¡A comer!: Spanish Food

Perhaps one of the most fun parts of traveling is sampling new food and drink. I mean, who doesn’t like to find the best wine and chocolate in every country? Living for a semester in Spain was a completely different food lifestyle from my American routines. Some of the food I was happy to say adios to when I returned to the US, but other foods I miss often, and although I always love finding a good Spanish restaurant at home for nostalgia’s sake, it’s never quite the same. Today, I will share some of foods I commonly ate for each meal in Spain, as well as for special occasions. So as my host mom said each day at mealtimes, ¡a comer!

El desayuno (breakfast): I laughed to myself a little bit just writing the word “breakfast” in a post about Spain, because breakfast was definitely a light meal that semester. Cornflakes were a common breakfast of choice in the host homes of our TCU group, and as I have lamented countless times in previous posts, this is not filling for the most important meal of the day. My host mom said she felt ill if she ate protein for breakfast; meanwhile my grandma insists upon eating protein for breakfast. Since I had to be alert for school, I often enjoyed a mid-morning breakfast at the university café; it became a pre-Spanish phonetics class tradition. There, the typical breakfast was tostada con tomate, jamón, o mermelada de fresa (toast with tomato, ham, or strawberry jam). I don’t love the fattiness of Spanish ham, but I love tostada con tomate, especially with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil. Of course, no breakfast would be complete without café con leche, a shot of espresso with whole milk and a pack of sugar. This is how I learned to like coffee for the first time in my life–¡Muchas gracias, España! At la UPO, the sugar packets had inspirational or funny quotes, which made breakfast oh so sweet. One of my favorites, below, reads: “Although we can’t go back and have a new beginning, we can all start from now and get a new ending.”


El almuerzo (lunch): Lunch was eaten at home after classes, usually around 3:30 PM (the meal schedule took forever to adjust to). In Spain, lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and typically consisted of a hearty soup made with lentils or garbanzo beans, pasta with a tomato sauce, or, on Sundays, paella. A basket of baguette pieces is a crucial part of setting the table and was used to soak up the juices of the meal, and dessert was usually a naranja (orange) or yogurt. Naturally, Sundays became my favorite days, because Mamá Puri’s paella was delicious. Every region of Spain has its own typical way of making paella. Puri’s (below, right) usually had vegetables and pieces of meat, and the one on the left from Barcelona was more vegetable heavy with chicken. Seafood is also common in paella, but Puri kindly inquired about our seafood preferences on the first day, so non-fish-loving me did not have to deal with that often (I did try some seafood in attempt to branch out, to no avail).


La cena (dinner): Dinner is a small meal eaten late in the evening. At Puri’s the international students ate dinner between 8:30 and 9:00 PM, but Puri and her daughter Selène ate as I was falling asleep at 11:00 or midnight. It was a little difficult at first to go to bed on a full stomach, but we adjusted over time. Some typical dinner foods included salmorejo (cold tomato soup, which is good unless there are hard-boiled eggs on it) and tortilla española, which is an omelette made with potatoes and one of my favorite foods EVER. Alayna, Courtney, and I tried our hand at making our own tortilla española when we returned to TCU and were in need of Spanish food.


Las meriendas (snacks): By snacks, I mostly mean desserts on desserts. You can’t go to Europe without eating your weight in gelato, and I definitely checked out every place I could find in Sevilla. The best combo? Half-Ferrero Rocher, half coffee. I also tried a myriad of pastries, including torrijo, which is traditional for la Semana Santa and is similar to French toast with honey. Dessert waffles are also a common snack in Europe, but I didn’t have those too often, as I was busy tasting every variety of churros con chocolate across town.


Las tapas (small plates): The traditional way to tapear, go out for tapas, is to bar-hop and try a tapa or two at each. You can also order a media ración, or half portion, and share with an amigo. Perhaps my favorite tapa is patatas bravas, fried potatoes that come with either a spicy-ish (Spanish food is not very spicy in general, at least not compared to what I was used to in Texas at the time) red sauce or aioli sauce. Others I enjoyed included croquetas (fried potatoes and meat), albóndigas (meatballs), and some small salad-type plates.


Los mercados (markets): Markets abound in Spain, and here, you can purchase fresh produce (do not pick your own–let the workers select the best of the produce for you), meat, and seafood; pastries; olives; and wine. The markets, some of which are permanent structures, have both food stands and miniature bars, and there is often indoor or outdoor seating so that you can be truly Spanish and socialize in the public sphere. My roommates and I enjoyed some weekend brunches and sangria at the Mercado de Triana and Mercado Lonja del Barranco (pictured below) in Sevilla, and we also made sure to visit the famed Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid and La Boqueria in Barcelona.


El vino (wine): Best for last! Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world (behind Italy and France) and is best known for its red varieties, particularly from the Rioja region. My personal favorite Spanish wine is tempranillo, and it makes an excellent sangria. Most of the time in Spain, I drank sangria rather than straight wine. Sangria recipes vary, but the one from the bar owners that our TCU group befriended had brandy, rum, and fruit (oranges, apples, and sometimes plums were common). You can also add a bit of lemon-lime soda–with more soda, the drink becomes known as tinto de verano. Whenever I am especially homesick for Sevilla, sangria and some Spanish music is the best cure.

I hope that I have made you sufficiently hungry and ready to pour a glass of vino! Cheers, ¡salud!


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