in Spain - a look at Spanish food, cooking and eating habits
The Spanish way of eating
Spain is a hot country - at least in summer it is; and as in
many parts of the world, it is country where climatic factors have
played a big role in determining lifestyle, and - in turn - the whole
organisation of daily life.
For those whose aim in Spain is to eat in
outlets or city snackeries, the daily timetable of Spanish life is
irrelevant; but for others it is not. For any other purpose
lying on a beach, being in Spain means adapting to Spanish ways when it
comes to organising your day; when in Spain.....
The Spanish day tends to start late, compared to other parts
Europe – which is normally no big problem for tourists.
cafés may not start serving breakfast - el desayuno -
8 a.m, or
even 8.30; and the process is often a leisurely one, since many people
in Spain do not start work until 9 a.m. or even 10 a.m.
Spanish lunchtime, on the other hand, takes more
used to. The "morning" in Spain runs on until 1.30 p.m or often 2 p.m.,
and it is only then that restaurants start opening up for lunch, which
can generally be eaten until around 4 p.m. After that, it is
time, until things start opening up for business again;
depending on the place, afternoon shop-opening in Spain may start from
4.p.m onwards, but in some places shops will not open until 6 p.m - for
a four-hour afternoon opening time. Consequently, it is rare in Spain
to find restaurants opening up for dinner service before 8 p.m, and in
many parts 8.30 or 9 p.m are the normal opening times for dinner.
Hams and chorizos in a Spanish delicatessen
This may go soem way to explaining the Spanish
"tapas" - which are basically nibbles that people take either while
they wait for lunch time or dinner time to begin, or else take instead
of a more formal sit-down lunch or dinner. A lot of Spanish
restaurants are attached to café-bars, and tapas are served
in the café
- bar area, more formal meals in a room behind or upstairs or
Tapas - or slightly larger portions
of the same known as raciones
- are ordered at the bar, and
usually eaten with a beer or a glass of wine or some other beverage.
Usually they are displayed in serving containers on the counter or
behind it, so are easy to order even if you don't know hat they are
called. Popular tapas include olives, mussels, Serrano ham or even
(Spanish sausage), small bean-based appetizers and
a range of others depending on the region and the individual
café-bar. A popular tapa from Extremadura to
Aragon is Migas,
which are croutons (or old bread), sometimes egged, and deep fried in
olive oil with bits of chorizo.
As in most countries, restaurants tend to offer
full menu or else a choice of dishes to be ordered à la
The classic Spanish meal is a three course affair, firstly
is known as the Primero
plato, then the main course known as the
and finally a dessert, called the Postre.
choice and the extent of the choice will depend on the restaurant and
the region, common primeros
platos include "Sopa
del dia" (soup of
the day) , Sopa
castillana (a substantial soup with beans and bits of
ham and chorizo in it), Gazpacho
(cold fresh tomato and cucumber soup),
(trout) or even a small serving of paella.
usually a meat course, with steak, chuletas
(chops), chicken or even
(partridge), or fish, often served with either a salad,
vegetables or pototoes - but not both at the same time. Diners wanting
everything together on the same plate need to seek out a restaurant
combinados - which include such international dishes as
a mixed grill with steak, chips and tomatoes.
paella as a primero plato
desserts, are not a great Spanish speciality: the most common ones are
(caramel cream), rice pudding, ice-cream or fruit.
In ordinary to reasonably good restaurants, in 2016 a "menu
dia" (set menu with some choice ) will normally cost from about 8
€ in small rural
restaurants, to 15 €
in better city establishments. "Menus" normally include wine or water
or even una
(a glass of beer),
bread, and often coffee too, and are available for lunch and in the
evening. Quality varies massively from restaurant to restaurant, and
for 10 € - a common price in 2016 - you may get anything from
very poor meal with little to recommend it, to a delicious
mouth-watering spread. On account of Spain's current economic plight,
many good restaurants have started offering cheap menus del dia, just
to bring in some customers.
For more Spanish dishes, see understanding
the menu in Spain
Cutting jamon ibérico on a local market
A selection of
sausage, eaten either hot or cold. Chorizos are usually spiced
paprika, and can be hotor mild – but always tasty
: A slow cooked casserole from northern
Spain, consisting of white beans with paprika, peppers, and bits of ham
: a cold soup from Andalucia,
fresh uncooked tomatoes, peppers and cucumber.
iberico : the world's most exquisite ham, with an almost
sweet taste to
it, made from free-range pigs that have been brought up on a diet of
acorns. The other main form of cured ham is jamon serrano, or
: cod, a national favourite, but just one among many fish on
menus in restaurants all over spain
: originally a Valencian dish, a risotto
saffroned rice with prawns, shellfish, pieces of chicken and other
and diced peppers - cooked in olive oil.
: squid, eaten as a main course, used in tapas, or included in a paella.
: omelettes. These can be served as a primero plato, or often as tapas;
a slice of warm tortilla de patatas or potato omelette is a
nourishing and quite filling tapa.
useful sources of accommodation information:
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hotels in Spanish cities
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