Like most other Mediterranean countries, the Spanish love cooking with herbs and spices. Food is regional in the country but there are some dishes that must be tried no matter where you are – paella being one of these. Meat and vegetable dishes can be found everywhere, as can fresh fish which is a favourite ingredient in Spanish dishes. Spain is also host to some wonderful regional cheeses which are definitely worth trying. Olives and olive oil are available everywhere, and of course, there is also Serrano ham…
Breakfast (El Desayuno)
A Spanish breakfast typically consists of croissants, toast, cakes and coffee. Magdalena cake (a type of Spanish tea cake) is particularly popular.
Lunch (La Comida)
It is still common to have a large lunch in Spain. It usually starts with appetizers of cured meat or cheese, then the first course (primero) which is usually soup or something like grilled asparagus. This will be followed by a meat or fish dish served with a fresh salad. Dessert is commonly something like fruit and ice cream, flan or ice cream cakes. All of this will be followed by espresso coffee. Lunch usually finishes around 3:30pm, and it is still common for lunch to be followed by a siesta for a couple of hours.
Afternoon Snack (La Merienda)
La Merienda bridges the gap between lunch and dinner. It’s usually just bread with either chocolate or something like chorizo or salami or ham on top. Or maybe it will be those lovely Magdalenas.
Dinner (La Cenar)
Dinner in Spain is usually eaten quite late (from 8:00pm onwards; some restaurants don’t even open until 9:00pm) so you may find it to be quite light. It may consist of fish or seafood, or meat or chicken served with fried potatoes or rice. It will probably be served with salad and followed by dessert. Dinner desserts are similar to those served at lunch, but lighter. Typically flan (what we would know as crème caramel) is served.
Tapas are small, snack type dishes and vary from just a bowl of olives to chorizo cooked in red wine to spicy chicken wings. They are typically served in brown earthenware dishes and can either be eaten on their own (for example, when people go into a bar) or in numerous portions to make up a meal. It’s believed they originated as a slice of ham used to cover a glass of wine to keep the flies out…
What to Drink?
Wine is popular at mealtimes in Spain. Similar to France and Italy, Spain has a system to classify its wines – the Denominación de Origen (DO) system is used. This classifies wines by their age:
- Crianza is wine that is at least two years old and has spent at least one year in a cask
- Reserva is wine that is at least three years old and has spent at least a year in a cask
- Gran Reserva is wine that is five years old and has spent at least two years in a cask
Probably the most well known is Rioja, and there are some good ones and some bad ones; there are so many good wines in Spain, you just have to work your way through them to see what suits your taste.
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