Letters From Abroad: Spain

When I first arrived in Spain, one of the main differences I noticed was the portion size of meals. They are not big breakfast eaters; “la comida” (lunch) is their biggest meal, while “la cena” (dinner) is their lightest meal. It took some time getting used to how they prepare each dish since the majority of their meals are prepared with olive oil.

The Spaniards like to have fish for lunch and dinner as their main meal. Spain is located right next to two bodies of water, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Many Spanish dishes consist of fish. There is one dish that I absolutely love. It is called “paella.” It is a rice dish with a mixture of chicken, shrimp and mussels along with vegetables.

Cooking is a job Spanish mothers take seriously. My senora has cooked every single meal from scratch and all of it has tasted wonderful, from all the fish I have eaten to all the pizzas she has prepared and even the semicooked French fries. For breakfast, I get a couple pieces of bread toasted with some marmalade and a coffee. Lunch usually consists of a lettuce salad drizzled with olive oil and vinegar, a chicken broth soup with some noodles, and fish or some other type of meat with a side of vegetables. Since dinner is the lightest meal of the day, it can range from soup and a piece of chicken to homemade pizza and a salad. And at every lunch and dinner meal, there is a huge loaf of bread waiting to be eaten.

When my friends and I go out for dinner, we usually go to a place where we can eat American food, like cheeseburgers and fries. In American restaurants, they want you to come in, order food and leave as soon as possible. Here in Spain, they take their time. You eat first, pay later.

We go into a restaurant and usually have to wait at least 10-15 minutes before our drink orders are taken, and then another 20 minutes till the food order is taken. When we are ready to pay, Spaniards do not split the check like they do in the States. In a Spanish restaurant, the bill is divided equally among everyone no matter how much you have had to eat and drink. If you do not pay the same amount as your friends, then you might be considered “racano,” or stingy. We tend to leave a tip when we pay the bill in the United States, but tips are not obligatory in Spain. (Some people, however, will give a small tip, around 30 to 60 “centimos,” which is about 80 cents to $1.00, to taxi drivers, waiters, hairdressers etc. Some bills include tip but most do not.

Spain’s cuisine, for the most part, has been good. I know when I get done eating in Spain that I will thank my host mother because of all the omega-3s she has given me. I like the variety of food that I have had over the past month and I can’t wait to try other new things that Spain has in store for me.

Ciao!

–Carlos Melgar ’11

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