The other week I learned a new word. At dinner, Milagros became very animated talking about interior design, a passion of hers. Then she used a curious word; she called the color of an orange wall she had decorated for a movie set “naranja”.
Now, in English, “orange” refers to both the color and the fruit. But in Spanish classes in the U.S., I had always learned that “naranja” meant the orange fruit and that “anaranjado” referred to the orange color.
Was she just using language strangely, or had I somehow missed out on this use of “naranja” for the color orange? Milagros is, after all, not just a madrileña: she was born and raised in the Canary Islands, Spanish islands off the coast of Africa. She moved to Venezuela as a teenager with her family, married a diplomat and lived in Paris for two years, then Washington D.C. for five. She later divorced and has been in Madrid for the past thirty years.
So, I decided to test this word out. After dinner, I went to a bar for “intercambio night” – language exchange night. And, aha, there just happened to be an orange door in that bar. While talking with a Spanish girl, I pointed to the door and asked, “What color is that door?” She promptly replied, “naranja”.
So! Apparently in Spain, just like in the U.S., they use the same word for the orange fruit as they do for the orange color. I asked her, then what does “anaranjado” mean? She replied that it means something like “orange-ish”, and that it’s not really used in Spain, but in Latin America.
What does all this orange talk bring us to? It goes without saying that oranges are an important crop in Spain. Who hasn’t had a Valencia orange? And oranges are better in Spain than in other parts of the world: oranges are a national crop, and thus always fresh and local.
The “local food scene” that is blazing through the U.S. is basically non-existent in Spain. I asked around, having worked for a farmers’ market in Chicago the year before coming to Spain and naturally interested. The answer? It’s not really here. You could go to “el campo” (the country), and that’s where you can find local food. Organic food is also harder to come by, but not impossible, sequestered to tiny storefronts and small sections in major grocery stores. I believe that this is all closely related to health: the obesity epidemic is so bad in the U.S, that our reaction to it are these “extreme” ways of healthier eating. Spanish people have a much lower percentage of obesity than in the U.S. (though it’s been increasing in the past few years, and I’ll dedicate an entry to that topic in the near-ish future.) As such, you can’t find farmers’ markets in Spain or stores like Whole Food sporting local and organic products. In grocery stores, I check out the stickers on the produce: apples from Chile, kiwis from New Zealand…just like we can find in the U.S. But oranges, oh, oranges…those always sport a sticker from “Spain”.