When I was growing up on Long Island in the summertime, my favorite thing in the world was a whole day spent at the beach.
I loved arriving in the morning, towels and swimsuit in hand. I loved playing in the sand and then rinsing off for lunch in the cafeteria. I loved spending the afternoons in the ocean and eating ice cream and playing tennis and doing cannonballs in the pool. I loved coming home at the end of all of it, feeling that extreme fatigue that only a day in the sun and the salty waves can bring and that only a severe amount of icy cold watermelon can cure—for me, all of this, and not just the sandy shore and Atlantic waves, made up the beach.
This is probably why at every beach I’ve been to since I’ve been home, I’ve been horridly disappointed. No one but the friends I grew up with—a bedraggled group made up of all the siblings of three families we always knew—would spend hours in the ocean jumping waves and follow it up with a milkshake. No one would tan while reading trashy magazines and take breaks every five minutes for a dip in the pool. It wasn’t the same, and I didn’t like it.
Not so in San Sebastian. It could be the surfing–yes, my readers, I have been so absent because instead of spending my days in front of the stove as I usually would when there’s this much rain (and there is a lot of rain), I’ve been suiting up in a wetsuit and hitting the beach. It’s still not the easiest thing in the world for me, which is why I take such pleasure in little victories: the first time I stood up, the first time I was able to carry the board without feeling like it was going to fall or I was going to hit someone. The first time I came out of the water without injuring myself (I’ve got countless bruises on my legs, I bashed my head into my own surfboard coming up after the “washing machine” of white water that I used to adore, and last Friday, I got a handsome slice taken out of my face by the nose of the board. I think it makes me look hardcore.)
Most of all, what I like about surfing is the fact that it brings back that feeling of summertime, even if I am heading to the beach wrapped up in a flannel shirt and a fleece instead of in shorts and a t-shirt. I love the fact that every night, when I wash my hair, I find sand and seaweed. I love the fact that every morning my shoulders ache from paddling. I love the fact that I can walk back to work with the smell of salt on my skin. And I love getting home at the end of the day and making it all better with my new version of icy cold watermelon: gazpacho.
I’ve always loved gazpacho: here, we buy it in cartons as anonymous and banal as milk cartons. I go through about two a week myself. But back in Paziols, I made a huge vat of it as an experiment and was greatly surprised to see the kids go through it in one fell swoop: definitely didn’t see that one coming. This gazpacho is in the Andalucian style: the addition of bread makes the texture much more filling and silky. And although I know that the trend back in the states is to eat gazpacho chunky–like a soup-salad hybrid–here in Spain, gazpacho is smooth, perfect for drinking out of a glass after a long day at the beach.
1 clove garlic
1 Kilo tomatoes
1/2 small red onion
1 small green pepper
1 small red pepper
1 small cucumber
1 cup tomato purée
2 teaspoons Sherry
1 teaspoon red vinegar
1 slice stale white bread soaked in water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff!)
salt and pepper
In the food processor, combine the garlic and a little bit of the olive oil with a few pulses. Add the rest of the vegetable ingredients and pulse until smooth but still textured. Add the tomato purée, sherry, vinegar and bread and pulse until the bread is combined with the rest of the ingredients. Stream in the olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top, as well as pepper sauce for those who like it a bit spicy and garnish with cubes of boiled egg or ham.