I love food. My family even jokes that I must have a separate “dessert stomach” due to the fact that no matter how stuffed I am, I can still manage to put down a dessert. So what have I been filling my dessert (and normal) stomach with here in Spain? I wish I could say that it has been only the finest European cuisine, but the fact remains that I’m a just a poor college kid, and that makes eating “well” very tricky. I do cook a decent amount of food for myself at my apartment, and I attempt to stick to relatively healthy choices that are still cheap such as rice and beans, vegetarian pasta and omelets. What I make for myself at home really isn’t much different from what I make in the States, except that the produce here is a lot more fresh…which reminds me of a story…*sidetrack*
One time, in one of my classes with our beloved teacher Juan, I wanted to say that I’ve noticed that the produce here doesn’t last as many days as the produce I get at home, but that this probably just meant there weren’t as many preservatives in the products. Being the savvy Spanish student that I am, I figured the word for preservatives would be “preservativos.” I mean, wouldn’t you? It turns out that is the word for condoms. So I literally said, “The fruit doesn’t stay fresh as long because it doesn’t have condoms.” Needless to say, I will never forget the word for preservatives (which evidently is “conservantes.”)
I have become increasingly less picky throughout my life, and a large part of that can be attributed to my travels. What is a “normal” or “typical” food to eat can vary greatly depending on the region or country. I have been very open-minded about trying other foods typical of the area that I never would have dreamed of trying in my life. I’ve tried some of the most unique Basque delicacies such as calamares en su tinta (squid in their own ink), baby eels, blood sausage and bacalao al pil-pil (cod in an emulsion of oil and garlic.) These are especially impressive attempts considering I would barely touch seafood just a couple of years ago.
This article would not be complete without a mention of paella. Paella is, hands down, my favorite Spanish dish. On the surface, it seems rather ordinary: rice and seafood mixed in with some vegetables. I think it is the key ingredient, saffron, that makes it so special. The combination of the freshness of the seafood, exploding flavors of pepper and onion, succulent saffron and cooked-to-perfection rice makes for a mouthwatering Spanish specialty. I’m probably going to have to go eat some now.
One Spanish food that I simply canNOT get on board with is ham/pork (shh don’t tell the Spaniards!) This is due, in large part, to one fateful night as a child when I bit into a piece of ham to find what I believed to be a pig’s tooth (it was just fat.) My aversion to ham has existed ever since. Pork in Spain is like a god, and it comes in more varieties than I would have ever thought necessary. I have had exactly one pork dish in Spain that I’ve enjoyed, and I don’t expect there to be another.
Probably my favorite part of Spanish cuisine is their beloved beverage: vino tinto. I could drink red wine every single day, and while living here I pretty much have. It’s a huge part of their culture, and some of Europe’s finest vineyards are just down the road from Bilbao in a region called La Rioja. It is a part of virtually every lunch and dinner, and most menus del día include it in the price of the meal. At grocery stores, you can get a bottle of red wine for as little as 75 cents, but a ¨classier¨bottle may cost you around 6 or 7 euros. Oh, how I will miss those prices when I´m back in the US!