A week in Spain (plus transit): Part I

1a. One of the things I love about traveling is eating up all the food in my fridge before I go away. I like calculating the Leftover Arc. How many things I need to eat during the three days, then two days, then three hours before the taxi arrives. It’s a consumption puzzle—an edible enigma, a waste-not Gordian Knot. If I’m just going for just a week—like now—I can leave behind a half carton of milk, and eggs, citrus, mayo, and hard veg. Those will keep. But greens and meat and any cooked leftovers need to be finished up.

The three-hours-before-the-taxi meal is the weird one. Today it was a bit too much cashew cheese with some puffed corn crackers, and a LOT of grapes. One corner of artisanal (and somewhat dry) québécois cheese, about four tablespoonfuls of black-bean chile, two pieces of steamed cauliflower, one cubic inch of membrillo, and a quarter of a half-litre of still-fizzy kefir. (Shoot. Nope, actually, I forgot to drink the kefir before I left. I guess it’s stable enough for another eight days. Fermented, and all that.)

So the fridge is now in sleep mode. Nothing will rot or drip. The red rice—that will have to get chucked when I get back. I think it was a little rancid anyway.

This was my pre-Madrid meal. The gastronomic set-up for I don’t know what. Óscar has told me that he and his housemate Xara have no food sense and don’t know how to ‘eat healthfully.’ Spending a week with them will be curious. Delicious and experimental, perhaps. Best-of-artisanal-Madrid, maybe not. I’ve promised to cook for the two of them, but have no idea what to expect in terms of ingredients and kitchen. It will be yet another partly pre-scripted, partly improvised performance.

1b. At the international Maple Leaf lounge in Montreal (renovated, finally, and quite nice), I have a quarter of a glass of someone’s odd Chardonnay, a full glass of Air Canada’s own (delicious!) cucumber-lemon water, and a small handful of edamame. I only have twenty minutes to wait, but I need a little fix of privilege, since for the first time in a while I’ll be traveling with no e-upgrade or economy-plus status. That one time flying business class ruined me. It was like spending a night between a Victoria’s Secret big spoon and a Davidoff Cool Water little spoon (google it yourself), and then going back to the plastic cutlery drawer of Grindr. (Sorry, is that TMI? Here’s a distraction: The word “chardonnay” used to not pass through a lot of corporate email filters, because the embedded alpha-string, hardon, was considered by early spam software to be dangerously pornographic. But why would you send an email about Chardonnay, anyway?)

1c. “Chicken or pasta?” Besides leftovers, I also love airplane food. I love deciding between the testicle-shrinking risk of hormone-laden white meat in ‘cream’ sauce and gut-ballooning, all-Canadian, gluten-enhanced vegetarian penne. It’s another juicy conundrum of transdisciplinary gastronomy. Plus, there’s the truly special treat of getting that look from the flight attendant. You know the one—the sneer of Protestant disdain when you ask for a second ¼ bottle of Assemblage Rouge (a hand-selected grenache-pinot noir-cabernet-mourvedre blend, I believe). That look is my dessert. Sweet, tart, and bitter all at once. Subtle. Balanced. I think AC flight crews are only slightly more shaming than the KLM on-board staff. The Lufthansa gang happily hand over tumblersful of rotwein, and the Air Dolimiti ladies practically leave the bottle of prosecco with you (along with a white-bread, ham, aioli, and artichoke sandwich). It’s only the prudish Dutch and Canadians who seem to think that 187.5 mL is just plenty for one meal.

I also ate some raw cashews, golden raisins, and Mary’s crackers (classic flavour), as a little pre-nosh nosh. The very tall and very built pink-and-red man next to me also brought his own snack—some very robust-looking trail mix—which seems to be a necessary calorie-infusion for him. He also eats his in-flight meal. Can’t let those muscles wither over the next hours.

1d. It is 3:30 am Madrid time and they will soon try to feed me aspartame-flavoured strawberry yogurt and an individually wrapped slice of banana bread. I will decline, fearing a bloated belly by baggage claim. Breakfast on AC is the worst. (Wait, what did I just say about airplane food?)