I had the pleasure of spending 10 days in Madrid, Seville, Granada and Barcelona, Spain. This retreat from daily responsibilities was a superb way to learn and better understand Spanish culture, food and tradition.
While there, I was taking note of the similarities and differences between American and Spanish culture. On the plane there, I was quickly reminded that the Spanish work to live, unlike the American reputation and often times reality, that we live to work. This statement rang true from city to city. Not only was a greeted with kindness everywhere I went, but the infectious enthusiasm and zest was much needed.
Perceptions can be far from reality, so I went to Spain with as open as a mind as could. Since back from my trip, I realize that I enjoy the Spanish “clock.” Most services aren’t offered before 8AM, with lunch far from starting prior to 2PM and dinner well into 9-11PM.
Cultural and food traditions I took away:
- As a good reference of time, the metro’s first departure is 730AM. I’m sure you’re familiar with how American public transportation, with life and business available well before 6AM
- Breakfast consists of a small coffee and a (chocolate) croissant, it’s rare for a cafe to be open before 8-9AM.
- Bocadillos, or sandwiches, are a quick, easy way to eat on the run! With cheese and Iberian ham, you can’t go wrong. These can be eaten for a heavier, yet acceptable breakfast item or as a snack
- Spaniards are not afraid, if anything, encourage sugar consumption. While in Madrid, I stopped in a cafe and noticed that instead of the traditional salt and pepper I’m used to seeing on tables, the table had granulated sugar, brown sugar, a sugar substitute and salt. More times than not, there was no pepper to be seen. Additionally, when ordering coffee, even if not requested, sugar was always given
- The drink of choice is beer. There’s no such thing as ordering tap water, with bottled, mineral water offered if requested. Diet soda is not an option either, with Coca Cola and Fanta the norm
- With the beaches and Mediterranean Sea near, fresh seafood is a common find on menus. In particular, fried calamari or garlic in prawns were prevalent and served in large portions. It’s safe to say that seafood is in abundance!
- Pastries are a common means for dessert. A Spanish dessert staple consists of churros that are dipped in chocolate.
- Fresh produce can be found in day markets and the street vendors are eager to share their latest, freshest produce. You don’t have to travel far to
- While vegetables are scant, the Spanish have impressively been able to keep their figure. Tapas are a great portion control way to maintain one’s recommended intake.
- I was intrigued by the Spaniards’ lack of need to “finish” their plates. Unlike Americans, I noticed many times people would leave a bit of their beer, coffee or food on their plate, not feeling the need to “clean” it.
I’m reenergized from this relaxing trip! What aspects of Spanish cuisine do you most revel in? If you’ve traveled to Spain, what different experiences have you had?