The Start did not begin in Barcelona; there was a prelude that contained moving to a new apartment – with a uniquely large NYC kitchen, excavating through a lot of work, and just the day-to-day rigors of urban life. The Start in Barcelona commenced nearly six thousand miles in the States in the city counter to the natural order – green grass, spectacular fountains in the middle of the dessert with bright lights, gambling establishment and such. The spontaneous idea was sparked by a simple desire – to have a few paella and sangria dinner parties. A chance Internet search returned a great roundtrip flight and then the rather inexpensive weekend hotel arrangement made the deal.

The day was long; a full day at the office followed by a taxi trek on Queens Boulevard; there was a bit of traffic on the Long Island Expressway. The process from JFK to the Old World was rather smooth with a decent seat and catching few “naps”. The jet lag really didn’t hit until I was on the connecting flight from Madrid to Barcelona; with only a 50 minutes flight time, I was knocked out. That is I sat down, strapped in, woke up, looked out the window and there’s the Mediterranean Sea and then the Spanish coast.

After the power nap, I placed one foot in front of the other with the first stop at a quaint café/bar. With an espresso in my system, I traversed the land making my way to the sea. Why was I compelled to make the Mediterranean my first destination? I’m inclined to reply that this sea is the heart and perhaps soul of Western culture or at least it is a main artery even as a citizen from the States.  In this place outside the familiar symbols, sights, and sounds, I am instantly reminded that this is not the U.S.  And in order of reflection: in Spain, in Europe, outside of the U.S. I am an American – more so from the U.S.A – and then I’m Black.

This was not my first time on European soil; by my count it was the third. These things you tend to remember specific counts and experiences until it becomes common knowledge or second nature. Such as, I cannot remember the number of times I’ve been to Chicago or Orlando – all for work. In fact, the first two European trips – Vienna, Austria and Stockholm, Sweden – were work based with only a few hours squeezed out to be a tourist.

This trip completely qualifies as a vacation; a rare action in my life itinerary. There was no place I had to be or anyone I had to meet. The streets, buildings, parks, and tapas bars were all mine whenever I wanted. Barcelona is a walking town – filled with sightseers; as there are many tourist traps that I gladly visited and photographed.

As an aged European city, it is well – old with hints of new sprouting about. Barcelona is rich with historical architecture and modern advances. The ancient buildings remain prominent but the new somehow blends in. There is a wonderful, sensual intermix between the two with organic charisma being the shared foundations.

I walked with my eyes to the sky and scanning mezzanines and higher levels and from time to time, I crawled underground into the Subway system. This was a perfect way to escape the tourist lot, but also provided an insight into how the locals get around – when they don’t ride a bike. Just as in NYC – the subway is a wonderfully disgusting way to observe people as well as getting from once place to another since the city is much wider on foot than on a map.

Up into the terrain level, an earlier observation was that they – either locals or perhaps Europeans in general – look at you; damn near stare as you cross paths. First reaction was “Is it because I’m Black?” But then I realize their concept of Black, African-American is likely to be nil. There were Africans around and they are different than Black (African-American). At any rate, I haven’t figured this out, but I was observed and after awhile I noticed it less; especially when I started speaking the language.  I felt no offense but it takes a second or two to adjust.

Perhaps this is where I “started”. In my culinary research and domestic exploration, I heard about the wonder and beauty of Spanish cuisine; not to be confused with “Spanish American” food from the various post-Spanish colonies in the New World. True Spanish cuisine is the root of what we in the States consider “Spanish” food. In this land – there are no avocados, plantains, or corn tortillas for the traditional meals. I was reminded that my love for Colombian, Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican foods all have roots to the conquistadors from the Old World. I find it interesting that I need to explain what Spanish cuisine is or at least what it is not just as I’m taking possession of it.

Spanish cuisine – food and dishes from the Iberian Peninsula – captured me and I do not seek escape, but rather I intend on becoming the master. For years, I wanted a culinary voice; from time to time I attempted to speak the culinary language with a Mediterranean accent but it wasn’t until I was on this soil, walk these streets, cruised it’s markets, ate the food, and drank the wine did I get it.

I believe in good accessible food – harvested from the land, sea, and air: small bites to improve your drink, and flavors rooted in a mix of ancient cultures, substantial meals that contain love it is meaning and purpose as well as flavor and sustenance. Consequently, these are the elements of Mediterranean food. I hunger to learn more, to become fluent not just in language but also in Spanish food vocabulary; I feel like I have a door that I can look to, run to, and open. This is the cuisine I want to master. As I look through the windowed door, I see this place, this land, this culinary philosophy on the table. I eagerly walk through and approach this table. I now have a foundation – a sort of home.

I returned home with a charge and when I entered into my open kitchen, I realized my purpose and my next chapter. With the new living and cooking space, I can step up to the next level. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I am forming a question. It has to do with friends, family members, and even associates. At this point, it constructed around the inquiry – are you international?