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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Celebrating the New Year in Tenerife

Lucky Grapes

On New Year's Eve, Nochevieja (which translates better to Old Year's Night), or San Silvestre as it is called in Spain, celebrations revolve around the eating of the grapes at midnight. The idea is to eat twelve "lucky" grapes (Uvas de la Suerte), one grape on each stroke of the clock - all suitably and necessarily (it is extremely difficult to do) washed down with Cava: Spanish bubbly - a tradition that is believed to have come from the ancient wine-growers. One way to encourage consumption, I guess.

The New Year is heralded in Spain via the twelve chimes from the Puerta del Sol in Madrid: an hour later in the Canaries (actually, the same time as the UK) (confusingly, twice on TV, if you watch a Spanish channel and a Canarian one) or locally, with those of the Cabildo (Island Corporation) building in Santa Cruz in Tenerife or their counterpart in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The two locations take it in turns.

New Year's Eve is a night for going out. After the chimes, there will usually be fireworks and in many places, there will be a street-party with dancing to a Salsa band or a disco.

Another custom (or superstition, if you prefer, but even those who aren't superstitious will probably observe these "just in case") is to wear your very best, new clothes for this party. Wearing new clothes symbolises starting the year from scratch. You should also wear red underwear because it's the colour of happiness and good luck.

In Santa Cruz, the Plaza de España will be packed with people and atmosphere if you're looking for fun, as will the church square in Los Cristianos, if you happen to be in the south.

But most large and even small towns have New Years' parties. In Garachico, we've danced to an open air disco (yeah, Jan 1 in the open air, at night, te he) in the town square in front of the bandstand and watched the fireworks set off from the Town Hall roof. There were "party bags" (consisting of the obligatory silly hat, noise makers and packet of grapes) laid on for anyone who turned up. And you get to keep company with the big fish in these small ponds, as the Mayor of Garachico was host.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Carnaval Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2006

Carnival 2006 Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The creator of the poster for the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnaval 2006 is Karina Beltrán, an artist born in Buenavista in 1968. Karina obtained a degree in Fine Arts at the University of La Laguna in 1991 and a Postgraduate Diploma at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2001, where a year later, she also obtained her Master in Fine Arts. Karina currently lives and works in London.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Day of the Innocent Saints

The Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens (1638)

El Día de Los Santos Inocentes, falls on the 28th December. What does it mean? Well, it is the Spanish equivalent of April Fool's Day.

And, just like it's counterpart, jokes abound and tricks will be played.

At Ibi, near Benidorm on the Costa Blanca on the Spanish mainland, the tradition is for the workers from the local toy factory (in fancy dress) to take over the administration of justice in the streets from 9 a.m. to midday on this date. Any 'fines' they collect (extort) will go to charities and, they are not subtle. They have been known to handcuff the bank manager and have removed the wheels from a vehicle. Even the police won't stop them.

December 28 in the Catholic church commemorates the assassination of all the male babies - thus The Innocent Saints - on Herod's orders in a vain attempt to kill the child Jesus. Since the Middle Ages, the sacrilegious have remembered this mournful event with humour and, the jovial tradition has continued.

In olden days, bakers made salted tarts, people nailed coins to the floor, etc. The most usual was to cut out a paper effigy and stick it to the back of a passer-by, which they would wear without knowing and, many people will make jokes in bad taste.

On TV and in the newspapers in Spain, bogus stories will appear (a UFO terrorizes the Royal Palace; the President runs off with the daughter of the opposition leader; a new planet has been discovered; all cars with registration ending in 7 must report to the police, etc., etc.), only some of which are later acknowledged to be "inocentadas" - hoaxes in the name of Los Santos Inocentes.

Image: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, via Wikimedia Commons

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day - Día de Navidad

Teide with snow

Many locals and tourists alike visit Mount Teide on Christmas Day - which is likely to be snow-capped at this time of year - that it is almost a ritual. The trip - only an hour or so's drive - is a real "Christmas experience", passing through the Canary pine forests, seeing the vast number of wild poinsettias & other natural Christmas decorations en route.

You can just stay in the resort and have a "traditional Christmas dinner" at one of the many bars and restaurants catering to the mainly British trade, but it seems such a shame to do that, when you have all this natural, real Christmas stuff on the doorstep.

Wrap up in a jacket, but if you get cold, call into one of the mountain's bars for churros con chocolate ... that's hot chocolate with sort of donut things. Provided you are not the day's designated driver, you might also like to try a Lumumba, which is hot chocolate and brandy. Be warned though, this is pretty lethal stuff at high altitude.

Just an hour or so later, you could be back on the beach, enjoying the average 22-26º C (71-79º F) year-round temperatures.

Where else in the world can you do all of this on Christmas Day?

Christmas Lunch

Whilst you can get a traditional Christmas Dinner in the resorts, don't expect there to be a Christmas menu at the few Canarian restaurants you may find open. Many will close, except those in areas where they expect there to be any number of tourists. In homes, rabbit was the traditional fayre, a Canarian staple, but the quantity of turkey being sold in supermarkets has risen sharply in the last couple of years.

One year, before their commercial arrival, two turkeys were acquired, having been brought up in someone's mother's back yard. I'm not really keen on personally knowing my dinner in life and thought it poetic justice when the chap who had been given the job of ...  presented his finger, all bandaged, after the unfortunate bird had put up a bit of resistance.

For most locals, Christmas Day is actually just a recovery day from the celebrations of Christmas Eve.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Nochebuena: Christmas Eve

A tiny part of the huge selection of turron

The main celebrations in Spain and the Canary Islands, as in many European countries, are on Christmas Eve, Nochebuena, when the family will get together to share an evening meal. Food at Christmas revolves around the sweet stuff, with Truchas de Batata (sweet potato pies) and a mountain of fruit, nuts and sweets, especially polverones, turrones and mazapan.

For many years I spent Christmas Eve, Nochebuena, in 'El Pueblo', Canarian style. The typical fayre, generally, is barbecued meat with boiled potatoes. Yams are usually eaten after the meal, sweetened with sugar or honey (palm honey is good too!).

If resources permit, a whole goat kid or suckling pig is preferable as tradition dictated that this meal should not be of fish. For many poor families here, Christmas Eve is one of the few celebration times when they will have any quantity of meat, so it is very simply prepared, quickly enjoyed and followed by the vast array of sweets.

Celebrations may go on quite late and the gathered family will probably start singing and playing Canarian Folk music. This isn't traditionally a time for the exchanging of gifts. That comes later, at Epiphany, or for the fortunate few, it might be both.

Long ago the meal was served after attending the Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass): the 24th being a day of fasting and abstinence, but that has tended to change these days. The mass, at which carols may be sung, being left out altogether by a large majority.

In Los Cristianos and other multi-nationally populated areas, there are usually carol services in a wonderful pot-purri of Spanish, English, German and Latin. In smaller villages, local children perform the Nativity (with often interesting and humorous interpretation). Folk groups provide the accompaniment.

One year at El Palmar, the dialogue went, roughly:

Joseph: (speaks to innkeeper) "Can we come in, only my wife isn't feeling too good."

Innkeeper: "Well, if she's ill she can't come in here. Take her to the health center!

I don't remember that being in the original version. It was truly unexpected and had everyone rolling in the isles at the Nativity in the little church. Another year the mass was more traditional, with a visiting priest from El Salvador, which was an opportunity to see another viewpoint.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sopa de Mariscos (Seafood Soup)

Sopa de mariscos

Here's a really quick and simple seafood soup (warming for every day, impressive enough for entertaining too). The recipe is based on a soup I was served once at the restaurant El Rubio in the small seaside village of La Caleta de Interian, near Los Silos on the north coast of Tenerife.

Ingredients:

Assorted seafood (I used prawns and muscles)
1 liter fish stock
a handful (1 tablespoon approx.) rice
Herbs & seasoning to taste

Method:

Put the fish stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the rice and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the seafood and cook for five minutes more. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with crusty bread.

(NB: This doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg either, because you can be mean and count out the number of muscles or whatever to the exact number of portions. One liter serves 4 approx.)

Image by Iva Balk at Pixabay

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Turrón de Chocolate (Chocolate Fudge)

Turrón de trufa negra con Yogur y Grosellas Rafa Gorrotxategi

This typical Christmas sweet is simple to make even for kids.

Ingredients for one bar of turrón:
250 grams of butter
250 grams of crumbled cake
100 grams (4 Oz) of almonds
100 grams (4 Oz) of walnuts
1 x 150 gram (6 Oz) tablet of chocolate
8 tablespoons of sugar

Method: Put the chocolate in a basin over a saucepan of hot water and leave it to melt. Work the butter with the sugar until you obtain a creamy consistency. Add the tepid chocolate to the cream with the crumbled cakes and mix the whole lot together well. Add the almonds and walnuts, well chopped. Turn the mixture into a rectangular mold, lined with greaseproof paper that has been spread with butter. Leave it to set in the fridge or a cool place for 24 hours before removing from the mold. Cut into squares to serve.

Image: Mumumío - Some rights reserved

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bethlehem in Tenerife

Belén 

The most important Christmas symbol in Spain and the Canary Islands is the Nativity or Belén (Bethlehem), which in most homes, is arranged under the tree. Oh and this is a truly family affair: don't expect "historical accuracy" in homes. I've seen both Jedi and Barbie dolls attending the baby Jesus, along with shepherds and Magi!

Organized Nativity displays are something else. Town Halls and Associations produce massive works of art each year.

Not just stable scenes, but whole Holy model towns - often, inexplicably, depicting the Canarian location they're at - with working windmills, lights & everything! If you can get to see one in person, it's well worth the trip. If not, here is a sampling.

La Página Navideña - Belenes (Links)
http://www.navidaddigital.com/belenes/
Belenes hogareños (Nativity displays in homes)
http://www.navidaddigital.com/galeria/v/pesebres/

In Tenerife's capital, Santa Cruz, there are two famous Belén displays that are opened to the public each year. The first is in the Cultural Center of CajaCanarias at Plaza del Patriotismo, 1, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Open from December 2, 2005 until January 5, 2006 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. only on Saturdays. Source.

The other is organized by the Cultural department of Santa Cruz Town Hall and can be found in the exhibition hall (Aula Magna) of the Cultural Park, Parque Cultural Viera y Clavijo. This Belén can be visited from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. daily, from December 16, 2005 until January 6, 2006. Source.

The latter, made by José Fariña Bethencourt, covers 55 square meters and has more than 600 hand-made pieces, plus numerous lighting effects and movements, such as the breaking of dawn, nightfall, a storm with winds, thunder and lightening, the apparition of an angel, rivers and canals, the baby crying, etc.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Polvorones (Powder Cakes)

Polvorón de Estepa

More indispensible sweet things for Christmas are Polvorones. (Spoil yourself, it's only once a year!) So, here's a simple recipe for making them.

Ingredients:

500 grams (1 l.b.) of sugar
500 grams (1 l.b.) of lard
1 KG (2 lbs.) of flour
A good pinch of ground cinnamon
The grated rind of a green lemon
A good pinch of ground aniseed

Preparation:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with the hands until it forms a paste. To make the polverones, take small handfuls of the mixture and make into small ovals, something like cookies. Place the polverones onto a baking tray, greased with butter or lard, and bake them in the oven until golden brown.

Photo: Marianne Perdomo [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Truchas de Batata (Sweet Potato Pies)

Truchas de Batata

Another of my, admittedly many, favorite sweet things of the Christmas season are these delicious little sweet potato pies. Since you may not have them available in the shops near you, here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the pastry:
3 tablespoons of lard
1 small glass of olive oil
500 grams (1 l.b.) flour.

For the filling:
500 grams (1 l.b.) sweet potatoes
250 grams (8 Oz) ground almonds
1 small cup of caster sugar
3 egg yolks
A teaspoon of aniseed
A dash of rum
A dash of aniseed liqueur
A teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Grated lemon rind
Oil for frying.

Preparation:

Filling: Boil the sweet potatoes in water with a little salt. When they're done, peel them, pound to a pulp and mix them with the almonds, flavourings and liqueurs.

Pastry: Mix together lard, oil and flour until a mass is formed and leave to rest for a short time. Cover a surface with flour and roll out the pastry until very thin. Cut out small rounds with a cup and put a small amount of filling into the centre of each. Close them by folding in half to make little semi-circular patties. Press down and seal with the aid of a fork. Fry in hot oil then sprinkle with sugar to serve.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Potaje de Acelgas: Swiss Chard Pottage

Potaje de Acelgas

Whilst I have eaten cabbage soup in a restaurant locally I don't have an exact recipe for it, though what I was served was otherwise exactly the same as this, Potaje de Acelgas. (Translated from Cocina Canaria - Vicente Sanchez Araña (Everest)).

The restaurant: was El Rubio, on the coast of Los Silos in La Caleta de Interian. However, as with a lot of small, country restaurants here, you cannot guarantee to get the same menu choices on every visit. In fact, I don't think I have ever had the same soup twice there. They just make one large cauldron and, if you want soup, you get what you are given. It is always nice and, whilst there may not be a choice, you do know that the chef chose whatever were the freshest and best ingredients in the market that day.

To get back to the recipe, fairly obviously, to make cabbage soup, you would simply replace the Swiss Chard in the recipe with cabbage.

Ingredients:

300 grams of garbanzo beans (chick peas)
4 litres of water
300 grams of pork ribs
1/2 a cup of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, seeds removed
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1 kilo of potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 kilo of pumpkin, peeled, whole
3/4 kilo of Swiss Chard, chopped
1 teaspoon powdered cumin
Salt

Method:

The garbanzo beans (chick peas) need to be put into soak the night before, then wash and reserve. Put the four liters of water into a saucepan, place on the heat and when it comes to the boil, put in the garbanzos (chick peas) and the pork ribs.

Separately, fry the onion, garlic, tomato and paprika in the olive oil. When softened and reduced, add this mixture to the saucepan with the garbanzos (chick peas).

Once the garbanzos (chick peas) are cooked, add the potatoes, pumpkin and the Swiss Card. Leave to cook over a slow flame. When the potatoes are cooked, take out the pumpkin and mash it, returning it to the saucepan. Finally add the cumin and cook for just a few minutes more. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Photo: juantiagues Some rights reserved

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tenerife Island Council to Provide 65,000 Poinsettia Plants to Town Halls

Varigated 'municipal' poinsettias in La Laguna

Tenerife Island Council is this year supplying 65,000 Flor de Pascua, or poinsettia, plants to various town halls across the island in order to dress up parks and squares for the Christmas festivities. The plants have been specially cultivated in island nurseries and are distributed each year for the seasonal decorations.

Where can you see them displayed? Well, the plants are shared out according to the number of inhabitants in each district, so Santa Cruz get the largest number with 6,000 plants, with La Laguna (5,000) and Arona (4,000) second and third.

Locally, Icod de los Viños will be getting 2,000 poinsettia plants to adorn the town, while Buenavista del Norte, Los Silos and Garachico will recieve 1,000 each.

Hundreds more are given to various associations and centers providing social services, so the plants are bound to brighten someone's season.

El Cabildo de Tenerife reparte 65.000 flores de Pascua en ayuntamientos

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christmas in the Canary Islands





Spain, the Canary Islands and especially Tenerife, have EVERYTHING when it comes to Christmas; El Gordo, the biggest lottery in the world held every year on December 22nd; a host of natural Christmas decorations like poinsettias growing wild, particularly on the north of the island, forests of Canary pine "Christmas trees" in the mountains and it may even include a proper "White Christmas" if it snows on Mount Teide.

Christmas week is acknowledged as the busiest week of the year for the tourist sector, with hotels and airports registering new record numbers each year as millions of Northern Europeans escape the cold to spend the holidays in one of the "Top 10 Winter Sun Spots".

British restaurants in the tourist resorts do serve turkey dinners with all the trimmings, which is probably just as well for visitors, because Christmas Day isn't celebrated much here. Christmas Eve is the family get-together, New Year is more lively, but if you want to see the "real" Canarian Christmas, you need to hang around until January 5th / 6th.

The Christmas season in Tenerife lasts from December 8th, when, traditionally, the decorations go up, until January 6th, when the Three Kings bring gifts.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Sopa de Pollo Con Fideos

Sopa de Pollo Con Fideos

The temperature here this morning had dropped to a rather nippy 11 degrees centigrade. OK, so it's not minus something that most of you will be experiencing in the northern hemisphere, but when you have had temperatures of 40 something centigrade in summer, relatively, this is four woolly weather. Therefore, it is time for a nice warming soup.

You may think there is nothing that remarkable about Sopa de Pollo Con Fideos, which English speakers will already know as Chicken Noodle Soup, but this is probably one of the most popular soups here. To me, it is a sin to buy those awful packets of dried chemicals pretending to be something edible, when this is much nicer, almost as quick, probably cheaper and certainly healthier using all natural ingredients.

Ingredients:

One chicken drumstick or thigh
One chicken stock cube (optional)
A few mixed herbs
(Vegetables, such as onion and carrot, optional.)
One litre (2.2 English pints) of water
A handful / tablespoon of thin noodles

Method:

Place all the ingredients, except the pasta, into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes (give or take) until the chicken is ready to fall off the bone and has infused it's flavour into the stock.

Remove the drumstick from the stock and remove the meat from the bone, shredding finely. Place the meat back into the saucepan with the stock. Add the pasta and simmer for approx. 5 minutes more, until the pasta is done.

Season to taste and serve with crusty bread. Serves four.

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Delta on Canary Islands Blogs

Victor Ruiz in south east Gran Canaria has created a roundup of coverage of Tropical Storm Delta at his blog Linotipo from among various Canarian blogs.

English speakers will require the assistance of something like Google Language Tools to read the rest of the Spanish language lineup, however, it is interesting to read the different perspectives and experiences - and great dry humour comments like "today, the Canaries work off batteries" - from various points around the islands, not just those related to Delta, but as a view on island life in general.

Many posts also have photos and they don't need translating!

Canary Islands newspaper, Canarias7, said on their blog Atarecos that they felt the effects of Delta on their servers, showing them how little we were all prepared for such an event. An unprecedented 24,000 visitors and their Java virtual machine decided it was not disposed to serve that many requests at once.

I have to say that I am honoured to the point of extreme humbleness that Secret Tenerife has been included, let alone listed first, as the only English language blog amongst the Canarian blogosphere. WOW! Does this mean I have "arrived"? :)

Tormenta Delta en la blogosfera canaria

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Effects of Climate Change in Tenerife

The Island Water Council, in collaboration with the Canarian Water Foundation, have organized two open days to analyse the effects of climate change and hydrology in Spanish territory and on the Canary Islands. The sessions will be held on December 1st and 2nd in the Auditorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz.

Underlining that the sessions are happening in the same week as the passage of Tropical Storm Delta that has caused important damages on the island, advisor of Waters and Agriculture, Jose Joaquin Bethencourt, indicates that the open days "aim to respond to some of the questions raised on the effects of climatic change in our hydrology or the magnitudes of their impact on an insular territory."

Similarly, the unusual rains this past summer and their negative effects on agriculture, not forgetting heatwaves of recent years, or the whirlwind of March 31, 2002 that claimed the lives of eight people, as well as causing severe damages in several points of the capital. All of these abnormal circumstances show that our experience of climate change is not the same as in the rest of the world.

El Consejo Insular de Aguas analiza los efectos del cambio climático y la hidrología de Tenerife

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

Ocean Changes to Cool Europe

Now, I may not be any kind of expert, however, one of the reasons given for the increase in storm phenomenon hitting the Canary Islands lately has been the warming of the waters around the islands. Without (or with less) cold water from the Gulf Stream coming down from the north, I feel sure that this is related.

This BBC article, also notes that "... in 2004, we have a larger circulating current [in the tropical Atlantic] ...", which seems, to me anyway, just the perfect conveyor belt system to have brought these recent storms our way.

Could it be, that as the Gulf Stream weakens and Europe cools, that the Canary Islands will become more "tropical"? By which I mean, not just warmer, but more prone to extreme weather conditions, such as we have seen this week.

Experience over the last five years, which has seen one after another "never been seen before, surprise" weather phenomenon thrown at the islands (things I had certainly not thought I would possibly see here 10 years ago), would seem to suggest that this is happening - whatever the scientific reason.

In which case, the Canary Islands would lose their reputation as the "Islands of Eternal Spring", gained from the constant warm (no extremes) climate they have enjoyed historically and become what? "Islands of Eternal Surprise"?

That's putting it politely. Eternal chaos may be more apt. Effects on nature are are too complex for my poor little brain, but it is clear to anyone that infrastructure and building methods were never thought with this eventuality in mind.

We have to trust that Oceanography Centres talk to Hurricane Centers and that governments will pay heed, in time, to the changing circumstances. Householders too will have to reassess the readiness of dwellings to deal with whatever is thrown at them in future, including heating, cooling, windproofing and insurance.

It's clear that we need some honest answers and some expert advice. Now.

Ocean changes to cool Europe

All events are liable to change beyond our control.

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