My name is Lauren Hook, and I’ll be singing Soprano for UGA’s Chamber Choir Tour. I’ve spent a lot of time in Spain, and I wanted to post a few blog entries about my experiences before we head out. I’d like to start things off with a special on Spanish food, as I consider myself an adamant foodie. All photos are my own.
One big difference you’ll notice when we get to Spain is how many meals they have each day. So, instead of having three meals as we typically do in the US, Spain has five. There are even specific verbs to use in reference to you eating at a specific time. Think of it this way, instead of going to lunch, the verb is simply to lunch. And you don’t eat dinner, you simply dinner.
To start the day off, we have desayuno (noun) or desayunar (verb) to refer to breakfast. Breakfast in Spain is lighter than what we have in the US. No IHOPs or anything of the sort. You’ll have desayuno specials that include several items for one price, typically 2-6 euro depending on where you are and what’s included.
Some examples could be: zumo de naranja (OJ, freshly squeezed), café con leche (espresso and milk), bollería (some type of pastry, maybe a croissant), or tostadas (toasted baguette with your choice of olive oil, tomato spread, ham, and cheese). Desayuno is in general a great deal. Consequently you’ll see the tables at the local cafes packed with customers in the morning.
The second meal is almuerzo and its respective noun is almorzar. In American Spanish classes, the literal translation is lunch, but in Spain at least, I found that misleading. Almuerzo is a mid morning snack between 11 and 12 before lunch. You’ll have a café con leche and some type of bolleria.
The most important meal of the day is lunch – it takes the longest and you eat the most. The main verb for “to eat” is the verb used for this meal – comer. Lunch is normally held during siesta hour between 2 and 4. If you show up any later, chances are you’ll be turned away for lack of space or time. It’s not common for Spanish restaurants to have a wait-to-be seated list, so if there are no tables open, best to come back another day.
During lunch hour, you’ll see restaurants with signs outside their doors detailing their respective menú del día, or menu of the day. This is a fixed menu. One price, normally around 10 euro, includes a drink (wine is a highly recommended option), two meal courses, and a choice of coffee or dessert.
But hey, if you’re on your feet all day sightseeing like crazy, try making a bocadillo, a sandwich on a baguette, with jamón serrano, chorizo, queso, or tortilla de patata, which is a Spanish omelette with potatoes and sometimes onion. Yum.
Merienda is the next meal of the day (respective verb being merendar), and it’s similar to almuerzo because it’s a pre-meal snack. But in merienda’s case, we’re snacking between 5 and 7 before dinner. Have another coffee and pastry, or try one of my favorite foods in Spain: churros con chocolate.
When you think of churros you might imagine ridged, stiff, fried, cinnamon-sugar covered dough. Sure, these are great, but I’m talking about something else. Churros in Spain come in a thicker, larger varieties, sometimes referred to as porras. What you won’t see is the cinnamon. Instead, you ask for a steaming taza (cup) of hot chocolate. If you’ve never had it, Spanish hot chocolate will redefine hot chocolate for you. The Spanish version is closer in consistency to melted chocolate or pudding chocolate. It’s nothing like our watery Swiss Miss (sad if you ask me) attempts.
Just put a bit of sugar on your plate, dip a churro in the sugar, and then proceed to dip again in the chocolate. Enjoy. What’s even better is that these are normally available for breakfast too!
Finally we’ve arrived to dinner. By now it’s most likely 9pm or later, and before proceeding to dance the night away (I’m not even kidding; see my next post), we should have a lighter meal, our cena (verb cenar). This is where tapas, or pinchos in the north, come in.
These dishes are small affairs – servings for individuals or a few people. Some bars insist you help yourself from what is already displayed on the bar; sometimes you can have tapas at a sit-down restaurant.
Pay 3 euro for a glass of vino tinto or vino blanco and order a few tapas to share with your friends. What’s fun about dinner is that it’s not uncommon to barhop. Get a drink and a few snacks at one place, talk for awhile, then find another lively place down the street. Continue as you see fit.
¡Qué aproveche! (Enjoy your meal)
I honestly can’t wait to taste Portugal’s culinary offerings. See you all in rehearsal!
If you want to see more photos from my travels in Spain, check out my Flickr.