Who doesn’t care for a glass of wine now and then or as an addition to accent the flavor of your dinner? In Spain, wine is commonplace, at dinner (cena), lunch (almuerzo), and even sometimes with a late breakfast (desayuno). 1
Bread with bread
Bread is the other thing that always accompanies every meal. The Spanish eat fresh bread with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unlike Americans, who eat it now and again at home, when you’re out to a restaurant, or when you want to make toast or a sandwich. And never do you eat it alone without the accompaniment of other food. They even have a phrase for it:
“Pan con pan es la comida de tontos”
The phrase above roughly translates: Bread with bread is the food of the fools. No one ever eats bread just for eating bread. It is used to eat and mix your food, and to wipe up the last remaining juices on your plate. When they saw me just eating a slice of bread, nothing on it, they laughed. Now it’s another one of the running jokes…
As far as sandwiches goes, it’s not too common. Deli meat? Yea, not really a thing for lunch. Jamon is more commonplace. Often you see sandwiches as tiny finger sandwich appetizers. I was in the store the other day and saw this: Bread, Sin Corteza (Without Crust). WHAT? Why have I not seen this in the United States?! If only they had this during my childhood, I would have been in heaven and not have to burden my parents with cutting off every edge of my crust. Oh the memories…
Breakfast for Dinner
The other day I had breakfast for dinner. It isn’t unusual, as when I’m home and have nothing to make for dinner, my default is breakfast food, but it was unusual that what I considered “breakfast food” was actually dinner food in Spain.
Carmen cooked everyone fried eggs (sunny side down) with sausage, jamon, and patatas (mini fries). I took one look at it and laughed. Breakfast for dinner!
Oil and Salt
I’ve found in the few days that I’ve been here that the food comes more salty and full of oil. The Spanish cook everything with lots of olive oil (aciete oliva), preferring that over cooking spray or butter. There’s a lot of deep-frying that goes on too, which was something else to get used to. Salt is used with everything, and I’ve found many of meals to be quite salty, and to my surprise, spices are infrequently used here. When I asked for some table pepper, all I got were looks of confusion. After explaining myself, they said they didn’t have any in the house. No pepper in the house? Garlic power? Nope. Oregano? Cilantro? Other spices? Not that common.
Food has been pretty good so far, though when you say seafood, don’t think of boiled lobster. Much of the seafood has to be pretty different from what I expected when I ask for seafood, and when you say “rare” or even “medium rare”, expect it bleeding. At least that’s what I’ve come to know so far, but it’s only been a week or so! Overall, I anticipate this to be a culinary adventure and even though I have been known to be selective about what I enjoy eating, I have tried everything, and have eaten most of it.
I’ve found in the few days that I’ve been here that the food comes salty and full of oil. The Spanish cook everything with lots of olive oil (aciete oliva), preferring that over cooking spray or butter. There’s a lot of deep-frying that goes on too, which was something else to get used to.
Attempting to Cook Far From Home
I wanted to cook one of my favorites for Carmen, Loreto, Adrian, and the rest of the family. It was met with moderate success. I wanted to make a German Pancake. First of all, all the ingredients were slightly different. Eggs (huevos), flower (harina), and milk (leche) are all a little different, though I really can’t tell you specifically what. The vanilla extract was a powder, not a liquid, and the butter. Well the butter is very different. There was no cast-iron frying pan that I could stick in the oven, so I had to make due with a glass pan.
I more or less knew the recipe, but usually just “feel” it out, but I couldn’t with all the changes, so I looked up the recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t see one that was very similar to mine. Then it came to measurements (American measurements to the Metric System), which I’m sure messed a few things up, and the fact that I needed to almost double the recipe size that I am used to using.
I guess it was alright. Everyone liked it, though I’m still not sure if they were saying they liked it to be nice, or it actually was good. I hated it; it didn’t taste at all how I wanted it to, and I’d had to substitute apples instead of my usual strawberriesAlso, it didn’t cook right; it was too thick, slightly too crusty and chewy in the wrong places (see the result below).
- Of course, all these things vary from the region to region, and all these observations have been made in the Rioja and Basque Country. ↩