University of Wisconsin–Madison

For the Love of Food

Spanish food, a true delight. With miles of shoreline along its coast, Spain loves its seafood. Sevilla, located only a couple hours from the sea, is no exception. Yes, they also have an especially keen interest in ham, but really, you should see the seafood section in their markets. It’s as if the entire cast of Finding Nemo decided to come and hangout.

Spaniards are not scared of there food either. In the US, the fish in the markets have already been finely filled into pale unidentifiable slabs.  It’s as if we are trying to fool ourselves out of what we are really eating. Here, there is no fooling around. You want a fish fillet? Well then you are going to get it with eyes too.

I honestly feel there is some beauty behind this honesty.  It gives the fish a little respect, you know? However, I can’t say my feelings don’t completely change when presented with 6 small anchovies at lunch. Eyes, fins, bones and all.

Considering the on-going obesity epidemic, it is hard to argue that Americans don’t love to eat food. But there is a very distinct difference between loving to eat food and loving food. The Spanish love food. There a few reasons I feel like I can make this assumption…

TUNA

First, they share.  In the US, the norm is that everyone orders their own salad, entrée, and dessert to enjoy by themselves. In Spain, the menu is designed for sharing. Tapas are small entrees ordered in vast quantities so that everyone at the table can try a little bit of everything.  This style of eating means everyone gets to enjoy all different kinds of foods, while simultaneously bonding over the deliciousness of what they are consuming.

Second, dining out is not an activity.  It’s an event. Restaurants in the US are designed to get you in and out. Here, it is quite the contrary.  The tapas are not brought out all at once, but rather in stages. First some cheese or gazpacho, a little seafood and jamón, and a big salad to finish. Forget about your one-hour dinner, dining in Spain easily takes 2+ hours.

CHEESE

Third, they are very deliberate in their eating.  No one is guiltier that I when it comes to marathon eating. Back home, it is so easy to snack throughout the day. If it is available AND it tastes good, why not eat it? Conversely, the Spanish have very strict eating hours. They eat at the same times everyday and rarely in between. This has to be the hardest adjustment for me. I eat breakfast everyday around 10am, lunch at 2:30, and then I wait until 9:30 for dinner. What?! It all connects back to the idea that eating is not an activity or something to do whenever you feel like it. It is something to sit down and enjoy (even if it means starving yourself a little beforehand).

ALMUERZA

Although very difficult to handle at times (such as when my stomach begins to eat itself out of hunger) I can’t help but love the eating customs here.  It is all about enjoying your food for what is it and taking your time to appreciate it. Eyeballs and all.

Now, excuse me while I go eat Nutella with a spoon to ease my hunger pains.