MM 4.5 — Day 6: Paella in Palma

What a shame that the name Mallorca has such a bad ring to it. The association you will most likely evoke in most Europeans is that while it has nice and warm weather, the vast majority of tourists who visit the island go there for wild partying, including too much alcohol and too little interest, if at all, in the local culture. Well, that which is left of the local culture.

When I went on the “Paella in Palma” excursion this morning, what we saw instead of tourists who’re already way beyond their Liver-Compatible Alcohol Consumption Levels by mid-morning was a stunningly beautiful island with countless olive and almond trees, inspiring architecture, and great food markets.

The idea behind this shore excursion is to join a chef during his shopping round in a grocery market, and then see how the ingredients from that market were used for the traditional Spanish dish called “Paella.” Hence, we drove from the harbor terminal to a roofed market which kind you typically find around the mediterranean sea, but also in France: it’s a large building with a vented roof, open entrances at all four corners, and housing lots of smaller independent stalls inside.

Food Market in Palma

At first, the smell of the place may take some getting used to — much more so since we entered next two fully stocked fish booths –, but what the merchants had on offer was a feast for the eyes: fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, breads, pastries, flowers — it was all there in abundance and in fantastic quality. And having it presented in all these little stalls, offered to you by people who are proud of what they sell, is such a difference from the average supermarkets found a few hundred miles further north-north-east.

The people in the south of Europe seem to simply have a much higher appreciation for food in general. And that has nothing to do at all with the exclusivity of the food or the dishes they prepare here, i.e, it does not require highly refined Haute Cuisine to make food special. Quite the contrary: the magic of mediterranean food is in the quality of the ingredients, the simplicity of its preparation, and its appreciation by the locals.

Traditional Paella

There could have been no better proof for this point of view than what we got to see at an hacienda in a small village, idyllically set between vast almond plantations. After enjoying a glass of Malaga wine, a bit of Spanish “pizza,” and a bit of cheese, we all gathered around a little open-walled stone hut where the Magic of the Paella was about to take place. Two chefs demonstrated how to make Paella by simply frying all the ingredients — several kinds of meat, squid, shrimp, vegetables, herbs, and rice — in a specific order, sometimes taking some out of the pan again, but eventually simmering everything in that large pan over a wood fire. And the result was delicious. If you care about the culinary arts, you may rightfully admire genius chefs like Ducasse, Adriá, or Witzigmann, but let’s not forget that this simple, yet tasty mediterranean cooking is at the root of it all.

And here’s another class: Apple’s Janet Hill is presenting her “Software Extravaganza,” showing off a few little application gems. Of these, ProfCast is especially impressive.

ProfCast will automatically turn a slide show presentation into an enhanced podcast: it records audio, transmogrifies slides from Keynote or PowerPoint to photos at iPod video resolution, syncs both audio and slide photos, and saves it as a single file. Supported by Apple engineers, the app was developed at the University of Michigan, where they record every dental class with ProfCast. The resulting enhanced podcast is made available for download in less than four minutes after the actual lecture!

ProfCast is an amazing example for how creative use of digital media can enhance education in amazing ways. What’s more, it’s being made available to anyone who’s interested in it at a reasonable $30.

Does the name Craig Hickman ring a bell with you? Craig is the original author of Kidpix, and he’s on the cruise with us. In Janet’s class, he had the chance to demo is new create arts project called Beautiful Dorena. As Craig puts it, “things in the app are more interesting than they are useful.” Playful as it is, the software app is just outrageously funny and inspiring. The read a bit more about what this app is all about, read Chris Breen’s article over at Macworld. Or, even better yet, just head over to Craig’s website, download Beautiful Dorena and find out yourself just how much fun this kind of “useless” software can be.

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