An Introduction to Comida Española

Tyler Wigington is a a student at Texas A&M University and an official API Student Blogger. Tyler is studying abroad with API this spring in Madrid, Spain.

Hola!  A lot of my friends and family have asked me about the food in Spain, so I thought I would give a little rundown on eating in Spain.

When I first traveled to Spain, I assumed that there would be some similarities between Spanish food and Mexican food.  Mexico was once Spanish territory, so this seemed logical to me.  Little did I know that there was absolutely no similarity whatsoever, but the food was still delicious.

For starters, the Spaniards eat a lot of bread.  It is typical for there to be fresh bread at lunch or dinner.  Every other day, my host mom, Isabel, goes to a bakery and buys loaves of bread for our meals.  In addition to the bread, they tend to eat a lot of carbs in general, including the most well-known and typical Spanish dish, tortilla de patatas (or tortilla española).  Tortilla, as they call it in Spain, is an omelette-like dish made with eggs, potatoes, and a little bit of onion.  It is usually served like pieces of a pie, but it can also be found in sandwiches at various Spanish eateries.  I would die a happy man if tortilla was all I ate for the rest of my life.

Spanish menus also tend to include fried food of some sort. Croquetas, fried rolls filled with a combination of milk, eggs, and ham (or other meat), are commonly served in homes and restaurants alike in Spain. Isabel frequently makes croquetas to go along with dinner. There really isn’t anything similar to croquetas in the U.S., which gives me an excuse to eat them frequently!

Also common in the Spanish diet is seafood. Although Madrid is about four hours from the ocean, the people still eat a lot of seafood. It is normal to find calamari, fish, and other assorted seafood on menus at restaurants in Madrid and other parts of Spain. Paella, a Spanish dish with saffron rice, vegetables, and meat, is often made with seafood, including shrimp, mussels, and calamari. As a lover of seafood (and someone who doesn’t live near a beach in the U.S.), I can’t get enough of this delicious paella!

No blog post on Spanish food is complete without mentioning jamón, otherwise known as ham in English.  Besides bread, ham is one of the staple dishes in Spanish cuisine.  It is everywhere and it comes in all different varieties.  Serrano ham is perhaps the most popular type of ham, and it is typically served with cheese and bread.  It is quite a difficult task to eat in Spain if you’re a vegetarian due to ham’s popularity.  Besides, the failure to at least try to Spanish ham means missing out on something wonderful!

The Spanish also have a custom of eating tapas, which are little portions of food served with a drink. This concept originates back several hundred years when people put small plates of food on top of their drinks to keep the flies out. Tapa, which literally translates to “top,” hints at this bit of history. Nowadays, the bartender brings out little plates of food (sometimes tortilla, ham, or olives) when you order a drink.

Hopefully, my brief descriptions gave you an idea about Spanish cuisine! While it doesn’t have the spice of Mexican food, it is absolutely delicious and one-of-a-kind.

That’s all for now! Now excuse me while I go get some tapas next door…

-Tyler

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