The Expat: Nadia Harón

From: San Sebastián, Spain
Lives: Mendoza
Education: Pharmacy degree at Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Profession: Cook at Urban at O.Fournier and Nadia OF
Currently reading: El hombre que amaba a los perros by Leonardo Padura
Last film: Something with my children
Gadget: My mobile phone

Nadia Harón.
Nadia Harón.

When her husband purchased some land in Uco Valley 15 years ago, Spanish pharmacist Nadia Harón assumed his decision was an impulsive whim. But after six years of annual visits, the couple and their two children moved to Mendoza to run O.Fournier winery, a decision which meant the San Sebastián transplant could indulge her own hobby of cooking. Now a mother of four, she runs Urban restaurant and Nadia OF.

Nadia says: “My first visit to Argentina was in March 2000, and our move here was a progressive one. My husband José Manuel had bought an estate – which was where the O.Fournier winery project would then be located – and I came with my eldest, Carmén, who was very young at that point, just three. In the beginning, I thought it was ‘madness’ because it was speculation, almost a whim.

“My sister-in-law and her husband had come to live here and were undertaking their first harvest at that point. They invited us to Mendoza that Easter and from then on, we came to visit at least once a year. And I realized that it was much more likely that we would all move to Argentina at some point.”

Moving from Madrid
At the turn of the millennium, Nadia and her family were based in Madrid; she was a pharmacist while her husband worked in banking. But the permanent move six years later allowed her to indulge her hobby and make it a reality. She says: “I was working for a pharmaceutical laboratory – totally different to what I do now! – and we moved directly to Mendoza in September 2006. What marked it as permanent was the academic year because once the children are in school, you have to adhere to that schedule.

“But the truth is that we didn’t move before that as our second child was born the year before, so we waited so as not to complicate that pregnancy. It was logical to come and I took the move very naturally. I have to admit that I came without any expectations – neither good nor bad ones – so having a relaxed attitude meant I met my objective of backing up José Manuel and helping him out.

“I was cooking long before I studied pharmacy and it had always been a passion of mine. When we came to Argentina, I saw the opportunity to convert that hobby into a profession. I remember a lot of pharmacy classes such as botanicals and I’d always think about the chemical or physical processes that changed products when you cook them. I cooked for a long time and it always kept me going but when it became my job, I pretty much lost my hobby!

“Up until recently, I ran my restaurant Nadia OF in Chacras de Coria, when we decided to move it to downtown Mendoza I now oversee lunch at Urban at O.Fournier and dinner at Nadia OF.”

My neighbourhood
After almost a decade living in the shadows of the Andes, Nadia sings Mendoza’s praises. “It’s a lovely city with very friendly people, a marvellous climate and offers a wonderful lifestyle. Two weeks after being here, I was perfectly placed, and I could do everything I wanted – and that made me very happy.

“We lived in Chacras de Coria for eight years, and that was our neighbourhood. We moved recently to a closed barrio that is nearby, but my place in Mendoza is still Chacras. It’s a small town, with a square and a church, a Sunday market and tiny stores. Everyone knows everyone else, which can also be difficult, but it’s the law in a such a tight-knit area. You can walk everywhere, it’s so authentic and I just love it. Palmares, where we now live, also has its pros in terms of contributing to tranquility, and it’s very safe; the children can come and go, and there’s a mall nearby. When you’re in Chacras you know you’re in Mendoza, but when you’re at the mall, you could be anywhere.”

Although there were no language barriers as such for the Spain transplant, Nadia did notice one important similarity with her motherland days after she arrived. “I remember something that I said to my mother, who lives in Spain, on the phone about a week after I arrived in Argentina. I told her ‘I feel closer to home here than I would if I were in Sweden.’ I think there’s a huge cultural closeness between Spain and Argentina.

“Something that did surprise me, however, was the closeness between families in Mendoza, which I think is greater than it is in Spain, even though it’s a Mediterranean country. And something else that struck me in a very positive way was raising and lowering the flag at school each day, I love it whenever there’s a function at school.”

While two of her children are Spanish-born, the younger two were born in Argentina. Despite that, the four siblings all identify with their current home. She says: “They all feel very Argentine. Carmén, who came here when she was eight, also feels Spanish, but the other three have all learned to walk, talk and go to school here. Carmén does put on a Spanish accent when we go to Spain but the others have Mendocino accents. Their grandparents say they can’t understand them when they talk on FaceTime!”

The great outdoors
Between two restaurants and four children, Nadia doesn’t enjoy a whole lot of free time, though she enjoys taking advantage of nature’s offerings. “I love walking in the mountains, and I enjoy reading. Mendoza is one of the best places in the world and it’s very much my place in the world. We can enjoy all four seasons, which are marked, but you can enjoy being outside all year round – apart from when the Zonda wine blows up soil.

“I haven’t had much chance to discover other parts of Argentina as much as I’d like to, but I love Salta and San Martín de los Andes. I try to visit each at least once a year. We once spent Christmas in San Martín, enjoying all the mountain activities – and we did it with a three-year-old daughter! We went canopy surfing, river fishing, all kinds of things, and it was one of my best holidays ever.”
After living in Mendoza for nine years, Nadia’s most Argentine characteristic is naturally food related. “Sunday asado! And I’m in charge of it! I make the fire and I love doing it. I’m not into drinking mate so much, but I do love asado. I start off with a slow fire and like to use a height-adjustable parrilla. Don’t cook it too fast – that’s my secret.

“We had some guests staying at the winery once and the asador had let us down. So I took charge, but I didn’t realize back then that cooking asado was like a religion. All the guests were men, and it wasn’t just the fact that I was a woman preparing the asado – I was also pregnant. When they saw me, they all got up to help me, but I said ‘no, it’s fine!’ I love the whole circle: going to the butcher on a Sunday – and there are only men buying meat – making the fire, I everything about it.”

Buenos Aires Herald, July 11, 2015

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