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Franco's Menu del Dia

By Mr Grumpy - Sun 24th Mar 2013

There are few Guiris living in Spain who don't the Golden Rule : Don't talk about the Franco years.

Sure, those who are highly educated and well read, very brave or plain stupid might attempt to venture a conversation on this matter with a passing Spanish acquaintance. As I quite clearly fall into neither category, I steer well clear.

The subject is reminiscent of the Faulty Towers sketch, except without a frog-marching John Cleese.

Most Villages have their stories to tell about feuding families going back to the 1930's that are still far from forgotten. Even in my Valley half of the villages gave their support to the pro-Franco forces, whilst the other has supported the revolutionaries and the animosity can almost be tasted in the air.

I don't pretend to have an understanding of causes and policies of the Spanish Civil war, and know that as a non-Spaniard I probably never will, and am never meant to. But I do know this : Quite possibly the only useful remaining legacy of the former dictator is the "Menu del Dia".

Some time around the early 1960s the practice was introduced by the authorities, whereby they enforced restaurants over and above a certain size, and open for more than a certain number of hours each week to provide an affordable and nutritious meal for the average Spanish worker without being forced to travel to and from their homes in the middle of the working day.

Only those who have been living in a cave, or out of touch with society would need to be told that the Menu usually comprises of 2 or 3 courses, bread, wine and coffee.

The Spanish Menu del Dia is perhaps one of the most well known aspects of food and dining in Spain - and although the application of the term "affordable" can vary greatly, the value for money is almost always fantastic.

So without fear of inadvertently offending anybody, I think it is fair to say that the introduction of the Menu de Dia is quite possibly something that everybody would agree as being a popular measure.

My personal favourite is Calxon in the village of Orba, Alicante. A typical Spanish workman’s bar serving decent, honest home cooked food. A choice of three or four starters, an a similar number of main courses: whatever happens to be seasonal, or good value on the market that morning and prepared straight after purchase. The menu is committed to memory rather than written on a blackboard, with an endless supply of wine, water and bread & alioli on the table. Nobody takes this piss here. A slab of tarta, or the eponymous ‘flan’ and a coffee round of the meal for just 7 Euros.

Who gets your vote ?

Comment on this Blog

Hi, interesting article but seriously wrong on the issue of the menu del dia. Franco did NOT introduce the menu in order to "offer an affordable and filling lunch option for the country’s laborers" That is complete and total nonsense. Why would a cruel dictator, who had had murdered 200,000 workers since seizing power in 1939 suddenly be concerned for workers' health and nutritional needs? The menu del dia was invented for the convenience of tourists, and brought into being by law framed by Fraga when minister for information & Tourism. It was originally labelled Men? T?ristico — but it's popularity spread across Spain. Please, don't simply swallow and regurgitate the Francoist apologists' propaganda; try doing some research. Furthering the myth of Franco as a benevolent, caring father of the nation type figure, who only wanted to put food into humble workers' bellies is insulting.
Bill Sinclair - Mon, 27th Jul 2015
I never really found out. In fact I was surprised it served a Menu del Día at all (and particularly in the old style) since it was a typical roast suckling pig and roast baby lamb place, of which there are many in that area. Next time I visit Arevalo, I'll enquire.
John Collighan - Tue, 2nd Apr 2013
Sounds idyllic John, but I'm busy wondering if your Restaurant either closed because it priced itself beyond the pocket of the average workman, or (More likely ?) they couldn't turn a profit out of providing such a great meal at such a low price ?
Mr Grumpy - Tue, 2nd Apr 2013
I agree. When I came to live in Spain in 1963, the Menu del Día was a staunchly implemented fact. It consisted of starters, a fish dish, a meat dish, dessert and wine. Café & copa were a little extra. I can't remember when the 3 courses plus dessert turned into 2 courses plus dessert. I think it was around the time when fish prices started soaring. However, until about 3 years ago, there was a restaurante in Arévalo, province of Ávila, which still provided the 3 course dessert meal. Having been taken there by Spanish friends, I decided I would take some English visitors to that same place not too long afterwards, but, lo and behold, it had shut down!!! I don't know of any other 3 course dessert Menu del Día restauarant in existence nowadays. John Collighan
John Collighan - Fri, 29th Mar 2013
The MDD is a wonderful institution. Still, many visitors to Spain on a budget don't realise that that the best value meal of the day is taken at 2 pm. You see them wandering around in the early evening starving when the only thing available is tapas or pizza, or else waiting till the restaurant kitchens open at 9 pm (when you can say goodbye to €30 upwards).
Alcalaina - Thu, 28th Mar 2013
Max : This being a good example as to why I steer well clear of such conversations.
Mr Grumpy - Wed, 27th Mar 2013
The menu del dia origin is interesting. But I must object to your sentence "half ... gave their support to the pro-Franco forces, whilst the other has supported the revolutionaries". Just for the sake of accuracy, the second Republic was the legal government, and Franco´s forces were the revolutionaries, NOT the other way round.
Max - Wed, 27th Mar 2013
My vote goes to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria's El Buen Comer.
Matthew Hirtes - Tue, 26th Mar 2013

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