Saturday, November 16, 2013

Let´s talk about FOOD!

If you know me at all, you know how much I love to eat. And you know how much I love to try new foods. One thing I have found I can say with all certainty is that I am in LOVE with the food of Spain. The rituals Spaniards have surrounding food are different than I am used to, and their attitude regarding what they eat, how much they eat, and when they eat it is one I can respect and learn from.

Small disclaimer: this post contains some pretty large generalizations, both of people from Spain and the United States. I do not believe what is said in this post to hold true for all those who fall under my generalizations and hope that I don't offend anyone. My thoughts are just that- my thoughts which arise from only my observations.

First things first- when eating with Nacho´s family, I am fed like a queen. Nacho´s mom is an amazing chef and I try to show my respect by finishing every plate that´s put before me. They are happy that I am not a picky eater, and because of that I am trying as many new things as I can. I am, without fail, at their doorstep every weekend with an empty stomach and a smile. They're so good to me.

So, let´s talk about timing. Morning- you wake up, you´re tired, you have a coffee. Here in Spain you need to ease into your mornings- never do anything too quickly. Usually, a coffee (which is much smaller than those in the US, a couple ounces at most, but strong) is sufficient to hold me for a while. And later, around mid-morning when I am hungry, I have a bigger breakfast- which they call a merienda (snack). At school, I love to order un pincho de tortilla- Spanish egg omelette with potato. But a famous breakfast here is a toast spread with the juice of a tomato, a little olive oil and salt. Or maybe a toast with jamon and olive oil. Then in the afternoon, around 2-3pm (or 4pm for me, when I get home from work) you have a big lunch. For lunch there are always two plates, first usually a soup or salad of some sort, and the second, some kind of meat. It is also quite common to have wine or beer with lunch. Dessert is fruit, then coffee, and if you´re lucky enough to have the time for it, a siesta. At first it was difficult for me to get used to eating such a big meal in the middle of the day. But now that I´ve gotten used to the routine, it makes sense that you eat your biggest meal earlier rather than later. You take a break from your busy day, you split it in two. And taking this much time to eat, to rest and relax, actually makes me more productive later in the day. I find myself working/being productive until 9 or ten at night, then I start thinking about dinner. Sometimes, to hold you until dinner you have a merienda around 5 or 6, which is usually something sweet (churros con chocolate! I have never drank thicker chocolate, it is divine!). Much later you have dinner, which is much smaller than lunch, around 9 or 10. Dinner may seem late, but people are usually working until around 8 in the evening.

Attitudes about drinking alcohol here are also different. It is more common to have drinks earlier in the day or throughout the day (although a drink is never served without a little something to eat). One thing I love- when pouring liquor for your drink, the bartenders wait for you to tell them when to stop pouring. I flipped out the first time I saw this. What also made me happy is that everyone drinks their gintonics the way I like them- about 40/60 gin/tonic ;) Another drink I love is a clara- beer with lemon fanta. Yum. Ok, drinking is not all we do over here I swear! But pleasure seems to be the key- people are driven to eat and drink whatever they want in the moment they want it, but only very rarely in excess. This sounds like a simple statement, an easy one to follow. But in fact, it appears to me to be an art- a difficult one to master for an American like myself. But by not limiting yourself from that which you want, your body eventually knows what it needs. And I know never to deny myself, say, oil or sugar or wine if that is what I want (and believe me there is no end to the high-calorie spread of choices here), but also am learning to understand how much is enough, and excess is never good.
Rabo de Toro- Bull tail- so good!

Tapas and beer and a football match

Figs! The perfect dessert.

Ciruelas- small plums

Boquerones- yummy fish

And of course.. JAMON

Who wouldn't want to have a coffee with this guy ;)

Paella with chicken

Master Chef Nachy- cooking me salmon!

My attempt at stuffed eggplant

Pincho de tortilla y cafe cortado en el instituto

Stuffed tomatoes

All the nieces and nephews of Nacho had a Halloween/birthday party. The food was delicious!

The best jamon I've ever had

Jamon y queso at a jamon exposition we stumbled upon

Another exposition- this time olive oil. Free tapas <3