Okay, so I had help. A lot of it. And okay, so maybe my primary contribution was to hover around my paella-knowledgeable friends taking photographs and taste-testing ingredients just to make sure nothing was poisonous, rather than actually "cooking." But still.
The first time I ate paella was in Barcelona, which seems like the right place to have your first experience, except mine was kind of traumatic. The bowl arrived and I gave it a stir, and all of a sudden the creature from the black lagoon came launching up at me out of the depths, all claws and tentacles and such. (Spoiler: it was a crawfish. But when you do not expect to see a crawfish and are surprised by one in your food, terror is a totally acceptable reaction to have. Those are scary little fuckers.) I've never tried making it myself because it looks complicated, and saffron is expensive, and it seems like the kind of dish that should be made from a recipe handed down from a relative.
Enter: my friend Erin, whose mother-in-law Linda has a family recipe, and who just so happened to be in town last weekend.