Gastronomy in Spain

Category: Articles

Spain´s food is made with an interesting assortment of ingredients. Some ingredients are originally from Spain, while others were brought to the country by the different peoples who conquered it. Moors, for example, brought oranges, lemons, sugar and rice from their African homeland. Spanish explorers brought chocolate, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes back with them from conquered territories overseas.

The hot weather in Spain forces many people to stay inside and rest for part of the day. This means that they stay up later at night. Over the course of their long day, Spaniards typically eat five times, instead of three meals. A hearty lunch is often the main meal.

Morning

Desyuno, or breakfast, is a simple meal of a fresh crusty loaf of bread, rolls called bollos or cookies called galletas, and a glass of milk, hot chocolate or coffee.

Churros, a kind of Spanish doughnut, are a popular breakfast treat. To make churros, strips of dough shaped like horseshoes or spirals are lightly fried and sprinkled with sugar. Spaniards eat a snack around eleven o´clock in the morning called almuerzo. Almuerzo can be anything from a small dish of olives to a large plate of ham and eggs.

Midday

It is hottest in the middle of the day, so Spaniards come inside between one and three o´clock to eat and socialize. La comida, or lunch, usually has three courses, including a green salad, a chicken or meat dish, and fresh fruit for desert. A popular lunch items is a tortilla española, which is a Spanish omelet made with eggs, potatoes and onions.

After work or school, Spaniards eat a light meal called la merienda. Children often eat a special sandwich called a bocadillo, made with crusty bread filled with cheese, an omelet or a cold meat which contains sliced olives called mortadela. Adults eat la merienda while chatting with friends at tapas bars or cafés. The little snacks called tapas, or lids, were originally served on small saucers that sat on top of a drink.

Evening

Often, Spaniards do not eat dinner, or la cena, until nine or ten at night. La cena is not as large as lunch. It can be as simple as an omelet and a glass of milk.

In large cities, where many people cannot come home for lunch, dinner is the family´s main meal. Stews with tomatoes, onions, beans, potatoes, carrots, sweet peppers and garlic, along with meat or fish, are popular meals. All these ingredients cook together in a large pot, but they are often served separately. The liquid from the stew is served first, as a soup. Then, the vegetables are eaten. Finally, the meat or fish is dished out. This way, a single pot of stew provides a three-course meal.

Regional Specialties

Each region in Spain has its own special dishes, which are made from local ingredients. Many dishes are relatively simple to prepare and are often cooked in one pot, like stew. In Galicia, where fishing is the main industry, people eat a lot of shellfish, including spider crabs, oysters and scallops. Fabada, a stew made from beans and sausage, originated in Asturias, in the north of Spain. In central Spain, people eat wild game, such as partridge or pheasant, and lamb is regularly on the menu. Andalusia is the home of gazpacho, a cold soup made from mashed tomatoes and other vegetables, as well as olive oil. People in Castile make a hot soup with garlic and chunks of bread called sopa de ajo castellana. People in both Castile and Madrid enjoy a chickpea stew called cocido, which also includes vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, as well as meat such as chorizo.

Paella

Paella is a rice dish from the city of Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Its yellow color comes from saffron, a spice made from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower. The other ingredients in paella vary from region to region, depending on what is available, but they sometimes include olives, red peppers, seafood, chicken or pork. The iron pan in which paella is made is called a paellera. It is large, round and shallow with a small handle on either side.