Right before coming here, I randomly realized that I knew nothing about Spanish food. I knew a lot about Mexican food, which is often interchangeable with Spanish food in the US. However, I knew absolutely nothing about the food of Spain. I was going to a completely new country, with no idea if I would like the food or not. Hence, I began to google. I learned that fish is a large part of the Spanish diet, and lots of vegetables are common as well. Google told me that bread was very present in Spanish food as well. While for the most part, all of that is true, I have learned just that much more about Spanish food, specifically Valencian food.
To begin with the obvious, Google was right. Fish is a staple of the Spanish diet. I believe I have eaten enough tuna and fish sticks to last me a lifetime in my time here, and I like tuna a lot actually! However, there still are other meats that we eat often. Chicken burgers are a staple in my host family’s house. We have them a few times a week. Pork is also pretty common, especially when there are guests and my host family is making arroz al horno. While they eat meat and fish in Spain, I have noticed that it is not necessarily the star of every meal, unlike in the US. I have had countless meals that are just vegetables. Steamed broccoli, potatoes, and other vegetables are common for lunch in my host family’s home as well. Google also got that one correct, but Google did not prepare me for the huge culture around bread here.
Bread is an absolute staple in a Spanish household. Many families buy bread every morning from Mercadona or Consum. My host family in particular also buys these little frozen rolls that they let unthaw, so we have two different types of fresh bread a day. Going back to normal sandwich bread will be nearly impossible. No matter the meal there is bread available. For breakfast, there’s usually a bread roll with nocilla. For lunch, there will normally be a salad or soup with sliced bread. For dinner, there usually is another salad with pasta or tortilla española with bread, meat and cheese. Bread is everywhere, and it took a second to get used to it.
Another thing that Google did not prepare me for, was the amount of extra virgin olive oil that they use here. Every salad is dressed with olive oil and salt. As a true Midwesterner, I really missed my ranch for my salad. However, it did begin to grow on me in the end. I don’t know if it was because any other salad dressing here is oddly sweet, but I think I may use olive oil to dress my salads at home. Also, olive oil is not just used as a dressing. It is also common to dip fresh bread or drizzle on top of your tapas as a sauce. When in Spain, you will eat, breathe, and sleep olive oil. I swear it runs in their veins.
All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed the food here. Fish isn’t a super common component of my diet in the US, but I’ve come to love many different types of fish here. Also, I love that I will be going home with so many new ways to cook food, especially healthier food. I can’t wait to share these new recipes with my family and the people I love.