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Food and Drink

Spain - Food and Drink

Though Spain is famous for sangria, paella and seafood there is much more to the Spanish diet than simply just a few traditional favourites. Impassioned discussions about paella crusts and morning trips to the bakery make up just a fraction of the everyday locals focus on food. Family life revolves around buying, cooking and eating food and much importance is placed on hand me down recipes as there is on how to make the perfect Spanish omelette. Sitting down to enjoy dishes with the family is the culmination of the day's events. Spanish are born foodies and this passion is passed on from generation to generation.

A local will tell you that each comunidad autónoma (region) in Spain has its own regional dish/dishes of which they are intensely proud and particular about. In Galicia you will find seafood and their special delicacy percebes(goose barnacle), the Basque country has pintxos (Basque tapas), Catalonia has pantumaca (raw tomato on toast) and various rice dishes, Valencia has rices with a strong tradition in meat, fish or seafood paella, Madrid sees tortillas (potato omelettes) and patatas bravas and Andalucia has traditional dishes such as fried fish and gazpacho. Each comunidad autónomas specialises in their regional traditional dishes so don’t always expect the dishes from other regions to feature on their menus.

Whilst it is easy to assume that the Spanish specialise in savoury cuisine that would be to overlook the many varied sweet dishes which the country also enjoys. You will find many traditional sweets all over Spain, some so famously good that tourists and natives will travel to that region just to indulge. Notable favourites include the thin pastry almond tart Tarta de Santiago from Galicia, the egg custard Crema Catalana from Catalonia, churros con chocolate (long pastries and hot chocolate sauce) from Madrid, flan (similar to creme caramel), pastry bites such as miguelitos (layered pastry with fillings) and orrijas (fried bread with cinnamon).

Traditional savoury recipes include the Spanish tortilla, a potato and vegetable omelette; empanadas, savoury pastry pockets with fruit, meat or fish; paella Valenciana, authentic fragrant paella with rabbit and chicken; baked Basque fish, which is cod, haddock or other white fish in a white wine sauce with tomatoes; and gazpacho, a cold and smooth tomato soup.


The Spanish have a relaxed attitude when it comes to drinking with groups gathering around local bars or sitting on terraces as they relax during evenings with a slow drink in hand. it’s not uncommon for teenagers to drink wine with their family during a meal or natives to have a beer Clara de Limón (beer with lemon soda) or Tinto de Verano (red wine with lemon juice or carbonated water) but it is done in moderation. Measurements are smaller than the rest of Europe so when you order a beer it comes in a glass ⅓ of the size of a British pint called a caña which measures 200 millilitres. Beer is the drink of choice with half of the nation preferring to consume it. Gin and tonic is the next popular behind beer then white and red wine. Groups of younger Spaniards gather socially with their own alcohol in public spaces before heading late to a bar or club in an instance known as botellón (big bottle). Whilst this naturally leads to an increase of noise and larger crowds, it is a safe environment to be near to, and part of. Some may like drinking kalimotxo (red wine and coca cola) or carajillo (coffee with a dash of brandy).

Coffee is a hot beverage enjoyed daily with most having either a coffee in the form of a cortado (macchiato style) café con leche (latte) or solo (espresso). Orange juice is also often coupled with coffee during breakfast. Water is always on the table when it comes to eating out and in. Depending on taste, you may find two different jugs, one agua fría (cold water) and one del tiempo (room temperature).

When it comes to food, Spaniards are known all around the world for their passion for both talking about the subject and their enjoyment in eating it. Many occasions revolve around meal times and food can be the topic of conversations around the dinner table too. Mealtimes span many hours and if eating out for lunch it may push dinner time without anyone having left. Along with every meal comes bread which is seen as the staple accompaniment to all meals and baskets of bread are always found in restaurants and households alike.The courses are lingered over and everybody takes their time amongst conversation. There is a term for the conversation after the meal has finished which involves everyone continuing conversation for a long time after the meal has ended ‘sobremesa’.

It is common for various forms of free tapas to be served alongside a drink when you order in a bar. This can range from crisps, olives and slices of Spanish tortilla to pan con jamon serrano (bread with serrano ham). It’s not unheard of for locals to specifically favour certain bars for the standard and range of tapas they offer.

Desayuno (breakfast) is eaten at usual European hours and can consist of a pastry, croissant or churros with chocolate sauce as found in Madrid. You will find younger people may eat eat cereal or toast. Comida (lunch) is eaten around 2/3pm and is the largest meal of the day. It usually contains a simple meat or fish dish with bread but if eating out it will be a light soup or salad to start, fish or meat main and fruit or flan to finish. Cena (dinner) is eaten any time from 8pm onwards though it is not uncommon to sit down to eat at 11pm when eating out. Locals would eat a sandwich, or small light meal like a salad for dinner had they had a large lunch.

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