What In The World Am I Eating???

29 Feb

014I’ve been in Spain for over a month now and have refrained from doing the cliché blog about food…but here it is.  I have just had way too many interesting food encounters to not tell everyone about it.  I have loved almost all of the food here, but some of it is just so odd to me.  Getting traditional home cooked meals from my Señora, trying out food at several restaurants, and having to cook and shop for myself has been quit the culinary adventure.

Let me start by reminding my readers that eating here is just plan odd no matter what you’re eating.   First, breakfast never consists of bacon and eggs.  A Salami and Cheese sandwich or chocolate filled croissant is actually quite normal.    And don’t even get me started on the coffee.  They only have espresso machines here, so the normal “coffee” is an espresso shot mixed with warm milk.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious but sometimes I just want my black regular strength coffee.  If I’m lucky some cafe will have Cafe Americano….but that is just watered down espresso.   After breakfast, people usually eat a merienda or snack at noon which is followed by a HUGE lunch between two and four. This usually consists of a first and second course, bread, and dessert!  Next they will get drinks and tapas (appetizers) around 7 and finally eat a small dinner around 10 PM.  As you can imagine, my stomach has been quite confused lately!

My first true encounter with the Spanish style of eating was when we went to a nice restaurant for lunch.  We were scheduled to start eating at 2, so I had planned to do other things that day around 3.  Let me just say, those things did not even get started until close to five!  As I explained, lunch consists of more food than imaginable.   So we started with the salad…and sat for 30 minutes, then came the appetizer… we waited and talked….then came another appetizer.  Finally the first course came, we ate and waited some more…. and then the second course….we sat and visited…then dessert and talked some more.  Three hours later we finally left.  Wow…they were not kidding when they said Spaniards loved to have leisurely meals.

I also mentioned tapas in the daily meal.  Tapas are simply small appetizers that usually come free with a drink.  You can also buy other tapas that are meant to be shared amongst your friends.  I was able to go on a Tapas Tour in which a guide took us to some of the best Tapas places in Madrid.  We got octopus at one stop, patatas bravas at another( which are fried potato chunks that have a “spicy” sauce on them…hence the name Brave Potatoes.  I put spicy in quotes because very few people in the states would consider this spicy) and fried anchovies at another!  “Tapa-ing”, as we call it, is a great way to sample new food because it is either free or you can try a small portion for very low prices!

042

Perhaps the most shocking food encounter I have had was when I went to my first market.  As you read earlier, I have to cook for myself so we went to this market that my friend’s Señora recommended.   We were greeted with strong fish stench, but we continued despite the smell.  As expected, we walked into vendors selling piles and piles of fish…some so fresh it was still alive!  The locals joke that Madrid should be called the Madrid Port because it has the best sea food in the country even though it is completely land locked.   It was certainly a culture shock to see fish eggs, sea urchins, and fish that were almost as big as me!  But the real shock came when we continued our adventure toward the carnecerias( meat shops).  We were legitimately disgusted by what we saw: whole rabbits, pig ears, whole baby pigs, and even dried blood.  Several markets were even selling ostrich eggs!  The sales man explained that you could feed five people with one egg!  Can you imagine having to be the one to snatch those eggs from momma ostrich!?  Yikes!

The food here has certainly been an adventure.  I cannot wait to try even more interesting food and try to cook it!  I have been able to watch my Spanish roommates whip up some pretty amazing food.  I always feel insufficient when I prepare a simple sandwich and salad while they prepare gourmet food such as tuna stuffed roasted eggplant or delicious pasta.  They always let me try some and insist that it is not very good while repeatedly saying: “Don’t eat it if you don’t like it!”  Trust me, I want to eat it!  It’s always delicious.  Food is an integral part of the Spaniards lives.  I had been figuring this out, but it really hit me when my roommate was complaining about how much stuff she had to do for school and how tired she was, but she still took more than 2 hours out of her day to cook and eat lunch!  You don’t mess with food here.

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