BY DARBY HENNESSEY
Spain is an amazing place. There’s little doubt about that. And after living there for three weeks this past June and July, I want to go back more than anything. But it’s not for the culture. It’s not for the classes or my host family or even the amazing beaches. All of those things are really great, but what I want to go back for the most is the food.
I’m typically a vegetarian. I have been for about a year now, and it’s been going pretty well. I do eat fish, but only because my mom makes me. So it was a bit of a change when I decided to start eating meat again for my trip to Spain. I got so many questions on why I would choose to do this, and my response was that I simply wanted to eat everything there, including meat. And man, was that a great choice. Although it was a bit strange to be sitting in a restaurant or tapas bar (basically a restaurant with a bar of small appetizers) and see the legs of pigs hanging from the ceiling and other food sitting out in the open, I soon forgot my slight disgust after tasting the food, from tapas to churros to fresh fruit sold in supermercados.
It was food like I had never even imagined. Everything was so incredibly fresh and clean; barely any food there is made with grease or oils, and if so, it’s used sparingly. Even the McDonald’s there tasted different. There were still Big Macs on the menu, but it actually tasted good, something that in all my childhood I had never experienced from McDonald’s.
Even my host mom was a good cook. She made a home cooked meal for me every night around 8 p.m. or so before I went out to the beach with friends. It was usually some kind of meat dish with lots of spices. After she found out that I love spicy food, she started to make me lots of pepper-filled dishes. I remember one night guzzling water frantically while my eyes watered and my throat burned. Too much spice. But she was an incredible cook and loved when I enjoyed her meals.
While dinners were usually different, breakfasts were pretty standard. Two mini croissants from the store down the street with peach or raspberry jam and a glass of sweet cream milk. It was very tasty the first week and a half, but after a while I got a little sick of all the sweetness. So I started to leave a few minutes early every morning to visit the little market/bakery down the street to try new things. I tried my first peach there, as well as my first “donut peach.” It was so tasty, especially paired with a slightly bitter, but still tasty, dark chocolate pastry of some kind. In a word: yum.
That’s the thing about Spain: anywhere you go you can find some kind of new food. The tiny shop across the street from school had some of the best cookies and Kit Kats I had ever had in my life. The sandwich shop on the Boulevard had thinly sliced ham that makes my mouth water just thinking of it. And the ice cream…wow. The heladerias were the highlight of the day. Most people there eat ice cream often, some even eat it once a day. The favorite flavor in my group was the Ferrero Rocher ice cream, which was basically Nutella in ice cream form. Other flavors included things like mint, banana split and blackberry, all of which were made from the real thing. If there’s one thing I miss most about the street life in Spain, it’s the various ice cream stores on every block.
I spent all of my time in northern Spain, in a city in the Basque Country called San Sebastian. It was a beach town, so a lot of the food was seafood. I passed three fish shops on the way to school, and the fish was so fresh and out in the open that I nearly gagged every time I passed by. The eyes of the giant fish stared at me as I passed, calling forth my vegetarian tendencies, but I soon forgot it when I tasted seafood dishes. Again, some of the most tasty food I have ever had.
The thing about meals in Spain, however, is that they are spread out throughout the day. Breakfast is usually late, around 9 or 10 a.m., but I had to eat earlier to get to school on time. Lunch is usually a large meal around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. My host mom rarely ever ate dinner because her lunch was so large. Dinner was smaller and later at night, but a fourth, small snack-like meal is usually eaten when out and about at night. And, of course, dessert is a must.
Food was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. It was so tasty, and I can’t wait to go back someday and try it all again. La comida era deliciosa!