Echoing the words of all the students around me: I can’t believe how quickly my time in Spain is going by! I’ve been here over two months and have less than two months before I go home. More than just talking about places I’ve gone, I wanted to take some time to write about one of the most important cultural aspects in Spain: gastronomy.
To start out with, there are five traditional “meals” a day here:
- Desayuno (breakfast): Much smaller than traditional American breakfasts; usually eaten around 8 am.
- Almuerzo (snack between breakfast and lunch; this word signifies something different in Spain than it does in Central and South America, as I’ve learned): sometimes just a coffee or a piece of toast. Usualy eaten around 11 am.
- Comida (lunch; again, slight differences in translation, “comida” here means more than just “food”): A large meal usually eaten around 2 pm.
- Merienda (snack): Small snack usually eaten around 6 pm.
- Cena (dinner): regular-sized meal eaten around 10 pm.
In one post it’s not going to be possible to summarize all types of food, but obviously the staples of the Mediterranean diet are very important here: grains, olive oil, and wine. Besides food, drinking is also an important part of meals. A distinct difference between the United States and Spain is the way alcohol is consumed. Here, it’s very common to see people drinking beer or wine throughout the day. This doesn’t mean that people are walking around drunk all day, it’s just a different attitude.
Another difference is what I call the sacredness of eating. For example, today I was eating a croissant as I walked home from class. As meal times are several hours later here than I’m used to, and because I walk so much, I regularly eat snacks while I walk: sliced veggies, pastries, little sandwiches. At home in Kansas City, I spend all my time driving, and if I’m being honest, I used to bring food from home and eat in my car almost every day. So, to me, eating while you commute, whatever your commute looks like, is convenient and completely normal. In Spain, although people are very busy and lead lives much like people in the U.S., food is almost…sacred. So I received strange looks for the duration of the croissant. Even busy people stop and sit down to eat. I get a lot of glances that seem to ask what’s my hurry. In part I think this is generational; also I know there’s no way to summarize an entire country’s attitude towards food. But it’s still an interesting cultural difference, and it’s certainly rewarding when it comes to the art of mealtimes. Meals are a delicious part of maintaining connections with family, friends, and, in general, community.