How to Eat like a Spaniard in Spain
In the south at least, there’s a very good reason for this: the fierce heat of the day has subsided, making al fresco dining more pleasant.
Another reason may be that lunch, which is often the main meal of the day, also tends to be a lengthy affair and people just need some time to digest their food.
And don’t expect to eat quickly – anything less than a couple of hours for dinner is considered rushed by Spanish standards.
Food and regional variations
Everyone knows about Spanish favourites such as paella, gazpacho and tortilla, but did you know that these are just the tip of the culinary iceberg?
Most traditional food in Spain is cooked fresh and features a dizzying variety of meats, vegetables and seafood.
Jamon serrano (air cured ham) is a major staple, as is the dish albondigas con tomate (meatballs in tomato sauce) – but every region has its favourite dish and the contrast between one place and another can be vast.
Go for the Menu del Dia
If you’re serious about going native and saving money at the same time you’ll want to check out the menu del dia (menu of the day).
Often, this is not written anywhere and you’ll have to listen closely to the waiter (usually phrasebook in hand) to see the options on display.
It may be the cheapest way to eat, but the menu del dia will feature the exact same ingredients as some of the more expensive menu items, and you’ll usually get three courses with bread and a drink for between €8 and €14.
Tapas – not just olives on sticks
Some regions of Spain serve a free tapa with every drink you buy, but this is not the case everywhere.
Quality varies from one establishment to the next, but bars do compete on the quality of their tapas so it pays to be choosy.
Generally speaking, the more drinks you order, the better the tapas becomes.
The first plate might be something simple, such as a plate of olives or a few slices of serrano ham. Keep drinking, and by the fifth glass of vino tinto or cerveza you can expect sizzling dishes of gambas al pil pil (prawns fried in garlic) or chipirones (small fried squids).
If you’re still hungry you can order a racione (ration), which is like a larger tapas dish.
Tip: you don’t need to order an alcoholic drink to get tapas, order a mosto (grape juice) or a cerveza sin (non-alcoholic beer).
So keep these few tips in mind and you will be eating like a pro in no time!