This post is part of our Love Letter series, first-person accounts of what we love about Seville.
I’d like to tell you about my favorite meal in the entire year.
That’s #1 out of 1,095 (if we’re going with a solid 3 meals a day, which as a born-and-raised Midwesterner, I am). But to let you into my love for this meal, I have to let you into my life first.
I moved to Spain 9 years ago, just after graduating college. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career, and I jumped at the chance to teach English for 9 months in southern Spain before having to decide the rest of my life.
It was in Córdoba that I realized I actually wasn’t bilingual (seriously—I couldn’t keep up with the most basic of conversations, which in my defense, were filled with thick Andalusian accents), that I adored Spanish food, and that I fell in love.
That last bit is important. Had I never crossed paths with Pablo, I’m not sure there’d be a story to tell here. He’s the one who pushed me to try fried anchovies, scoffed when I was unsure about spreading thick pork pâté & pimentón-colored lard onto my morning toast, and showed me how to tackle my first whole grilled fish (again—Midwesterner here!).
Though living in Spain is a dream in many ways, it doesn’t come without struggle. And the biggest one is being away from my family. Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are sad ones for me here—I think about my grandma’s beef chili and clam chowder simmering away on the stove, the homemade chicken sandwiches she’s diligently made in advance, and the Bloody Mary in hand that seems to magically replenish whenever low. I think about my family together, without me, the after-dinner banter and the late-night games I’m not playing with them.
And it was only recently that I realized giving up those traditions back home actually meant making room for new ones here in Spain. From day one, Pablo’s family welcomed me with open arms. But it was when they made room at their table, and invited me into their secret club of yearly parties and traditions, that I really felt like I’d found my place.
And that brings me to my favorite meal of the entire year.
It’s the morning of January 6—Spain’s version of Christmas Day—and we’ve just spent an hour in the warm living room, opening gifts and laughing, trying on clothes, flipping through new books, and buzzing around the room. Classical music (my father-in-law’s go-to move) and a warm fire keep the room cozy. Sleepy-faced and pajama-clad, we’re all happy—but more importantly—hungry. It’s time for the meal I’ve been waiting for all year.
Maybe it’s all the cava from the night before, or that post-gift opening buzz, or the fact that we have nothing to do today but lounge around in pajamas. But as I sit down and look around, I’m happy. There’s freshly brewed coffee and a jug of warm, thick hot chocolate on the table. On one side of the table there’s a roscón de Reyes, a yeasted cake filled with fresh whipped cream and topped with candied fruit. And on the other, Pablo’s mom’s famous migas—bread crumbs, pork belly and whole garlic cloves fried in bright olive oil. She’s made them the day before, for the big group of friends that come over every year on January 5, and who almost always overstay their welcome as they reach for one more bottle of cava, again and again. I had never seen migas dipped in hot chocolate before, but Pablo’s mom, who’s from Extremadura, grew up with it. I’m happy she’s passed it onto us.
We’re probably supposed to just choose one thing for breakfast, but I can’t help but dig into both. The roscón is doughy and sweet, and goes perfectly with the coffee. The migas are salty, pork-fat goodness, and Pablo passes all of his fried garlic cloves—my favorite bit—over to my plate. I scoop them up with my spoon and do just as the Spaniards do, dunking them into my warm mug of hot chocolate. We do this every year, without fail. Gifts, laughter, crackling fire, cake, migas, coffee & hot chocolate.
And maybe that’s why I’m happy. This feels like home. I didn’t grow up opening gifts with the people I now call family, and these aren’t the traditions my parents showed me or the foods I’ve always eaten. But they’re mine now.
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Katie turned down a full-time job at a newspaper to live in Spain and never looked back. She’s obsessed with Andalucía, and when she’s not in the office, she’s most likely at home in the kitchen with a podcast on in the background. Find her recipes, stories & more over at Always Olives.