Monday, April 8, 2013

A - Z Challenge: GASTRONOMY

A lunch my host mom serves regularly.  Mostly peas
and chorizo.

Ah, the obligatory post on gastronomy, or in less fancy words, food.

The Spanish diet is, without a doubt, the single most interesting diet I've come across.  Not only for the type of food, but for food's place in culture and daily life.

Breakfast:  7:00 AM

Breakfast isn't a big deal in Spain.  Usually it consists of tostadas, the Spanish phrase for toast, with butter or jam, and café con leche (coffee with milk).  It's eaten whenever you get up in the morning, which for me, is usually around 7:00 AM.  Since lunch isn't served 'til 2:00 in the afternoon, I tend to break away from cultural norms and put peanut butter on my toast for some added protein.

(Peanut butter is not common in Spain.  Spaniards don't eat it, and though you can find it in the grocery store, it's very expensive.)

Lunch:  2:00 - 3:00 PM
A few weeks ago I attended a cooking class.
Here, our chef Carlos helps me make a
chicken and vegetable paella.

Lunch in Spain is not a mere sandwich or salad, as it is in the U.S.  Nope, lunch is the largest meal of the day, and that's large.  Every day, my host mother brings out huge portions of the main course, bread, cheese, salad, and fruit.  This is why the siesta is such an important aspect of Spanish culture:  people come home from work for lunch, so everything shuts down (most businesses are closed from 2:00 - 5:00), and afterwards, people relax, often taking a nap.

So what does the main meal consist of?

Spain's signature dish is paella, which consists of rice, chicken, chorizo, seafood, and vegetables (though you usually won't get meat and seafood mixed).  Paella, however, isn't an everyday food, unlike bread and chickpeas.  Being quite an ordeal to prepare, it's usually made on special occasions, oftentimes as a family activity.

It was my job to cut the squid!  To my
surprise, we used the entire squid.  Head,
tentacles, everything except the cartilage.
Most dishes I've had are stew-like:  white beans, chickpeas, or peas with bits of chicken and chorizo.  Spain, being located on the Iberian peninsula, also consumes a lot of seafood:  tuna, salmon, shrimp, and especially squid (often in an ink-based sauce).

If you have to eat on the run, you'll probably pack or buy a bocadillo:  a baguette-type bread with either chorizo, cheese, chicken, tuna, or tortilla española.

Our final products!  Paella!

Dinner:  9:00 - 11:00 PM

Dinner is small in Spain.  For us students, it usually involves tortilla española, which is usually made with eggs, potatoes, and sometimes vegetables.  It's very similar to quiche.  We eat it every day, sometimes with pumpkin soup, pasta with tuna, or a plate of vegetables.


Usually dessert involves fruit:  bananas, oranges, apples, kiwi, strawberries.  I like fruit, but not as much as I like chocolate, so I had to do some good snooping in the supermarkets.  Here's what I found:

Principe cookies are like reverse Oreos, except they put Oreos to shame.  You can't get them outside of Europe, so I'm going to need a whole suitcase just for my supply of Principe Cookies.

Milka is one of the big "non-fancy" chocolate brands over here, equivalent to Hershey in the States.  The regular one is good, but you haven't lived until you've tried Milka with Oreo.  It's like a chocolate covered Oreo…but better.


This is in Turkey, not Spain, but you can see the spit.
If you tend to get hungry between lunch and dinner or after dinner, Spain is your kind of place.  The streets are lined with tapas restaurants, where you can pay two or three euro and get small plates called tapas.  Morcilla, fried brie, croquetas, and more!  They're kind of like appetizers.


Döner Kebab - You know how the U.S. has quick Chinese food on every corner?  Well, Spain has Turkish fast food in the form of döner kebab, a pita filled with chicken or lamb that's roasted on a spit.  My friends and I frequently make late night döner runs.

Helado - The ice cream in Spain is the best ice cream I've ever had in my life, plus it comes in all kinds of neat flavors, including Kinder and dulce de leche.

Churros con chocolate - Fried dough dipped in thick hot chocolate.  It's rough on the stomach, but it's worth trying at least once.


  1. You know there are many Germans who would kill you for comparing Milka to Hershey? :)

    1. I don't mean it as a taste comparison. I mean that it's the standard everyday option, as opposed to Lindt.

  2. Whoa...good word. That reminds me, I have an appointment this week with the Gastroenterologist.(I think that's how you spell it)