Birmingham, London, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro...Vejer de la Frontera
So I’m a Brummie, who’s originally Greek Cypriot, who’s lived in London, Madrid & Rio de Janeiro (part of my degree), and who has chosen a tiny Andalucían town as the birthplace for my blog and Youtube channel. Ye…pretty much.
Over the past 3 months I have been living in Vejer de la Frontera, right down on the Southern tip of Spain (and Europe) living and working with some incredible people who came to this town on the whim, fell in love, and decided to continue their own stories here. I first came here in July 2015 after asking my mum and dad to contribute to a week’s cooking course as part of a mixed birthday / graduation present (love you guys). I came across Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen in this place ‘Vejer’ which I naively took as a misspelling of Jerez. Annie is just the most fun Scot whose raw passion for the food and wine (by which I mean Sherry) here on the Costa de la Luz led her to become officially ‘adopted’ by the town for her efforts to educate (and certainly feed) outsiders about the culinary treasures of the area. Her knowledge and enthusiasm opened my eyes to the beautiful process of elaborating Sherry and how to pair Sherry with food. “Sherry must never be drunk on its own.” That I will never forget.
I went to Vejer with an open mind, knowing full well that I would be significantly younger than the other budding cooks in my group. After 7 days, I struggled to leave this stunning ‘pueblo blanco.’ It was an entire week of shopping in markets for the cooking day ahead, speaking (hugging, kissing, taking selfies, and I remember dancing at one point) with the store owners, cooking up some incredible dishes and enjoying the fruits of our (very satisfying) labour. After this week I had boundless enthusiasm for Almadraba Tuna, Retinto Beef, Artisanal Cheeses from Cádiz province, and of course, all varieties of sherry and what constitutes the perfect ‘maridaje’ (pairing). I kept in touch with the guys (Chris & Jayne from Newbury and So from Yorkshire) as well Annie ever since.
It was in March this year when Annie, along with Chelsea (an official sherry educator) & Michael: a nomadic, cool and cultured Australian couple who run their own digital marketing agency here, gave me the opportunity to help them out with all kinds of work in both of their businesses. After what was planned as a month’s experience, I decided ‘not to leave’ and have since stayed at the very stylish boutique guesthouse Casa Shelly, assisting managers Chris & Javier with their social media strategy. It’s these beautiful people, along with a fair few others, who just last month joined me to celebrate my birthday. It was such an honour to be among those who have welcomed me with open arms to Vejer, and who have made me feel at home here.
Since arriving I can safely say the original three have converted me into an official sherry lover or ‘aficionado’. They’ve all taken me under their wing and treated me almost as their own son. As well as the natives around here (the true ‘Vejeriegos’) I owe so much of this venture of mine to them, as they have never ceased to feed my enthusiasm for the food and produce of this region and provide me with new experiences every week. Chelsea has taken me to meetings in numerous Bodegas where I have sat amongst loud, confident Spanish men battling each other to get a word in edge ways while blowing smoke into my face with every word, as well as to the Feria de Jerez, a pretty momentous occasion. Annie has introduced me to some fascinating people around town, both native and from the growing expat community, has taken me on two ‘tapas routes’ (all will be told) and just last month guided me through the Medina in Tangiers, Morocco. It is with great pride that I am now Annie’s godson here, a decision we made to make our lives that bit easier whenever she introduced me to someone around town. This was especially useful since she knows every other person. Annie, Chelsea and Michael have allowed me to take over their kitchens and create dishes from whatever I can get my hands on. Lunch was pretty much always my duty, and I loved it. I know many of my Instagram followers were seeing what I had cooked up everyday...
It’s because of these guys and their enthusiasm for my idea that has inspired me to write this, to you, today. Stay tuned. Hasta pronto.