My camera roll is a collection of blurred selfies, crooked skylines, and 40 pictures in a row of my friend with her hair a certain way. I generally breeze through this whole array blindly, too lazy to pare it down.
But one stretch from September 2019 is brightly colored, long, and useful. It’s from when I visited my grandmother in Madrid. As she does every time I see her, she made paella. I meticulously documented her process in photos and videos so that I could repeat it at home.
First, the stock: a cloudy, salty pot of leek, onion, celery, and fish bones. Next, the shrimp, seared in olive oil in the paella pan and set aside for the garnish. Then come the chicken wings. Diced peppers and garlic are next, then squid, tomatoes, clams, artichokes, and rice, all blending into a mess of colored squares that would have taken up my entire phone memory five years ago.
Then the finale: mussels, strips of roasted red peppers, and shrimp arranged in concentric circles on top of yellowed rice. It is the national mosaic of Spain.