Here in Spain, food and meals are done just a little different than back home. We still have three meals a day, but the timing and contents are often quite different.
To begin with the two biggest differences; the timing and the sizes. Lunch comes around 2 or 3 and dinner is not usually until 10 or 11 at the earliest. And as for the sizes… lunch is the biggest meal! Breakfast generally includes nothing more than fruit, and maybe a little cereal, and dinner is an afterthought. Lunch is where it’s at. The family gathers together and all the best recipes are prepared. It’s timed perfectly with the beginning of the siesta, a great way to kick off your mid-day rest.
Tortillas! To all my readers in Texas, and just about everywhere else, we know what tortillas are. A flat corn or flour bread that is then rolled or folded with meat or cheese or anything else. Here, tortillas are entirely different. They have absolutely no resemblance. In Spain, a tortilla is a heavy potato cake. It’s salty and delicious, generally served hot. It can be eaten as a meal or a snack and is served in nearly every cafe. I love the way they’re made here, although I will say it was a bit unexpected the first time I ordered it.
Now you’ve probably heard of Tapas. The classic Spanish style of nothing but small plates. And let me be the first to tell you, that is as close to the truth as it gets! You’d be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn’t serve Tapas during the day, and it’s almost impossible to find one that doesn’t serve them at night. Generally, every tapas place has three options for each dish. First is the tapas size. Small, yet shareable. Second is the half racion. A little bigger, but still not an entre. And last is the full racion. Really still not an entre, yet much bigger. The point of tapas is to share. You order them for the table and try everything. And tapas could really be anything, from a small smoked salmon sandwich to a soup or even some croquetas (google it) or papas fritas (french fries). There are no limits to what tapas can be. Every restaurant has their own take, but for the most part, they all do them the same way. I have to say, tapas have become my favorite! You can eat just as much as you like, as ordering as you go is perfectly acceptable! Tapas are generally fairly cheap, often running between 1 and 4 Euros a plate. I will sure miss them when I travel and eventually head back to the states. And another interesting tidbit, there are usually two prices for everything. The first for folks eating inside and the second for those outside or on the terrace. Ordering food or drinks at the bar/inside is generally about 20% cheaper than from your table outside. You know what they say in the real estate business: “location, location, location!”
Here in Spain, many ingredients are far more popular than in the states. What takes the cake is the ham. Iberian Jamon is very common. It is sold nearly everywhere, and it’s quite good in just about every preparation. Chickpeas also seem to be a staple. Nearly every lunch includes them in some way or other. Lastly, is the bread. Every meal includes bread and often small crouton like things (pes). The price on it is absolutely incredible! At a grocery store or bakery, a large loaf of delicious bread often costs less than 1 Euro. It’s a staple.
Another thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised by is the fast food and junk food. It almost perfectly resembles the states. From chicken fingers to Doritos (my favorite here is the tex-mex flavor), there is no lack of it. While perhaps not the best example of Spanish cuisine, it’s easily accessible everywhere.
I also quite like the pastries and helado (gelato/ice cream) every street tends to have a bakery and gelato place. It’s actually quite hard to avoid, and generally very good!
Lastly are the prices and tipping. The food is quite cheap! At the supermarket, it’s a steal, and in most restaurants, you can expect the same. Another interesting piece, especially for me as an American is that not only is the tip included, but so is the tax! The menu reads 1.20 EUR for a basket of croquetas, and that is precisely what you pay, tax and tip included! Perhaps the best part is the tip. It’s simply not expected. You pay what the receipt reads and no more. It’s quite refreshing. No math or anxiety at the table when the bill comes.
Overall, I love the food here in Spain and I wish it were more like it in the states!
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