By Rilyn Gancia
Spanish cuisine is based off the different histories that helped shape the country. Within the first couple of hours in Spain, we had our first of many challenges with food. We had to choose our lunch from a cafe/convenience store just around the corner from the bullfighting ring. Everyone stuck to what they were familiar with for the time being: turkey sandwiches, salads, and coffees or energy drinks of any kind. The rush of food in our system was matched with the beautiful view and fresh air in El Parque de Madrid.
Other places we visited as a group included a small tapas restaurant. Tapas is very popular in Spanish culture. Tapas are small appetizers, which include fried squid, bread, assortments of meats and cheese, and olives. These “snacks” are meant to be enjoyed with the company of friends and wine. This traditional meal follows the laid back, friendly culture of Spain. One of the most favorite tapas “snacks” is an assortments of meats, which include cured black pig or jamon.
The students had the chance to explore and find their own places to eat in Madrid. Students traveled to a place called The Square and St. Michael’s Market, and once (comma splice) there students had a chance to freely walk around and choose food on their own. I had a chance to eat at a place called El Pajar. This restaurant was off the main streets of Madrid and extremely hard to find, but we heard from the Hotel Sterling receptionist that it had the best food in Madrid. At this particular restaurant there was a special deal: wine, two entreees and a shot of liquor for 12 Euros.
Eating in Madrid was entirely different from Barcelona. In Barcelona, there were more noticeable chains on the main strip, called La Rambla. Not saying that the food in Spain was fresh, but the food in Barcelona seemed a little bit fresher because the sea is right there. In Barcelona, a group of us girls had our first experience with the Spanish McDonald’s. Nothing at most seemed to be different. But we were quite surprised at how their McDonalds worked. They had at most two servers and then order yourself kiosks. Another aspect to mention is that the fast-food chain seemed to be much cleaner that what most of us have experienced back in The States.
An important part of Spanish cuisine is the wine, sangria. Sangria is a combination of wine, chopped fruit and brandy. Each sangria that we had tasted different. The reasoning behind that was because sangria can be steeped for as little as a few minutes to a couple of days. The longer it ferments the harsher the taste.
In Spain, the coffee was small, strong and usually came black, unless you asked for cream (Cafe con Leche). Sugar packets were significantly larger than in the U.S., and some locals ordered coffee and just sugar.
The pastries were very freshly baked and many were an assortment of pastry puffs or caramelized items. Most of the pastries were either topped or accompanied with fresh fruit and had something with caramel or cinnamon in them.