Biography – Part 1
Emilia’s Journey: My Mediterranean Years
Where I was born
Both my mother and my father were originally from Andalusia, a region in the south of Spain, but their families moved to Madrid when the two of them were still very young. There, they met each other in their early twenties and I heard them saying many times that it was love at first sight. And it was in Madrid where I was born and grew up.
At that time, Spain was not what we consider a wealthy country, but looking back at my childhood and teenager years, I am really happy that things were the way they were.
What my family diet was based on
My father was a tailor and my mother helped him with the business. The income from the business was enough to support the whole family but without any luxuries, so, like most people in the Mediterranean countries, we ate what the land produced.
Red meat was very scarce and expensive, so our main source of protein was fish, some chicken and lamb, dry beans, lentils and chickpeas. Occasionally, my mother will bring beef liver. I didn’t care that much for it but at that time my sister and I ate what my mother cooked without complaining.
Extra virgin olive oil, the only oil around in the region, was ever present in our meals and salads. I remember getting sometimes a piece of fresh bread with olive oil as a mid-afternoon snack. It was really tasty.
The fruit was always seasonal and it had a lot of flavor, so I was always looking for summer time to indulge in melons, apricots, cherries, strawberries and so on. During winter time pomegranates were my favorites. They still are.
My mother used all natural ingredients
All our meals were made from scratch, with fresh products. I must say here that the first can of tomatoes I saw in my house was when I was 23 years old. The only packaged food we used at home were sardines and not always, since my mother used to bring them fresh from the fish market.
The fish was excellent and very fresh. It didn’t matter how my mother cooked it; it was always very tasty and has been my favorite main course since those early years. I don’t mind eating red meat occasionally, but I don’t care too much for it, probably because I never got used to it.
And then it was the playing with my friends in the neighborhood. We didn’t have too many toys; actually we had very few. I remember that Santa Claus used to bring my sister and I clothes and shoes for school because “He” didn’t have enough money to buy us toys. But I didn’t care too much because every day, as soon as I came back from school and I had my homework done, out I went to play with all my friends.
My lifestyle as a child
We were a large group of children, boys and girls, and none of us had a television set at home, thank God. Actually, my father bought our first TV when I was 19 years of age. Isn’t that wonderful?
You may think otherwise but not having a TV at home allowed me to enjoy for hours and hours the company of my friends. Every evening, when we got together, we run, skated, jumped rope, you name it. And what it was amazing is that after running, jumping, or skating for so many hours, we were not tired. Of course, by the time we went back to our homes, we were quite ready for dinner.
Another benefit of not having a TV set at home was that during our family meals we talked to each other. Our conversations were never interrupted or cut short because there was a TV program that seemed to be more important and interesting than sharing the experiences each of us have had during the course of that day.
As I look back at those years, I see now that another benefit of our community lifestyle was that I never saw an overweight child around me. We all were thin, slim, energetic, and very seldom we got sick, except for the typical children diseases from which we recovered pretty fast. I must confess however that sometimes I was looking forward to get a little sick so I could take a break from school.
Nowadays it makes me very sad when I see overweight children. Children’s job is to run, to play with other children, to enjoy their childhood and not to play video games at their computers for hours to come, isolated from other children. Let’s a child be a child so he or she can build a physical foundation to become healthy adults. They will have plenty of time to spend hours at their computers when they become older. Trust me.