My first taste of food in Spain was at a coffee shop fronting Meson del Corregidor in the vicinity of Plaza Mayor located in the heart of the capital city of Madrid. While savoring the strange taste of Bartilillos con Crema (small custard pie), Churros (Long fluted wads of fried dough) and a cup of thick, hot chocolate, our expert tour guide Miss Katia Oceransky, gamely lectured us members of the 15-man Philippine delegation to the Study Tour on the Development of Cooperative Integration in Spain that food in Spain is not only a form of nourishment but is literally part of Spain culture and is influenced greatly by the history of Spain.
I was really struck with the words of our tour guide, hence, I decided to keep a tight watch on how food in Spain is related to Spain culture. And, in the course of our 8 fullfiling days in Spain, here is my stunning discovery :
1. Breakfast or Desayuno is the most insignificant of all the 3 meals in a day. As observed in Hotel Eurostars Toledo in Paseo San Eugenio S/N, Toledo City where we were billeted, breakfast is eaten between 08:00 to 10:00 in the morning. The light meal consists of a Café con Leche (half coffee and half hot milk) normally served with the popular Churros often deep-fried in front of you. You can also opt to take breakfast with the tortillas (omelette) or the Huevos a la Madrileña (Baked eggs with sliced tomatoes and sausages) and sandwiches.
2. Lunch or Almuerzo is the main and most significant meal of the day which is taken not earlier that 1:30 in the afternoon. During a luncheon hosted by no less than the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Cooperatives of the Regional Parliament of the Autonomous Community of Castella-La-Mancha at La Alacena Restaurant, Hotel Beatriz Toledo in Carretera Avila, Toledo City, we were offered with a three-course meal, the first being the popular light food in Spain composed of Sopa al Cuarto de Hora (Quick freshly-made fish soup). It was followed by the famous Toledo dish dubbed Perdiz con Chocolate (chocolate-flavored sauce) together with the Patatas y Judías Verdes a la Extremeña (Potatoes and green beans in sauce), Cazuela de Lomo y Butifarra (Pork and sausage casserole), Pollo Assado con Salsa de Naranja (Roasted chicken with orange sauce), Gambas en Salsa Verde (Fried Shrimps served with a parsley sauce) and Merluza con Alcaparras (Fish steaks with capers) with Cuajada con Miel (Rennet pudding with honey) as desert.
I was really intrigued on the events that transpired during the luncheon meeting. The Spaniards in each of the tables were not only taking their food the ordinary way but they were savoring it enjoyably as sounds of loud conversations and boisterous laughters dominated the air. Most importantly, they were not doing it lightly but engaging in it seriously as the meal dragged on for two hours, more or less. Afterward, we took some time to take souvenir photos . . .
Afterward, I requested two of the distinguished lady Members of Parliament for a souvenir shoot . . .
I thought that what I had observed during the lunch at Hotel Beatriz was just coincidental. Nevertheless, it was confirmed to be real during our lunch at a roadside restaurant that we dropped by on our way to the City of Valencia, wherein, I observed the same luncheon festive mode among the Spanish guests . . .
More so when we took our lunch at Casa Angel Restaurant in El Palmar, Valencia where we savored Spain’s best-known dish, the traditional Paella a la Valenciana composed of prawn, shellfish, rabbit, onions and peppers with rice . . .
The luncheon was capped with a Rigodon de Honor dance rendetion between the restaurant owner and Miss Katia and followed suit by the other guests. A photo op session outside then ensued . . .
3. Dinner or Cena. Food in Spain is taken very late in the evening. At Hotel Universidad in Avenida Espana, Albacete City, we took dinner at 22:00. The delicious Crema de Perdiz (Cream of partridge soup), Tortilla de Bacalao (Cod omelet) and the Queso Manchego (Slices of goats cheese) were the best food in Spain to take before retiring to bed after a busy day. Evening dinner may consist of a full meal, or something lighter, such as the Tapa composed of a small portions of fish, meat, vegetables, served as appetizers. Wine and olive oil generally form an integral part while taking food in Spain.
Food In Spain- Final Thoughts
Friendships are formed, families unite, business deals are closed and social groups assemble for some common purpose while taking food in Spain. Being a Filipino, taking food in Spain on the same table with the Spaniards was an act of mending fences and healing old wounds between the formerly colonized and the previous colonizers. From an outsider’s point of view, dining and wining particularly during lunch time, is one of the most important socializing events of the life of each and every Spaniard. Thus, food in Spain is more than a form of sustenance, it is literally a way of life among the Spanish people.