1:54 AM on a Tuesday,
I had a rather deep conversation with my dear friend/roommate/soulmate Cat. I couldn't tell you how or why we strayed from our usual existential, boy-crazed, and party planning conversations to debating the subject of race, ethnicity and culture, but we sure did.
Cat, a Belorussian, explained to me how even though she is a fluent Russian daughter of immigrants, she feels as though she doesn't fully connect with the culture of Belarus, given her upbringing was in American culture. Sure, she's grown up visiting family in Belarus, but the connection to the culture of kids her own age was lacking. What do they do for fun? What do they obsess over? Do they have an opinion on Brangelina?
It had me thinking of the cultures I come from, yet know very little of. Being German and Hispanic, I grew up making a Paella that would have my ancestors turning in their graves, as well as unapologetically bringing German Chocolate Cake to class for culture day. Little did we know, German Chocolate Cake was created by ENGLISH-American baker Samuel German. Embarrassing? Yes, but this mistake was not completely inconceivable. After all, I grew up here. I am a product of our American culture - raised and refined by it. While it's not crazy that I wouldn't be immersed in the culture of my German and Spanish sets of grandparents, it's also not crazy to want to explore it. I think there is a natural tendency for people to want to know where they originate from. While we are a product of our environment, we also come from rich histories. At the very heart of our American culture is our ethnic "melting pot".
I never grew up with an understanding or experience of the culture of Spain. Speaking to Cat, or "Yekaterina", I was inspired to connect to my heritage through one of the best ways I knew how - food! I swiftly made an OpenTable reservation at Aventura Spanish Restaurant + Bar and brought Cat along for the ride!
As we approach the restaurant, I see the aesthetically pleasing neon signs and I'm already won over. We enter, sit and after taking approximately 20 minutes to decide our order, we settle on devouring...
Payoyo Queso: fragrant, flavorful, tangy-sweet and balanced Goat’s milk aged over three months from Andalusía, Spain.
I have one word (or suggestive sound): Oomph. Being the classy and sophisticated women we are, we attempted to describe our fancy (and pricy) tapas: the sweet marinated onion and jam were an excellent compliment to the subtle tang of the queso. Que delicioso!
Paella Aventura: chicken, chorizo, catalan sausage, cauliflower, fava beans, piquillo peppers, sofrito
Jesus, Mary + Joseph this was good. The dish was enough to feed a small, or should I say pequeño, army, but we were up to the task. Me and my mother's attempts in my childhood to recreate this classic dish of Spain, pale in comparison to Aventura's flawless execution. The food was so incredible I might just write a Yelp review.
Not only did the food, aesthetic, and vibe live up to my expectations, it exceeded them. To be cliché, cheesy, what have you, I found a piece of myself in a little, but nevertheless vibrant town in the midwest. One of the many reasons I fell in love with University of Michigan was the amazing gem of a town it resides in. Like America itself, Ann Arbor is a melting pot of ethnicities, offering new and exciting flavors of places far away. Whether you are a part Spaniard like myself, or just love yourself some damn good tapas and Paella y tienes hambre (and are hungry) head over to 216 E Washington St. Ann Arbor, MI. They don't disappoint!
The very best,