How to eat like the Spanish eat
One of the best things about visiting Spain is the foodie culture. The fresh Mediterranean ingredients make dishes like paella so good that they’re copied around the world. And, while food is taken seriously, the attitude to actually eating is so laid-back you might fall over. This is the place to slow down, and savor the delicious cuisine.
With way more than three typical meals a day, the Spanish are never far from their next gastronomic experience. Here’s our guide to eating your way through the day like the Spanish.
Having not one, but two breakfasts is quite common across many parts of Spain. Start with a coffee and something small like a pastry when you first get up, and make time mid-morning for a more substantial breakfast, perhaps involving toasted bread with tomatoes and olive oil.
Speaking of olive oil…
Condiments like ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise aren’t huge in Spain — much like Italy, this country is the kingdom of good olive oil. Scientists even think that consuming a little olive oil each day will help you live a long and healthy life, so get on board!
Fill up at lunch
Lunch (comida) starts at 2pm, is the biggest meal of the day and can consist of several courses. This is when you’ll have the best opportunity to sample some of Spain’s classic dishes, like rice-based seafood paella, lentil soups and hearty meat stews. During weekends people will often stay at their restaurant tables for hours during lunch, chatting away long after they’ve finished eating.
Mid-afternoon is prime snacking time in Spain, and the perfect excuse to try that great café that you spotted the other day. Often some kind of cake, fruit tart or a churro — fried dough dipped in sugar and melted chocolate — is often enjoyed with coffee and eaten with a pal. It’s as much about satisfying your sweet tooth as it is being sociable and spending a moment with friends.
Coffee is a big part of the afternoon snack ritual, but is also enjoyed at breakfast and at the end of larger meals, served after dessert. Know what to order: A “café con leche” is a coffee with milk, and a “café solo” is a coffee without milk.
Tapas are small dishes, like olives, cured meats, cheeses or spicy fried potatoes, that are often eaten in bars with a drink in the early evening. Each bar and region will have different (delicious) speciality dishes.
Often these mini-meals act as an aperitif before going out for dinner after. However, it is also fun to spend an evening moving between bars and slowly feasting on these little dishes, instead of sitting down for a full evening meal.
Prepare to eat late
Dinner (cena) in Spain takes place later than any other country in Europe; locals will sit down for their evening meal around 9.30pm. This is often a lighter meal, so you might see salads, potato omelets (tortilla de patatas), fried potatoes (patatas bravas) or cured meats on the menu.
Many restaurants will open their doors earlier for tourists, but making sure that you eat late at least once will allow you to fully experience eating like the Spanish.