In the previous post, I talked about Spanish cultural practices related to food. I explained how I no longer practice some of these Spanish customs because they did not fit with my current lifestyle. However, there are other practices I simply cannot follow for entirely different reasons. I have selected these three to share with you:
The Mediterranean diet
Spanish cuisine has an impeccable reputation linked to the Mediterranean diet. It includes plenty of fresh veggies, legumes, a wide range of meat and seafood and whole grains. It also includes healthy fats like olive oil. Its variety and fresh ingredients have many health benefits.
Living in a different country can sometimes mean your staple foods are not available there. This doesn’t mean that local foods are not good enough. Living overseas has allowed me to discover new flavours that I greatly enjoy. Now I cook with butter and coconut oil, I eat sweet potatoes, I have become an oat lover and I spice up my life with Indian and Mexican dishes. Wherever I live or travel to, I favour local produce over imported goods. However, there are certain pantry staples that will always be with me. In my pantry, there is always olive oil, vinegar, garlic and canned sardines. And in my fridge, you will always find tomatoes and dairy products.
This is a term that I love because it gives a name to a reality that doesn’t exist in other places. Sobremesa literally means “on table”, and it refers to the period of time after lunch when you have finished eating but haven’t left the table yet. During sobremesa, people have coffee and chat with each other for a few minutes while they finish up. It’s like “coffee+discussion” time. In other places I have lived sobremesa is not a common practice. I have noticed people don’t drink coffee after lunch and also people don’t stay longer than needed in a restaurant. Therefore, I don’t get to practice sobremesa, sadly.
I love going to tapas bars, but I haven’t found a tapa’s place outside Spain that actually serves tapas. Sorry fancy restaurants, you got the concept wrong and you are cheating your customers who don’t know any better. I still go to those places because I am always intrigued about their menu and they often have good reviews but they usually are overrated, unfortunately.
A real tapas place gives you a small dish, a bite of something. Because it is so small (so small it doesn’t make sense to share), it is cheap. Depending on the ingredients, it can cost you 2$ to 4$, and hear this: in some places, it is free with your drink!! (Whaaa!!??) So, yeah, I miss going with friends and doing some tapas bar crawling. By the way, going for tapas has its own verb in Spanish which is called “tapear”.
These are 3 food-related Spanish customs that I actually like but I am not able to practice. Have you ever been to Spain and seen any of these practices taking place? Do you have a similar experience living overseas? Leave me a comment below!
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A long Spain road trip has been on my wish list for several years. Your posts offer insight and inspiration so I get the full experience once the dream turns into a real trip! Thanks
Awwww, those are sweet words, thank you very much. I hope the dream comes true sooner than later and you tell me all about your experience!
Love this! I lived in Spain for many years as a child (although we are not Spanish) and I felt the same way when I moved to the U.S. Like, why do restaurants want you to leave as soon as you’re done eating ? Lol – I miss the sobremesa. Every Sunday we went out for lunch with family friends and it routinely lasted 3 hours. Thanks for a great post.
haha, I know right? Sobremesa is the ultimate Spanish social gathering, in my opinion. Where in Spain did you live?
In Andalucía, near Cádiz
Rota per chance?
Yes- my dad was not in the military, so we didn’t live on base, but he worked there and I went to school there.
Rota is my hometown 😉, I am currently here. if you check my “quarantine travel in Spain” you”ll see some photos of Rota.
No way!! I lived there for 12 years. I will look on your page 😄
Haha, you got me when you said in a place near Cadiz 😉
Yes- I never say Rota because no one has heard of it. But I lived on the other side of the base in El Manantial- near Pto. De Sta. Maria.
This was really informative. I am planning on visiting Barcelona next year if possible, God willing. I do have a nearby Tapas restaurant that I have visited which we indulged in Paella, so I will specifically order what you recommended. : )
Barcelona (and Catalunya) has very yummy dishes, I am sure you will enjoy the food scene there. I totally recommend you try paella in Spain and then compare it with the one you eat at your local restaurant, then let me know how you feel 😉
I have never been to Spain but it would be lovely one day! I understand not being able to find some of those staple foods in a different country though. I am American, but I live in El Salvador, so there and things like Bagels, or different snacks and things that I just can’t find here!
Wow! El Salvador! Never heard anything about this country, I am sure it is a great adventure living there despite not finding bagels lol. I am sure when you visit the US you indulge in all the treats you don’t get back home.
¡Me encanta España! I lived there for a year and also understand not being able to have things from home. I was aching for apple cider in the fall when I was there. After coming home though, I definitely missed the sobremesa. My family will occasionally linger over dinner at home, especially at a big family gathering for a special occasion, but it certainly is not a common practice here. Besides missing the real tapas, I also wished we had menú del día here. The specials at restaurants are not at all the same thing.
That’s hilarious! When we started going out after the lockdown I realised they had apple ciders in bars and I’m like “is that new?” I had never seen them before and now they are the new cool thing >D
[…] busy. So now, every time I come to Spain, I often find that activities drag for too long, especially mealtimes, and I get less […]
Totally understand what you mean with The Mediterranean Diet. Every time I come home from Spain I want to continue eating the healthy meals I’ve had while abroad and can never find the proper ingredients or fresh fruit/veg that’s of good quality.