So finally worked up the courage to reach out to Annie from Gambas and Grits, one of my favorite Spain-centric blogs on the web. What makes Gambas and Grits so great? Well, for one thing, it’s about delicious Spanish food. For another, Annie’s a pretty kick ass cook and champion of doing what it takes to be happy. And doing it well. Read on to learn more about this Texas gal turned Spanish culinary master.
Hi Annie! Thanks so much for joining us here at My Spanish Lovers. For those who don’t know, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure thing! I am from Texas (yeehaw!) and had been practicing banking and finance law for several years. My then-boyfriend Sergio and I were both tired of our routines and looking for an adventure. We had an opportunity to manage a B&B in southern France and were getting really excited when that fell through. Not ready to let the dream die, we decided to take a “sabbatical” and, after packing up our lives, we made our way to Madrid with our two awesome dogs, Max and Luke, in tow. Two years later, Sergio has his own website development and design company, Jaw Drop Design. and I have Gambas & Grits!
You’re the superstar behind the Spanish cooking blog, Gambas and Grits. Can you tell us a little bit more about the blog and how you started writing it?
Awww, you made this Southern girl blush! Before we even left Texas, both Sergio and I began publicly chronicling our adventure, though very sporadically. I am a huge foodie and, in the summer of 2012, I began fine-tuning my recipes and taking photos of the finished products. Since Sergio is an awesome website designer, the site came about very organically over time and the course of many conversations as I compiled a website wish list. The blog is largely a repository for my favorite Spanish recipes (the “Gambas” or shrimp) and the tastes of my Southern roots (the “Grits” of the blog), with some fusion between the two (for example, I encourage using up all your holiday leftovers with my croquetas recipe). However, I also blog about Madrid restaurants and life in Spain generally, too.
From your perspective, why are food and cooking such big parts of travel? Is there really a better way to get to know a new place or culture than through its gastronomical palette and history?
Food is an easy way to get a microcosmic view of a culture. It is common to all societies and yet the menu, the utensils, and the customs around breaking bread (or tortillas or noodles or dumplings) can vary greatly. For me, it is the most pleasurable, interesting way to understand a people better, and is, at the end of the day, my primary motivation to travel. But I also feel like if I don’t read a bit about my destination before or during my trip and get a sense of the history, the current climate and the geography that I haven’t done that culture justice.
Any favorite Spanish dishes you like to make at home?
Oh yes! My husband Sergio is half Spanish and so I have access to a cache of authentic recipes. For example, on my blog, I have his grandmother’s paella recipe and an authentic potaje (garbanzo and spinach soup). I love love love croquetas, salmorejo (a cold tomato-and-bread based soup) and, of course, sangria!
You mention on your site that cooking wasn’t always such a big part of your life? How did that change come about?
I have always been a big eater, but did a lot of moving around during my 20’s and wasn’t able to carry my KitchenAid mixer with me everywhere I went. It’s interesting though; I recently had a friend come stay with us and I made banana bread for breakfast. As soon as he saw me pull it out of the oven, he said the smell instantly took him back to the house we shared in Washington, D.C. over 10 years ago. Though it feels like I have only been really cooking for the past few years, I guess I have always had my go-to recipes that I pull out, usually when I need to de-stress. With a bit of stability in my life now, I am able to experiment more and expand my repertoire.
Any advice for newbies to the kitchen in terms of making cooking a bigger part of your life?
I rate the difficulty of all my recipes on the site, and most of them are labeled “Not- Super Easy”. And it’s true, Cooking requires a bit of patience and the ability to follow directions initially, but it really is not intimidating or difficult. I get so many compliments on my cooking, and while I am not striving to be a molecular gastronomist, I do think it is a very relaxing and rewarding activity because it is easy and fun to do. And once you know what you like, then you can start modifying recipes and really playing with flavor profiles.
What’s next over at Gambas and Grits and for you?
I am actually in the process of manufacturing a retro-inspired food grater (you can see pictures of The Gourmand’s Grater on the site). It can grate everything from chocolate to cheese and can even grind coffee beans. I hope to have a prototype in hand in the next few months and be selling it on my site and other food blogs shortly thereafter. If you have a blog and would be interested in an affiliate relationship, please contact me.
Also, always feel free to reach out to me with specific questions regarding cooking or Madrid- I am always happy to pay forward the kindness that so many have shown me.
Thanks so much for joining us, Annie! Don’t forget you can check out Annie’s blog, Gambas and Grits, here.
No- thank you! I love your blog, and it was a true honor to be asked to participate in your Spanish Lovers series!