Hola hola hola. I’m a bit jet lagged and still in the midst of some pretty serious culture shock, but I have some free time today so I’m gonna share some of my newfound culinary knowledge with y’all in regards to eating in Spain!
Keep in mind, I’m no expert, and I’m only speaking based on my experience living with my host family in Granada. I do not intend to generalize my experiences to Spain as a whole. Here it goes:
Eating times –
Eating in Spain is totally different than eating in the US. While we eat 3 moderately large meals with 1-2 snacks a day, the Spaniards usually have very tiny dinners and breakfasts, and a large lunch, with small snacks in between. This information is probably everywhere, all you have to do is type in “how people eat in Spain” and any website will tell you this. So I’ll keep it brief. But here’s my usual day of eating so far:
Breakfast – Toast and cafe con leche. That’s it. Usually, we put butter and jam on the toast, but aside from that, they don’t really eat anything else. After a few days of coming close to starvation with this pebble-sized meal, I’ve added fruit and yogurt/a hard boiled egg to my breakfast to make it a little more sufficient. Apparently some other options for breakfast are cereal and milk and fruit (kiwi, orange, etc), and you can switch out the coffee with milk for tea or zumo (juice) if you please.
Lunch: This is the equivalent of our dinner in the US, and it’s the most important meal of the day. Everyone comes home — shops shut down for “siesta” — around 2:30 or 3 to have lunch together, and nap afterwards. Of course, not everyone can make it to lunch every day due to scheduling differences, but for the most part, we make a big effort to be around for family lunch.
Lunch varies from family to family, but usually involves meat and vegetables or a starch. Some typical lunches I have had include: chicken with rice (cultural difference – the chicken has lots of bones here – I have yet to find grilled chicken without bones!), potatoes with fish/meatballs/chicken, pasta and sausage, and lomo (pork loins) with vegetables. Usually these meals are prepared with side dishes like bread or bread sticks and veggies/salad.
Side note: Ham, olive oil, and tomatoes are huge staples here.
Postre: After lunch or dinner, they sometimes have a small dessert, like yogurt or fruit (orange is very popular). There are richer desserts but my host family doesn’t typically eat those.
Dinner: Dinner isn’t very important here. It takes place very late, usually around 9:30 or 10, and it’s a small and simple dish. Examples include a bowl of salad (with veggies, cheese, egg, ham, etc), a bowl of soup, a thin turkey burger, veggies and ham, etc. It really depends and usually people do not eat dinner together, or when they do, they all have different dishes of their choosing. Sometimes people skip dinner because they’re not hungry and it’s not a very significant meal anyways.
In between – I have yet to master the snack etiquette here, but I have some tips based on what I’ve seen. People definitely have a “merienda” between lunch and dinner, which might include a coffee/tea paired with a pastry, empanada (savory pastry), or piece of toast with cheese and ham. This usually holds people over between 3 and 10pm, considering 7 hours is a long time to wait between meals. Some less formal snacks that you can eat in the house include fruit, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, etc.
In between lunch and breakfast, people tend to have a small snack as well, usually the same type of pastry situation I would assume, but I am not entirely sure. I tend to eat snacks from my fridge like yogurt or an egg.
Other Food Facts –
Tapas and affordability – Spain is known for its tapas, which is free food that comes with every drink you order. It’s really amazing and saves you a lot of money. Plus, waiters have a salary, so tipping is not very popular in Europe. One or two euros will suffice, and it’s more of a token of gratitude than anything else.
Some typical tapas include, but are not limited to: all types of salads, fresh ham, croquetas (fried piece of chicken/fish/pork with mayonnaise), cheese plates, different meats in a red sauce, etc. Bread with olive oil also usually comes for free.
CHURROS – We have churros in the US but they are SO BAD SO BAD SO BAD in comparison to the ones in Spain. Spanish churros are fried in fresh olive oil, and paired with melted milk chocolate, a combination that is more delicious than anything I’ve ever tried before. The light, flaky bread and the rich chocolate are amazing together, unlike the crusty cinnamon sticks they give us at amusement parks in the US.
More to come! It’s only been my first week here, so I haven’t gotten to try all that much just yet. Here are some more things I will write about in the future:
- Drinks – alcoholic drinks
- Drinks – coffee and tea
- Grocery store shopping – major differences