Being away from home on the Fourth of July is a little like walking around with no one knowing that it was your birthday. You kept waiting for someone to remember and finally say it, but the release never came. 1984’s Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” came a bit to mind.
But independence was still at the forefront of my morning walk to the village. The Catalonians, with the referendum’s unfavorable outcome behind them, could still be seen proudly draping the orange-and-red flag from their balconies. Yellow ribbons denoting support of Catalonian sovereignty hung from door knobs, window sills, and were fastened to fences.
We are told by our resident advisor that the loss was more sorely felt here in the villages, rather than the more metropolitan areas like Barcelona. Here, people still believed in a separate state, but didn’t like to talk politics in the presence of visitors, thinking it largely rude. Even without asking, it was clear in an unspoken way that broaching the topic straight-on was considered gauche.The juxtaposition of Fourth of July happening at home, and the lack of independence here struck an odd chord in me that I wasn’t able to shake until lunchtime.
A fellow resident and I trekked back to the village later that day and visited the Frankfurt shop. It was run by a adroit Argentinian expat who looked young to be a mother of two and owner of a bustling eatery. Independence day was making me a little homesick, so I ordered a frankfurt as a stand-in for a hot dog, and we picked at thinly-sliced french fries, or papas fritas. The irony of two Americans ordering American food abroad was not lost on us.
On our way back from lunch, we stopped into what we only knew as ‘the wine lady.’ She ran a shop that vended fresh fruits, and would fill whatever size container you brought her with wine from a spigot–through her specialty was vermouth. I was unfamiliar with the practice of drinking straight vermouth, so I’d been somewhat astounded by the advent of serving it on ice with a slice of orange and an olive. The vermouth made in town was syrupy on the tongue and had a floral flavor to it, a deep plum red.
She filled our emptied two-liter water bottle from lunch with wine and talked us into on taking the vermouth home as well.
Trundling downhill with our bottles of wine, we started our descent back down to the farmhouse. The sun had dipped below the mountain and everything looked toasted and golden-brown. I could feel my homesickness begin to dissipate in the cooling air, and felt the empty pages in my notebook pulling at me like a snared hangnail.
Today we’d dined American, but tonight we’d drink like Spaniards.