When studying abroad in Spain approximately a million years ago, our host families were required to pack us a lunch anytime we went on a group excursion. The study abroad organization took us on frequent trips to discover the country and learn about Spanish culture. My love for art was born. My love for food was bred.
Every one of our host mothers packed us a bocadillo to take on these excursions, which is basically a sandwich made with fresh baguette bread, cut lengthwise. The sandwiches seemed impossibly strange to us American kids, being used to peanut butter and jelly on sliced white bread. I’d definitely never had a baguette before and unfortunately didn’t have an appreciation for fresh bread at the time.
As we drove along the southern coast, passing endless beaches and the place where Columbus launched toward the New World, I munched on a cheese bocadillo made with thick, white cheese. This was also the place where my feet first touched cobble stones and I bought my first bottle of wine. Adulthood was descending upon me in flashy fireworks.
Under the sticky shade of the red and white striped arches of the Alhambra, a ghost of Spain’s Islamic past, I lunched on a bocadillo filled with ham and butter, not my favorite thing at the time. At a nearby cafe, I choked through my first bowl of gazpacho. Fine examples of a virgin palate.
In Madrid, my belly full of a bocadillo with tortilla Espanola in the middle (like a potato omelet), I considered Guernica, the first painting to make me cry. And spent the rest of the day in a daze in the Reina Sofia museum, touched by endless rooms filled with great art. A whole world I’d never known existed was in my face and I just couldn’t get enough.
With each bocadillo came another adventure. The bocadillo trail led me to a viewing of Santa Teresa’s finger (ring and all) in a cathedral in Avila, barnacle eating by the shore in Santiago de Compostela, Roman ruins in Merida, French-style sunbathing in the Canary Islands, and a moment very near to God at the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. I still wish it never would have ended.
Crusty baguette with simple fillings is all you need to make a few new memories. I had this fancy French version at the beach with my dog (yes he ate some, don’t judge me). And big news, both bread and butter were purchased at the Keauhou Farmer’s Market, be still my stomach.
Fancy French Bocadillo
1 crusty baguette
radishes, sliced thin
fennel fronds (if desired)
No recipe amounts here because it depends how big your baguette is. Basically, you slice the baguette lengthwise, slather both sides with the best butter you can find and top with thinly sliced radishes and fennel fronds to your liking.
Would also be great as an appetizer, and your friends will think you are tres French. Simply cut the baguette into rounds and serve open faced. Enjoy!