My Best Souvenir – Bet You Can’t Guess


Heidi Siefkas in Barcelona, Spain

With many adventures under my belt, you can imagine I have souvenirs from all corners of the world.

I have rugs from Peru, sculptures from the Dominican Republic, a sombrero grande from Mexico, and jewelry from Australia and New Zealand to Cuba.

With that said, I've always been a person that "tries" to travel and shop light. And, I admit it; I'm not perfect.

Yeppers, I have made a couple of purchases that required an extra checked bag. Yes, those Moroccan rugs or wooden sailboats from Brazil were not well-calculated souvenir purchases, but they make for good stories and decor in my humble writing abode.

However, they were not nearly my best souvenirs. I was reminded of this on my recent trip back to Spain.

What on earth could be my best souvenir?

I'll give you a couple of hints:

  1. I wrote about it in With New Eyes.
  2. I got it nearly twenty years ago.
  3. This souvenir is from Spain.
  4. It involves one of my favorite carbs, the potato.
  5. It can be shared with others.

Ok, enough deliberation....

My best souvenir is none other than a recipe for tortilla española, a delicious, potato omelet. I learned how to make it from an Andalusian woman when I studied in Spain in the late nineties. After months of living with my roommate, Juana, in Madrid, I’d asked her to teach me how to make a tortilla española. Since she couldn’t cook, she told me, “Cuando estés conmigo en Murcia, mi abuela te ensenará.” (When you are with me in Murcia, my grandmother will teach you.)

Sure enough, on a school break, I traveled with Juana to her hometown in Andalucía. I stayed with her family, meeting her parents and elderly grandmother. As promised, Juana asked her grandmother to show me how to make a tortilla española. The next morning after breakfast, Juana and her grandmother led me out to the patio. In the southern part of Spain, many homes have two kitchens, with one located outside to keep the temperature of the homes cool, especially in the arid and hot summers. Through an authentic show-and-tell demonstration, Juana’s grandmother gave me the best souvenir I could have asked for: her recipe for a tortilla española. Here it is.


Tortilla española - Spanish Potato Omelet

Tortilla Española

Prep Time: 10 minutes


  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 6 large eggs
  • olive oil for pan frying
  • salt to taste

Cook time: 25 minutes

  • Heat frying pan to medium heat and add olive oil to liberally cover the pan.
  • Peel and dice potatoes (make them all similar in size for equal cooking time).
  • Dice onion.
  • Add all veggies and cook until soft.
  • For best results, stir often, reduce the heat to below medium, and mash the ingredients a little bit to get a good binding capacity.
  • Take the pan off the stove and cool for 5–10 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, crack all eggs and stir.
  • Add all veggies to the eggs.
  • Reheat the pan and cover with a small amount of olive oil. Add the egg and veggie mixture.
  • Scrape the sides of the frying pan and the underside of the omelet to prevent sticking.
  • When the omelet turns yellow in color, it is time to flip (a challenge). Put a large plate over the open pan, remove pan from stovetop and flip (can be messy). Slide that half-cooked tortilla española back into the pan until both sides are fully cooked. Always present the better-looking side to your guests.

Not only did the afternoon in the summer kitchen with abuela teach me the art of the tortilla, but it also instilled a habit that I have taken on many travels since. What souvenir other than a recipe can be so telling of a culture, plus lightweight and reusable?

For those of you that have read my books, I've included recipes for tortilla española and a traditional Peruvian drink, the Pisco Sour, in With New Eyes. I will be including many other recipes such as mojitos, natilla, and ropa vieja along with sassy stories in my next book, Cubicle to Cuba.

What's your best souvenir (a.k.a. recipe)?

Share with me by commenting below.

2 Responses

  1. Paulette
    Hi Heidi! I just recently made a recipe for a tomato salad that I learned at the cooking class in Barcelona! It turned out almost as good with Texas tomatoes :-) We also made the tortilla espana at the cooking class (and I tried it at a restaurant while in Malaga) ... hopefully when I make it here it will turn out just as good! Paulette
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Buen provecho!
  2. […] best souvenirs over the years have been recipes. In my book, With New Eyes, I included recipes for tortilla española from my years in Spain as well as a cocktail recipe for a pisco sour from my travels to Peru and […]

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