Putting on a spell

I remember asking my mother this question when I was a child:  “Why do all the flowers feel the same? It doesn’t matter what flower it is, they all feel the same, why?

“That’s because flowers have the same cover over their body, just like we do. My skin feels just like your skin. All skin feels the same; just like flowers’ skin feels the same. I’m glad you asked that question.” My mother answered.

I wasn’t sure for a very long time why she was glad I asked that question, but it has come to me over and over throughout the years. She wanted me to learn that we’re all the same, but our personality makes us different from each other; as does the culture of the country we come from.

Personality and cultural differences makes the world an interesting place, as evidenced in the program I have taken part in this week.

The Spaniards have shared much of themselves, their intelligence, eagerness to become fluent in English and their interesting culture. They have been polite and friendly toward the volunteers, who, in turn, have been happy to share their time in helping them acquire fluency.

Much time is spent in one-to-one conversation between an Anglo and a Spaniard, and then there are the fun and games – another way to learn.

Take yesterday for instance: we broke down into small groups and discussed the formula for making a presentation, as every Spaniard is preparing to do for tomorrow. Then after a bit of that, one group gave a spoof on Shakespeare which was hilarious. The players were all great and it was fun.

Before that, however, my group performed our skit. I played Clint from New Mexico, whose ranch is close to the Texas border. With my southern accent I told the audience that I was a cowboy and ruled a ranch, milked cows and fed chickens. I was introduced as a ‘man’ (I wore a mustache and cowboy hat and a gun), who was looking for a wife to “cook, clean and cuddle”.

There were three women contestants: one was named Dolly – she was stacked like a certain Dolly we know as a country western singer – and wore a hot pink wig. The second applicant was a nun, in complete black habit. The last one was a woman who was into witch craft. She wore a black and silver wig, with all black clothing and carried a bat (the animal).

I asked  the witch  if she could cook, what would she put into my sandwich, and she replied with all kinds of nasty critters and perhaps a bat or two.

The nun was asked how she looked; and she replied that even though she was covered up, he would be pleased to see her ‘beauty-spot.’ That comment was greeted with lots of laughs, which made Clint realize, even though he couldn’t see the ladies, she must be covered up from head to toe; not very interesting he thought.

Dolly said when questioned about her best feature, she surprised the audience – in spite of her frontal display – that it was her eyes.

Well, when the commentator and her assistant asked who I’d chose to marry and take to the ranch, I said, “one of those ladies is too weird, the other wears way too much clothing, and the other one was way too much woman for me (Clint); and I chose the assistant instead. We both ran off the stage together. The audience applauded and laughed throughout the skit.

Much later, the master of ceremonies, and actress, Carlota, and the program director Marisa arranged a Queimada for all of us.

“That involves an alcoholic special drink with fire.” Marisa said.

Well, even though I was tired at 10:30 p.m., my interest was piqued enough to want to satisfy my curiosity, so I walked up to the small building where the programs are held.

Carlota was scooping up the drink with fire coming up from the clay pot and on the liquid. While she was doing that, a few people read items that put us into the mood of a ritual.

“Queimada comes from a Galician tradition. It is a punch made from Galician aguardiente (orujo in gallego), a spirit distilled from wine and flavored with special herbs or coffee plus sugar, lemon peel, coffee beans and cinnamon.

Typically, while preparing the punch a spell or incantation is recited, so that special powers are conferred to the queimada and those drinking it.

Queimada is a pagan ritual that dates back to the 11th century although sometimes it is believed to be an ancient Celtic tradition transmitted along generations. Other claim it was actually developed in the 1950s.

In 1955 Titi Freire designed the clay pot in which the queimada is usually prepared and the spell that is recited nowadays was written by Mariano Marcos Abalo in the 1960s.

The goal of the preparation ritual is to distance the bad spirits that, according with the tradition, lie in wait for men and women to try to curse them. All occasions are good for a queimada but typically the queimada ritual takes place during St. John’s night or witches night on June 23rd. The people who take part in it gather around the container where it is prepared, ideally without lights, to cheer up the hearts and to be better friends.” Stated from the material handed out.

I think this would be great fun for a Halloween party.


The recipe for Queimada from an Internet page:

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 12 minutes


  • 1 liter orujo (substitute Italian grappa if orujo not available)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • rind of one lemon cut into strips
  • scant 1/4 cup whole coffee beans


This queimada recipe makes about 8 servings

Special Note: For the preparation of this drink, you will need a large fireproof clay pot or bowl, sealed or glazed on the interior and a very long-handled wooden spoon to stir the queimada.

Place the clay pot or bowl on a fireproof table of atop a cold BBQ grill. Be sure to have a large lid handy to put out the flames.

Pour approximately 4 Tbsp orujo and 1 Tbsp sugar into a small glass and stir to dissolve sugar, then set aside.

Pour the rest of the orujo and remaining sugar into the clay bowl and stir. Add the lemon peel and coffee beans and stir again.

Pour the orujo and sugar mixture from the glass into a ladle and light it on fire. Carefully move the ladle very close to the clay pot until the orujo mixture in the pot catches fire. Stir frequently until the flames turn blue. Slide the lid over the pot to put out the flames. Serve hot.

Melisa and Carlota served each drink in clay cups. The Spaniards have put a spell on me!








13 Responses to Putting on a spell

  1. Well, Laureen, it seems like you have fallen under a spell for sure! I hope all your other experiences in Spain are equally as gratifying! We’re hearing of events in Madrid, but it seems that you are safely esconced from the turmoil, so enjoy! iQue diviertes mucho!

  2. Wow, Laureen, what an adventure. I laughed out loud at your “cook, clean and cuddle” requirement of Clint’s.

  3. Laureen.. what an interesting day !!
    Then only ingredient I have on hand to make that drink is grappa ……and I will not be brewing it !!!!
    You comtinue to hold our imterest with your daily doings .
    Keep well and keep blogging .
    Paula and Bud

    • I just had dinner with two Spaniards and one Anglo. They were hysterical when I told them my age. They think it’s unusual to do what I’m doing at my age. This always surprises me. It is fun here.

  4. terrific fun story.. and you amaze all of us followers… anne.

  5. Laureen….
    Re. Your mothers wise words to you……..wow !

  6. That recipe looks enticing! Heres to whatcha call it. I wanna taste!

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