Ketchup, brownies, peanut butter, oh my!

Try explaining what a brownie is to a Spaniard and you will finish feeling exhausted.

After that failed attempt try explaining what peanut butter is, and you will receive a weird look.

Then, go to the next level and try explaining the importance of Heinz Tomato Ketchup to a Minnesotan and most likely they will not just give you a weird look but also tell you you’re weird.

This was my experience with my intercambio one of the first times we met. For those who don’t know what an intercambio is, it is a concept created by our director where you exchange cultures and languages with someone from the country you are studying in. In my case I practice my Spanish with Dani, my intercambio, and Dani practices his English with me. We talk about cultural differences, stereotypes, ask questions regarding verbs and tenses, and yes gab about ketchup. Our conversations are terribly deep and sophisticated.

Today, after I was having a bit of a rough day in regards to exams my intercambio appeared in our Marquette University office. Much to my surprise I asked what he was doing here and he handed me a bag. Still confused he said told me it was a bag filled of things I said I missed from the United States. I was so taken aback by his generosity I had no idea what to say except one thing: What is it? He laughed and told me to open it but only after he left. I had no idea what to expect. My friends told me it had to be peanut butter, we all know how much I love that crunchy, creamy food staple.

Before he left he told me he wrote me a letter and to only read it after he had left the office as well. I was in a state of confusion and had not expected this at all. He said goodbye and quickly ran out of the office, and when I say ran I mean a pace between a speed walk and jog. I think he was nervous that he may have misunderstood my food obsessions months ago.

After reading the letter I was filled with the longing to stay in Madrid forever. It reminded me of all the great connections I have made here and how much I am going to miss our weekly conversations and excursions to different parts of the city.

The letter was a great start to the entire gift and after reading it I could not wait to what else was inside. Immediately I saw ketchup. Not just any ketchup either, Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Here in Madrid we’ve all been having a hard time with the lack of ketchup, the strange taste of it and the color. It is just really not the same here. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw the bottle and the label. The first thing that popped into my head was, Now I can actually enjoy my nuggets when I splurged on them for lunch! I kid you not. It’s the little things back in the States you take advantage of.

After the ketchup, which later upon further inspection has “fiery chilli peppers” in them, was peanut butter. Obviously Dani could not get my favorite,  Market Pantry Creamy Peanut Butter from Target, but he purchased the next best thing: Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter. How the heck did he find this when I searched high and low for it over a month ago? Answer: Taste of America, the self-dubbed Original American Supermarket. I should have used Google.

Under the delightful peanut butter and ketchup were … Wait for it … Feel the suspense … Do you really want to know? … OK, I will tell you … Brownies! Oh thank Bajesus. I had not seen a brownie in over four months. This summer I baked them all the time in the evenings when it was cool enough and in Madrid we don’t eat a lot of junk food. Except for Príncipe cookies – those are deadly. When I saw those sixteen two-bite size brownies with chocolate frosting I about died. OK, that is a little strong, but I did become extremely overwhelmed with joy. And the desire to eat them all, by myself. Luckily, in public you have to have self-control so instead I opened them and shared them with those who were in the office.

Dani made me realize something else today, that one person can really change the way you think about something, or someone. I never thought I would miss our conversations so much. Or the funny way when we both don’t know what one another are trying to say and then hover over his dictionary to search for an appropriate word. At first I thought the intercambio would be awkward and was nervous, but we became friends within minutes. Once he tried to crack a Simpsons joke without success and I had to break the news to him that Bart Simpson is not the badass he once was on primetime T.V. He then broke the news that my chances of Pasapalabra were slim to none.

Now, 16 two-bite size brownies later, with two unopened containers of condiments and four months of wonderful experiences here, I’m glad that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and had an intercambio like Dani. Sure, he may not understand my love of peanut butter and jelly minus the jelly, but I also don’t understand why going to Arizona to see the desert is the top of his bucket list when he has already been to Egypt. We all have our quirks and he and I laugh at them.

If you’re in Spain and want to try a brownie, hit me up at my piso, I’ll be nommin’ on them.