04 January 2012

Valencia's Beautiful Market

Valencia's Central market is one of the oldest in Europe.  The beauty and freshness of the produce was incredible even to us Salad Bowl Californians.  They seem to keep the most beautiful produce for themselves.  The oranges that we ate and bought in sufficient quantities to keep us awash in vitamin C for the whole of January were like eating candy from a tree.  To a reluctant ham eater, the
Ibérico ham was full of such rich and nutty flavor.  You could taste the sweet acorns that the animal had been grazing on.  

My friend Mel introduced us to Spanish tuna ventrescas.  We had this at Casa Ana as a starter to our paella feast.  It was served simply over crunchy flavorful Raf tomatoes with the olive oil from the tuna.  We bought some of the tuna and tomatoes at the market and had it for our first dinner back in Montpellier.  It brought back the flavors of our trip and made us yearn for such a market near us!!

We also bought fresh and dried beans and rice for a paella feast.  The lady who sold us the beans gave me a quick overview of paella preparation.  I was surprised that a dish that has such a reputation for difficulty and time consuming preparation is actually fairly simple in technique and ingredients.  I will share both the recipe and the pictures of our paella with you in a separate post.

It was a new adventure in cuisine for me to learn of the varied, rich and simple dishes that are eaten in this region of Spain.  I look forward to many Spanish influences in my menus to come.

03 January 2012

Anatomy Museum of Montpellier's School of Medicine


The warning to all who are faint of heart and the interdiction to pregnant women and anyone under the age of 12 may be the most successful inadvertent marketing campaign for this little shop of horrors.  This museum contains a vast collection of wax models, real body parts, sculptures, bottled fetuses, paintings and skeletal remains that have been collected, used and studied in the School of Medicine of Montpellier  that has been operating since 1181 -- Europe's oldest continuous medical school.

There are wax models of diseases and ailments that are no longer seen, mummified body parts with all sorts of freakish ailments, preserved nervous systems and skeletons with amazing detail, lungs, hearts, feet, hands, skulls, leading up to the furthermost wall lined with glass fronted shelves full of ancient jars filled with all types of things that can go terribly wrong in the formation of a human being.  I suppose this is to ensure that only the strongest of constitutions that can make it through all of the cases and shelves full of all sorts of freakish material get a glimpse of the sad results of a lack of prenatal care.

Once a year, all public museums are open to the public for free by the French government.  More than 4,000 people waited over two hours to gawk at the freak show.  Now you must endure a coma inducing tour of the lecture halls and offices of the medical school to reach this collection of body bits and pieces.  It was so incredibly boring and long that my friend Sophie and I thought we had made a mistake and were not going to get to visit the only interesting part of the whole tour.  The price you must pay to see the freak show is steep!!

A mummified spinal cord

Early case of encephalitis

Portrait gallery of the Directors of the School of  Medicine

The courtyard of the School of  Medicine

One of many cases of skeletons 

Paintings of diseases

Mummified head with dissection of brain

Paintings of afflictions