Eat around the clock
Stereotypes are not always desirable but they are oftentimes understandable. When Portuguese say that Spanish people fry everything they eat in oil, they are not entirely correct. Not everything is fried here, but close to everything is fried. Fish, potatoes, meat ? all of them often bathe in large quantities of olive oil before they get served. The Spanish even have special kitchen utensils to recycle oil. And no less than the Portuguese, the Spanish are very proud of their kitchen. Beside the fiesta culture, it`s one of the main sources of Spanish pride.
Like Portugal, Spain has a lot of different regional plates and food preferences. A lot of fresh food is traveling across the country, since people visiting friends or family will usually bring considerable quantities of home-grown vegetables, home-made soup, home-baked cake, home-brew drinks or fresh ham along with them.
..wonders if there`s any moment of the day that does not serve as an excuse to grab something to eat
Breakfast is taken before school of work. It would be tempting to say that it is the only day of the meal that does not involve olive oil, but Carmen (27, photo) tells me that slices of bread fried in olive oil make a very acceptable breakfast. The most usual breakfast however consists of sweet stuff. For older generations, it may include milk with slices of bread with jam or Madeleine cakes with coffee. Whenever coffee is involved, the food is soaked into it before being consumed. Younger people often eat milk with cereals. Spanish people will be surprised to find cheese or sliced sausages on a breakfast table. They keep the salty stuff for a later time of day.
Those who are fond of salty stuff don`t have to wait for a long time before they are served. Before lunch, somewhere around 11-12, they have a short break that usually takes about 15 minutes and is called Vermut. The quarter of an hour is just enough for Tapas or pinxto, a tiny snack that can take all sorts of shapes. Small pieces of cheese, small pieces of meat, sausages, olives, and many more alike. Carmen prefers the pinxto de tortilla, an egg-potato pancake.
The official lunch is consumed a little later, around 14h30/15h00, and lasts for one up to two hours. Children, students or office workers who have a chance will go home for lunch. The alternative is to have it at university, at work or in a restaurant. In the areas where manual labour dominates, restaurants and bars serve a Plato del d?a, a decent meal at a decent price.
Middle and upper class restaurants offer the Menu del d?a, the day`s menu. Both are served at a reduced price, which usually does not exceed 10 euros. The dish of the day usually includes only one stage, while the menu includes several stages, with alternative choices for every stage, plus a drink and a basket of bread. The bread is particularly important, as it is used in many ways. It is sunk in soup or cream, it is used to put and keep food on the fork, and it is used to absorb the sauce that remains after the rest of the meal has been devoured. Choices of drinks include soda, water or wine. Beer is preferrably kept for other moments of the day.
The composition of the multi-stage lunches differs along the seasons. Winter usually brings heavier entries like cream-based soup. In the summer, the meal is likely to start with salad and/or gazpacho. The first main dish ? there are two ? is often a Guiso, a one-pan preparation of fish or meat, vegetables and base material like pasta, potatoes or rice. The second dish combines fish or meat with only one of the following options: salad, chips, rice or pasta. Desert is usually sweet and therefore followed by coffee.
The traditional end to a lunch is the siesta, a short nap that prepares the fanatic luncher for the rest of the day. The siesta is becoming less common, especially in the large cities. Many people keep the habit for the weekend, so it doesn`t interfere with their professional obligations.
At 6 o`clock, another excuse called Merienda is used to have another snack. The Merienda is similar to the early-lunch: another opportunity for a tapa and a quick drink. It bridges the gap until dinner, which is not taken before 21h30.
According to Cristina (24), dinner is usually not as elaborate as lunch, because people go to bed shortly after finishing the meal. In case lunch contained meat, the choice for dinner will often be fish. Both meals are acceptable when served cold, because it seems like the Spanish hardly care about the temperature their food has at the moment it gets consumed.
Vegetables or beans complete the main dish, while a piece of fruit or something sweet may be consumed to complete the meal. Bread is available to help the meal get consumed, while water is the typical dinner drink. Serving wine along with the meal only common when outsiders are invited to the meal. The same goes for deserts.
Weekends and holidays
Since Spanish people are big fans of fiesta, partying, they usually go to bed late during the weekend and this does not only apply to students! Saturday and Sunday are used for lie-ins and the breakfast is often sacrificed for sleeping time. Typical weekend treats for those who do choose to have breakfast is chocolate con churros, thick hot chocolate with fried and funny-shaped egg-pastry.
Weekends are perfect for eating out, and many families head for the restaurants to eat tapas. During both weekend days, one day is picked for serving paella, a one pan dish with rize, sea fruit and chicken meat. The other day is typically used to prepare cocido, a meal that produces a soup and a meal at one time and from the same pan.
All other special days are market by eating and drinking celebrations as well. Christmas Eve and New Year`s Eve are celebrated within the family. Dishes crossing the table at both occasions: lots of sea food, big meals including Serrano ham, paella and deserts. On New Year`s Eve, young people escape the families when the food part is done and dealt with, they then continue celebrating with their friends. A recently introduced ritual of eating one grape for every time the clock strikes at twelve o`clock has become very popular and widespread. The more drunk people are, the more difficult it is to finish the ritual. After midnight, the consumption of alcoholic liquids happily continues, in the same way it does during regular Spanish fiestas all year round. I will write more about those during the coming days.
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