El Relámpago del Catatumbo – The Catatumbo Lightning

The NASA has announced the new lightning capital of the world: The Maracaibo Lake, “El Lago de Maracaibo”. The phenomenon of the Catatumbo Lightning is not new to Venezuelans. Back in the 80’s when I was in Middle School/High School, we learned about the Catatumbo River, and that right at the spot where its waters meet the Maracaibo Lake, there are special atmospheric conditions that favor the occurrence of lightning almost every night. According to the NASA, “an average of 297 nocturnal thunderstorms per year, peaking in September.”

When I was in school, we didn’t studied the specifics of this natural event; I’m sure that very little was known then. Here I would like to share some articles about it.

NASA: Earth’s New Lightning Capital Revealed

BBC: At one lake in Venezuela, lightning flashes 28 times a minute

MNN: ‘Everlasting storm’ has 1 million lightning strikes a year

Welcome to Just Living!

Living somewhere else than the place I was born was not a surprise for me. I always knew that I was not going to stay in Venezuela forever. I knew it since childhood, and I knew it meant to be away from the family I love and friendships I cherish. Nevertheless, I am blessed, and I have been able to keep bonded to these affections.

What was a surprise, was to discover the impact that such small things such as your commodities brands, the size of the typing paper, and the procedure to buy medicines have on everyday life. Adjusting to these little things moving from Venezuela to USA’s East Coast was not so difficult; back then we used to have most of the big American brands in Venezuela. I only needed to get used to “inches and pounds”, and to learned that to buy medicines I needed always a prescription; you get ONLY the numbers of pills the doctor prescribed, and they come on bottles with your name, address, phone number, and the number of refills allowed.

Living in New York there is no room to miss anything you used to have in your birth country. There are Venezuelan restaurants (although I didn’t visit any in almost twelve years), and you can buy anything from Harina Pan (pre-cooked corn flour) to plantain leaves to make the traditional hallacas for Christmas, and the occasional arepa. During those years I also came to love Indian Cuisine, Sushi, Korean Food, different types of food from China, and the very American New York’s Bagels.

Because such diversity and availability of produce, it was a bit of a shock not to find all that in Portugal. I have been told that in the heart of Lisbon, in Martim Moniz, you can find anything your heart/stomach desire. I live now very close to Cabo da Roca … so food shopping trips to Lisbon are not that appealing. When I found myself missing New York’s thin crust pizza, and bagels, I knew it was the time to bake again like when I lived in Venezuela.

I love cooking, and during three years I tried different recipes. All were OK, they were bagels … but almost two years ago I came across a recipe in Epicurios, and that was it! The best bagel recipe I had tried before. I have made some variants: I make egg, cinnamon raisin, plain, oatmeal, and cranberry & walnuts bagels. In average, I bake every two weeks. They freeze wonderful, and although I have not found a deli with flavored cream cheese or egg salad, I am happy having my toasted bagel with plane Philadelphia Cream Cheese for breakfast.

Here I share with you this wonderful recipe. If you are an expat missing bagels, or if you are a bagel lover and want to learn how to make them, this is a great way to start. I make the dough on my bread machine, so I don’t even knead by hand anymore. I do roll them though; it took some practicing, but it is fun to try to make them like the “real thing”.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Bagels by Peter Reinhart

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Photography: My egg bagels on my kitchen island.

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