Event planner extraordinaire, Marisa Barr, recently took a well deserved vacation to the South of Spain where she visited her brother, Phil, who is studying abroad. Here she shares with us their foodie adventure and the differences between eating in Spain and The USA.
*Jamon Iberico hung like this above all of the bars. They take it down and slice it to order!
One of the first things I noticed upon my arrival to Sevilla, Spain is that Spaniards really do “live in the streets”. And why wouldn’t you? With the sun shining it was a beautiful non-humid 70 degrees for every day of my trip.
The next observation I immediately had, was that everyone drank and ate at any and all times of the day. Meals were not simply limited to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. From the woman who was sipping a glass of wine while holding her baby, to the elderly man smoking a pipe with a beer, to the businessmen in their suit jackets huddled around an elevated table with their scotch, whether it be 10:00am, 2:00pm, or 11:00pm, drinking and eating seemed to be the center of their lives in Spain, and more importantly what drinking and eating created: being surrounded by family and friends. It was not simply treated as a necessity, but more as a way of life.
I instantly knew I was going to like this place.
I started each day with either Jamon Iberico (Ham from an Iberian Pig) on a toasted bagel doused with olive oil, or a toasted bagel with olive oil and a tomato spread. Along with a café con leche and an orange juice I was all set. I’m a little disappointed to admit I was not on the Spaniards level of having a glass of wine or a beer with my morning meal and was instantly overcome with a wave of guilt over my exasperation towards my foreign guests at the restaurant where I worked who seemed so perturbed by our American coffee with a side of cream. Café con leche, or coffee with milk in Spain—is really espresso, and they take the liberty of steaming and adding the milk to it for you themselves.
One of the greatest things about wining and dining in Spain is that they make it very easy for you to do so. With much smaller portions than what we are accustomed to in the United States, it is possible to drink and eat many times throughout the day without getting uncivilly drunk or outrageously full. Three course meals are available for lunch (the biggest meal of the day) for anywhere from 7-12 euro at a restaurant. Many people choose to go home and eat in front of the televisions with their families during lunch time, anywhere from 2:00-5:00pm when most local businesses are closed for siesta. (it is socially acceptable to eat, drink, and sleep during these hours…amazing, right!?)
These portion sizes give the luxury of being able to taste many different things and spend time with many different people throughout the day. I can honestly say I did not get drunk or full once throughout my excursion in Sevilla. I was constantly contented.
One of the mini meals my brother and I indulged in was tortilla Espanola, a delicious creamy potato pie of sorts, espinaca con garbanzos, which is essentially spinach (sometimes creamed) and chick peas, albondigas in a gravy of sorts with potatoes, and pork that literally crumbled to the touch, again in a gravy of sorts with a hint of spice.
All of these dishes are local to the area, and my brother warned against signs advertizing paella “a typical tourist trap!” he said, as it really wasn’t very popular in the South of Spain.
The tortilla would be heavier in some places, creamier in others. The spinach more creamy in some, more pureed or whole, spicy or wet, but all of the ideas were the same. Fresh, untampered with local ingredients in delicious food.
And the correlation of each meal is the same: to bring together people you love. Whether it be friends on the streets over a pitcher of sangria or cousins and aunts and uncles and sons and daughters and mothers and fathers at home in front of the television with a steaming bowl of soup, Spaniards are always eating, drinking, and TALKING with one another!
They live in the moment, and as a bonus, with all the walking in the city (it is nearly impossible to fit a car down many of the old streets) I found I lost three pounds during my eating and drinking escapades!
I’m telling you, Spain has the right idea!
Now if only I could find a traditional gazpacho, followed by a luscious flan and a glass of vino tinto on a patio in Boston at noon…
-Marisa Barr is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA and is a writer, food lover, function coordinator and event planner.