensely confident that the experience we offer is second-to-none. In Barcelona, for example, we were able to leverage my relationships in the area but also brought on some big guns, like Lucy Garcia, who is Anthony Bourdain's on-camera fixer for all of his Spain shows. In Milan, we built on Aida's extensive expertise in the region and connected with Sara Porro, a prominent food writer who has done a lot of work with Joe Bastianich. In particular, it was great to learn more about the lesser-known sparkling wine region of Franciacorta, just outside of Milan. I haven't been able to drink anything else (except Campari, of course) since I started drinking Franciacorta.

 Franciacorta vines. Photo by me.

Franciacorta vines. Photo by me.

I have had a bit published since I left, too:

At KCET: a profile on the Bruno family of Di Stefano Cheese, who brought burrata to the United States. This was for their recent EMMY-winning Migrant Kitchen series and was a joy to research as an American with Italian heritage, myself. This was one of my favorite stories I've recently written. 

At Salt & Wind: my guide to doing a Frankfurt layover the right way. It's a necessary evil to change planes there for many flying in from the United States. The truth is, it's a pretty cool city with good food that's exceptionally easy to get around. I strongly recommend it for an extra day and an extra country to add to the itinerary.

At Eater San Diego: a pizza map, a burger map, a brunch map, where to eat in OB and a Comic-Con map (an event I thankfully missed)

At San Diego Magazine: a road trip through the Oregon forest and the coast. One of the most beautiful and delicious drives I've ever taken. Published in the July issue and recently reproduced online.

At Modern Luxury San Diego: San Diego's 10 most exciting restaurants right now. My byline was't attributed for the section as the larger feature had a number of contributors, but I wrote this entire section as well as most of the others in the feature.

At Ranch & Coast: A profile on the Hardage family and their charity, Vision of Children, which is close to finding a cure for ocular albinism and therefore many other genetic disorders. This was a story I was shocked to learn about--that the potential cure for, say Alzheimer's, is right in San Diego's backyard.

And, for fun, here are some roasted pig nipples I ate at Dos Pebrots in Barcelona. They were fine. Gelatinous and intensely porky. I don't know that I ever need to eat it again, but I'm glad I tried it.