There are some aspects of Mediterranean cooking that are undeniably delicious.
Besides the obvious benefit of the weather allowing a variety of fresh ingredients to grow under a warm sun, Spain also has a multitude of traditions and eating habits that the rest of the world doesn’t even know it’s missing out on.
For expats moving to Spain, these habits add to the charm of the country. The culture of food is essential to the Spanish way of life and it’s easy for foreigners to recognise its value.
Look out world: we’re about to show you why Spain is winning at food.
Tapas is life
Despite common misconceptions, tapas is not a type of food. It is a way of life and an approach to eating. Tapas is simply the Spanish name for small plates of food, the typical style of eating especially in bars and restaurants. You don’t go to a ‘tapas place’; almost every place is a tapas place.
You get to try a bit of everything without ordering too much and you can be very precise about what you want and how much.
(Although let’s be honest; it’s patatas bravas and croquetas every time. ? )
Lunch for the win
Unlike in many other cultures, the Spanish enjoy a good, long session of eating in the middle of the day leaving space for tapas later in the evening. This is better for the metabolism and allows an extended lunch break in many offices (although for many expats, this aspect is frustrating as you end up working later!).
Sadly, this tradition is becoming less common as lunch hours in the professional world are shortening. There’s still the weekend though!
The merry ‘Merienda’
Remember those happy days when you were allowed a snack after school to last you until dinner? In Spain, everyone does that, regardless of age. This is called the merienda and it’s so customary it’s practically an extra meal. Can’t complain about that!
Just a pinch(o)
Spain has discovered that everything can go on bread. Anything. Pinchos are the cheapest, cutest bites to eat with a beer that contain a world of cuisine in the palm of our hand. *smacks lips*
More than the rest of Europe, for obvious reasons, Spain’s gastronomy has a strong connection with Latin American traditions and ingredients.
South (and North) American expats in the country can feel at home with the influences from across the Atlantic (spicy peppers, even tomatoes etc.) as well as the wide availability of actual Latino food and restaurants, especially in areas with higher immigration such as Barcelona. And for the rest of the new arrivals, it’s an added exotic element!
There’s no rush to finish
As a sociable, outgoing people, the Spanish like to remain at the table after the food has been finished so that they can talk, possibly along with a beer. This practice is called the sobremesa (literally ‘on the table’) and makes the eating experience in Spain a much more shared one.
Spain knows that enjoying food is about being together!
Oh my Jamón
It speaks for itself. Leave behind your cooked, pale hams; Spanish jamón is here to convert you.
With all of this in mind, we have a tip for new arrivals in Spain: the larger lunch + merienda = eating late before bed. Spaniards are accustomed to eating late into the night but it can really mess up your timetable and your metabolism. Just make sure your dinner is not so heavy!
Share this with your Spanish friends and expats in Spain; see if we missed any Spanish eating habits that the rest of the world could benefit from!