how to eat like a Spaniard

Barcelona Travel Blog

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After nearly nine months in Barcelona, I think that my lifestyle has become more Spanish than that of many Spaniards. I spend much of my day basically passing time between meals. Quite often, but not always, I'll eat five meals a day. These are:

1) desayuno (breakfast): This is what I eat after I first get up in the morning (around 8 am). For me, it's usually a cup of yogurt and a small pastry, accompanied by water or juice. I like to walk along the beach in the morning (a worthwhile detour on the way to the archive), and burning off breakfast gets me ready for...  

2) almuerzo (morning snack): At some point around 10 am, I start to get hungry again. I usually prefer something more substantial for this meal, so a small sandwich (mini bocadillo) with some sort of meat filling is a frequent choice. Most days I wait until after almuerzo to get started on my research, so the first coffee of the day comes in quite handy here. If I have a little extra time, I'll wash down everything with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, which virtually every bar or cafe will make for you.

3) comida (lunch): In European Spanish, comida means "food," "meal" in general, and "lunch" specifically! As you might guess from the word's ample significance, comida is the day's largest meal. It's never eaten before 2 pm. My favorite way to eat lunch is to go to a restaurant and get a menu del dia. The menu is a fixed-price set meal that allows you to choose two plates (usually from four or five different options for each), plus bread, drink, and dessert. In the neighborhood where I live, you can find a good menu for EUR 7.50, but in the city center it will run you a minimum 9 euros.  Since I go right back to work after lunch, I finish off with another coffee for a little caffeine.

4) merienda (afternoon snack): A good lunch will keep me going until around 6 or 7 pm, which is a nice time to stop working. (Stuff starts closing around then anyway, so I usually don't have much choice.) On the way home, I'll stop by a bar and get some tapas and a canya, or small beer. Some types of tapas I like are patatas bravas (potatoes in alioli and a mild chili sauce), boquerones (pickled anchovies), or, if I feel like splurging, salpicon de mariscos (seafood salad). Then I go home, check my email, maybe clean up around the house a little, and then it's time for...

5) cena (supper): No earlier than 9 pm, and it's rarely anything big, since I really don't feel like cooking when I get home. I'll just make some pasta, an omelette, or a salad, or if I'm really lazy, toast some bread and put whatever might be lying around on top. Keeping it simple saves on the clean-up time, too.

Now that my Fulbright money has run out, and I'm only getting paid in crappy US dollars, I have to cut back on the number of menus del dia I eat during the week, which means I'll have to start cooking more substantial and creative stuff to keep me satisfied at lunch. This will be my new challenge for my final months in Barcelona. 

Finally, the Catalan language can tell us a little about the cultural differences between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Catalan only has words for four meals, compared to castellano's five: esmorzar (breakfast), dinar (lunch), berenar (afternoon snack), and sopar (supper). There is no Catalan equivalent to almuerzo, the morning snack. Catalans have a reputation for being hard workers. Could skipping almuerzo be the reason why Catalonia, with only 15% of Spain's population, produces 25% of the country's GDP?

soni27 says:
Haha very interesting. . . thanks for the tips. I am about to head to Spain, near Barcelona in fact, and I was wondering when people eat food there. Since I will be on a budget, I will probably only eat out 3-4 times a week.
Posted on: Apr 20, 2012
ellechic says:
i remember having morning snack breaks when I was in school... i especially love the siesta tradition... but that was only for little kids and in my case til i was 12 during the summer because my dad won't let us play outside unless we have 2 hours of "siesta" after lunch
Posted on: Mar 11, 2008
tvillingmarit says:
I like the idea having aii this meal breaks. In Norway we have only one for 30 minutes, I want to move to Spain ;)
Posted on: Nov 26, 2007
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