“Would you and Rich be interested in going on the test run for a new food tour a friend of mine is starting here in Seville?” an expat pal asked me a few years ago.
Tough work, but somebody has to do it!
“If it’ll help,” I replied graciously, thinking Hot damn! This is gonna be good.
And it was. Rich and I met up with Lauren Aloise and a small group of fellow volunteers to spend three hours strolling through the city’s back streets, nibbling and sipping along the way.
We had fabulous food and a marvelous time. If I had a complaint at all, it was that I was so stuffed by the end of the tour that I couldn’t do justice to the final round of tapas. Since then, Lauren and I have kept in touch, and I thought her story would be fun to share here, as an example of how one American woman built a new life for herself in Spain.
What drew you to Spain?
I spent my junior year of college between Granada and Buenos Aires, and loved both. That said, I saw very little of Spain and left with a very basic understanding of the culture and cuisine. Despite living with a host family, my experience only just skimmed the surface. I was focused on bettering my Spanish (and enjoying Granada's amazing nightlife!) and my host mother was a terrible cook. I left Spain thinking that Spaniards didn't eat meat (I only had it once while there!). I never planned to return to live here, but I studied Spanish as a second major, and at the end of my last semester, my professor recommended the Auxiliar de Conversación program [training to work as an English language assistant in Spain]. At the same time, my boss at a restaurant I was working at kept urging me to spend time in Spain to learn all I could about Spanish food and wine — he was convinced it would be the next big thing and that it would give me a leg up in the hospitality industry when I returned. So I applied for the program and packed my suitcases!
You had no intention of moving to Spain permanently?
That's right, I came with the intention of spending a year or two in Europe to learn about different cuisines. But I met my husband within a couple weeks of arriving, and that caused me to stay in Seville. I met his parents pretty early on in the relationship and really bonded with his mother over food. She taught me that simplicity is key, that Spanish home cooks never measure, and shared her best recipes with me. I also learned patience (Spanish classics aren't complicated, but often cook over many hours) and to make the most of a small kitchen (hers is tiny -- and so is mine!).
What inspired you to start your food and travel blog, Spanish Sabores?
I was a part-time English language assistant and gave private English lessons, but I fiercely missed the hospitality industry I'd always been a part of. Since I couldn't work legally, I decided to start writing about food and travel on the web. I had a couple of blog failures before starting Spanish Sabores! But I've always loved writing, so blogging came easily, and I also loved the challenge of learning about everything else involved — from web design, to SEO, to photo editing.
How did that lead to launching Devour Tours?
After I got married I knew I needed to get back into my career in hospitality and tourism — but we were in the middle of a recession, and jobs were few and far between. My husband and I decided to take a chance and move to Madrid, so we bought a bus ticket and left on an adventure. He started a company right away, offering software services for renewable energy facilities. I started freelance writing about food and travel, and gave cooking classes. One day I found an ad for a food tour in France and thought it sounded perfect. Food tours combine amazing food, local history and culture, and support for small businesses — what's not to love? I could step away from the computer and actually show people the types of things I was already writing about. So I just dove in and created a website and a few experiences. Today Devour Tours is in six cities: Seville, Granada, Malaga, San Sebastian, Barcelona, and Madrid.
Our mission is to connect curious travelers with local food and communities in a way that helps culture thrive. We'd love to take our mission beyond Spain to other incredible food destinations. In the age of huge chains and the "hipsterization" of traditional neighborhoods, the places that make our cities unique are disappearing. I hope to be a small part of telling those stories and helping them survive.
What do you love most about Spanish food?
We keep it simple in Spain. We take an incredible ingredient and do as little as possible to it. Maybe a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, or perhaps just a few flakes of sea salt. It's very much a quality-focused food culture.
Could you share a recipe with my readers?
One of my favorites is my mother-in-law’s recipe for salmorejo, a cold soup that's gazpacho’s thicker, creamier cousin. See recipe and video.
What advice would you give Americans who are coming to Spain for the first time?
I would recommend going slow, mixing big cities with some smaller villages, and coming back again and again. As for the food, be open minded and take a look at what the locals are eating before ordering. Don't expect lots of seasoning and sauces — enjoy the taste of the ingredients! And to kick everything off on the right foot, take a food tour! It'll set you up with context and tips for the rest of your trip.
Have you been on a memorable food tour — anywhere in the world? I'm always thinking ahead to future trips, and would love to hear suggestions in the comments below.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
11/2/2018 12:06:56 pm
Congratulations Karen. I like your post very much.
11/2/2018 07:11:58 pm
Thanks, Isabel. So happy you like the post. And yes, I enjoyed the movie too, especially the scene where Julia Roberts is eating spaghetti. Wonderful to watch.
11/3/2018 04:09:40 pm
Fun blog...I pray to live abroad in my next life! I love, love, love “Eat, Pray, Love”, thé book more so than the movie which I, i thought, didn’t do it justice.
11/4/2018 03:52:42 am
PS: thanks for salmorejo recipe! Can’t wait to try it and am wondering if it is equally good hot as I always eat my soup hot! I, too, prefer simple foods to fancy or gourmet foods, as it is often healthier, and I can actually taste what it is I am eating! And involves less work and cooking time!
11/4/2018 07:29:58 am
I love beignets, which I discovered at Cafe du Monde as a young bride and thought were magical. Thanks for reviving that sweet memory, Faye! Churros are much like them but crispier and thinner, and while often eaten for breakfast are also a local favorite when walking home after a very late night on the town; there are stands selling them at all hours. As for the salmorejo, in her recipe Lauren mentions that she'd been given some to take home and had planned to heat it up as she hated cold soups ... but one taste convinced her it was perfect as it was. If you do try heating it, I'd love to know what you think!
11/7/2018 11:12:10 pm
I used this website when in Seville along with yours. Lots of fun information. I just made paella Friday night and next on my list is Salmorejo. I love cold soups.
11/8/2018 09:07:20 am
You're so right, Kitty; Lauren's blog and Devour Tours website have great info on Spanish cuisine, and their recipes are terrific. You'll love salmorejo, one of my favorites. On a hot day there's nothing better that this creamy cold soup. I love it in winter as well, as a prelude to the rich Spanish stews. Enjoy! Let me know how you like it!
11/12/2018 01:26:33 am
Karen, as I sit here this Sunday evening, watching the news about the terrible wildfires in California, I can’t help but think of you and Rich and wonder if you guys are okay. I remember your earlier blog about being prepared for disasters and know how saavy you two are. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are for your and everyone else’s safety, as well as for an end to these terrible fires.
11/12/2018 07:34:14 am
Your thoughts and prayers are most welcome, Faye. It's very scary to think of yet more wildfires rampaging around California. Thankfully, Rich and I aren't personally in danger; the latest fires are far north of our home, and we are currently in Spain. But the constant threat of fire is frightening for all who live (even part time) in California, and the loss of the town of Paradise, where relatives of mine once lived, is tragic. Like you, my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected. And I can only hope the state gets some rain soon to reduce the danger of yet more fires.
11/12/2018 07:02:23 pm
So happy to hear all is well with you! Had thought you may have been in Spain, but then thought perhaps you had come in for thanksgiving. Yes, loss of town of Paradise is unimaginable and horrific! Just heard winds are down but rain not expected until next week.
Leave a Reply.
Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
#1 Amazon Bestseller in Tourist Destinations, Travel Tips, Gastronomy Essays, and Senior Travel
This blog is a promotion-free zone.
As my regular readers know, I never get free or discounted goods or services for mentioning anything on this blog (or anywhere else). I only write about things that interest me and that I believe might prove useful for you all to know about. Whew! I wanted to clear that up before we went any further. Thanks for listening.
TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
Don't miss out!
SIGN UP HERE
to be notified when I publish new posts.