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The Spanish Food Triangle

By Mr Grumpy - Wed 14th Mar 2012

Yes, I know – yet another stereotype and sweeping generalisation from Mr Grumpy... however, the paradox that is Spanish eating habits has been intriguing me for a while now.

Time to let off a bit of steam ?

Following on from my previous blogs About How NOT to translate a menu, and the subject of Ham, Spam and other Pig-related by-products, I have decided to poke my stick once again on the subject of the Spanish diet.

Every middle aged woman in the UK would probably be able to reel off a dozen or so different diets that they had tried over the last 20 years so : The Atkins diet; the cabbage soup diet; the grapefruit diet etc... etc...

Then there are the food Nazis who tell you not to eat late in the evening, or after 6pm, or whatever.

Add in the ‘no more than 2 units of alcohol per day’ brigade and the old ‘passive smoking’ soap-boxers.

Chuck in a good dollop of the nanny state’s favourite ‘5 portions of fruit and veg a day’ drum-bangers.

Then we’ve have the ‘Saturated fats, E numbers and monosodiumwhatsit brigade to contend with....

And finally the organic foodstuffs, genetically modified and macrobiotic whole food hippies .

- In short, every UK authority and tree-hugging do-gooder over the last 15 years has bullied the general public into eating less Hydrogenated fats, fewer e number, less preservatives, cutting back on alcohol, no eating heavy meals late at night and saying no to high levels of salt.

The Spanish Food Triangle ImageSo what can we actually eat ?

Personally, I prefer to follow the Spanish Food Triangle :

1.) Skip breakfast – it is for wimps, but if breakfast really must be taken then make it a freshly brewed coffee (maybe with a Gin or Brandy) and a cigarette on the way to work.

2.) An Almuerzo at 11pm, probably a stodgy Tortilla stuffed baguette or some other carb-fest chased down with a bottle of beer and another coffee. Maybe a side of pickles or Olives as a nod towards the ‘5 a day’. At least 2 more cigarettes, and that should suffice until lunchtime.

3.) 2pm : Menu del Dia down the local : Half a Barra with a half-pint of gooey alioli, a few glasses of red wine, a thick stew to start with, followed by a hearty chunk of meat and fried potatoes ( half a slimy, grilled green pepper clings to a corner of the plate as yet another nod to the ‘5 a day’). Some kind of sugary egg pudding as a desert, another coffee and another couple of cigarettes finishes the meal off nicely.

4.) 4pm : Coffee and another Cigarette

5.) 8pm : Stop for a few quick Cerveza’s and a Tapa on the way home to relax and enjoy favourite hobby of passive smoking for an hour or so.

6) 10pm : Evening meal, half a barra and some homemade stew. Couple of glasses of red and a few more cigarettes.

Bread intake : Only ate the 1 Barra today - Must do much better tomorrow

Alcohol : Only drank alcohol at 5 separate interludes during the day – room for improvement.

Caffeine : Failed to drink enough to counter the effects of the alcohol.

Veg : 2 portions today, I knew I overdid things with those olives.

Smoking : A disappointing day – still had 2 left in the pack by bedtime – will get up 5 mins early tomorrow to try and improve.

Yes, I mock, and yes there is more than a little element of truth here.

The sad thing is that despite these ‘bad dietary habits’ recent figures show that the average life expectancy in Spain is 78.16 for Men and 84.67 for women, whilst in the UK it is 78.05 for men and 81.16 for women.

(And how many clinically obese Spaniards have you seen ? How often do you see a physically active Octagenarian toiling away on his vegetable plot in the UK ? How many times have you heard a Spaniard claim he was gluten intolerant or had an overactive Thyroid ?)

My point being this : If I had spent all of my adult life worrying about what I was eating, drinking and smoking I would at least hope that it would have some benefit on my quality of life and life expectancy.

From what I can see, evidence points to the fact that the tree-hugging, finger-wagging hippy do-gooders in the UK might want to have a re-think.

Comment on this Blog

Victoria : Another plus for me is being able to eat in a bar or restaurant where I am not continually bombarded with green "V" triangles for the benefit of vegetarians, or gluten / lactose / salt intolerant, or being reminded to 'Drink Sensibly'. To hell with sensible - when I die it will be with a large beer and a salty bacon sandwich (on white bread) in my hand.
Mr Grumpy - Thu, 8th Aug 2013
This is a great article. Not that I condone the triangle but there is definitely something to be said for chilling out and enjoying life and food and wine and cigarettes!
Victoria - Wed, 7th Aug 2013
Ah, but all those things came from their own vast empire! They must´ve expanded their horizons, girths and political power at the same time. Chocolate, tobacco, gum... they brought Europe all these things. Maybe they´re just fed up, literally and metaphorically, of not being a world power.
Mo - Mon, 30th Apr 2012
Mo : I partly agree with what you say about not needing to experiment, but how much Spanish food involves Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peppers, Turkey, Pumpkins etc... all new world foods not native to Spain - 500 years ago they must all have seemed pretty Alien, so Spaniards back then must have been keen to try new things. Why not now ?
Mr Grumpy - Mon, 30th Apr 2012
I suppose that when you´ve got a great cuisine of your own (Spanish) you might not feel the need to experiment much. A while back I wrote about an Indian restaurant that had opened in Alcalá and apparently it´s doing well - but the food, while lovely - is generally fragrant rather than spicy. Then again, I enjoy the food as much as when I used to have it burning my mouth off. So why do WE like spicy food then?
Mo - Mon, 30th Apr 2012
Not sure Mo, I always think it odd that much Spanish food is considered adventurous / exotic by holidaymaking Brits who steer well clear of the various seafood and offal gubbins etc... which the Spanish naturally find odd. Then, on the other side of the coin, as far as many of my Spanish friends are concerned, a Pizza is about the most exotic foreign food they would ever consider trying. Curry is a strict 'no-go', and Sushi - despite being high quality seafood, is strictly off-limits.
Mr Grumpy - Mon, 30th Apr 2012
Mr. G., I think you´ve raised an interesting point. why don´t Spaniards like spicy food? Maybe they´re collectively pissed off with Columbus for not, in fact, reaching the Spice Islands, even if he bumped into the gold and silver continent right in the way. Maybe it´s a reaction to the North African Moors and their (somewhat) spicy food. I really don´t know. Have you any thoughts?
Mo - Mon, 30th Apr 2012
Haha number 5 - the favorite hobby - kills me. If that isn't the truth I don't know what is.
American Expat - Sun, 29th Apr 2012
Come on Mo, as an honorary Spaniard, answer me this : If the Spanish are so advernturous in their eating habits (Snails, Offal, Gonads etc....) Why do they (Generally, as a race) turn their noses up Spicy food ?
Mr Grumpy - Fri, 16th Mar 2012
And the wonderful sea urchin, which is bashed in and whose gonads are eaten with a spoon!
Mo - Fri, 16th Mar 2012
That's a good point Mo ! - I should have included a bracket on the pyramid for the 'Inedibles' : Pig's Trotters, Snails, Bulls Testicles, Sesos and all those gubbins...
Mr Grumpy - Fri, 16th Mar 2012
Best food triangle I ever saw! You did however forget the gambas, langostinos and other assorted sea bichos full of uric acid! To be eaten, of course, completely free of anything vegetable unless there´s a bit of seaweed still sticking to them.
Mo - Fri, 16th Mar 2012

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