EL QUIM DE LA BOQUERIA, Barcelona—

It was raining when I arrived in Barcelona, and for four days, it did nothing but. I was on a one-way ticket, New York in the rearview, a rough plan to cook and write in Italy before me. I had come to Barcelona to kick things off, rekindle the magic of my year abroad there eight years before, but the city was having its way with me.

If you’ve ever been on the road alone before, you know the feeling: clothes wet, belly empty, a sea of strangers making you feel like the most forgettable organism on the planet. Moments like those, you begin to question why you spend so much time living out of a bag when a perfectly good world is a just plane flight away.

It doesn’t take much to turn the tide, though. In this case, it was a stool at a bar and a plate of eggs fried in olive oil. I ate cheek by jowl with a bar full of old Catalan men. They talked Messi and Madrid and drank Estrella Damn while I mopped up the squid ink with thick heels of bread. I drank long flutes of cava as the rain beat away against the roof of the Boqueria. When I hit a little chili pod, hidden in the black-gold sea of ink and yolk, I drank two more glasses to extinguish the fire.

Two days later, I canceled my trip to Italy. Two years later, I’m still here. It’s the closest thing to home I know.