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Food and eating habits in Spain

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 16th Jul 2010

Much has already been written about the eating habits of the Spanish - significantly how they can make a quick snack seemingly last all afternoon, how they will go out to eat for dinner when most of us brits are tucked up in bed, and how they will eat anything at all. Sometimes it seems that they will eat anything that stays still for long enough – and if doesn't they will beat it relentlessly until it does move, and then hunt it down with dogs and shoot it.

I have decided to leave all that for another blog – instead I had been giving some thought to the eating habits of us 'foreigners' in Spain, and how there seems to be a range of idiosyncrasies that seem to be difficult to shake off. I don't normally give them a second thought, but when visitors came over recently it brought them all the more to mind :

1.) Why is it that the majority of Brits think of seafood as something exotic? We are an island nation, and the most inland place in the whole of the UK (Coventry) is only at worst a 2 hours drive from the coast.

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2.) Parents of young children visiting Spain steer their children away from anything 'out of the norm' – like Calamari, Octopus, Prawns, Mussels etc... and view anything cooked slightly differently, with suspicion. It's almost as though they think that their meal has been caught and cooked in a shanty town in Bangalore.

3.) If you go out to eat in a restaurant and arrive there at 8 o'clock in the evening to find it busy, then one two things has happened : They are either all English, or all Spaniards about to leave after finishing their lunch.

4.) My mother came to visit a few months back, only for a week, and after a couple of days announced that she 'had a craving' and went out to buy some fish and chips - despite my protests and much to my eternal shame, she asked for directions to “Gary Ramsden's”. Afterwards she seemed genuinely surprised that the quality was awful – what did she expect ? - On nipping back to the UK I would never walk down the local high street looking for something to eat, only to nip into the Berni Steak House and order Paella Valenciano – and if I did, I wouldn't expect it to be any good !

5.) Ok, I admit it – from time to time I nip into the nearest Iceland supermarket and stock up on a few bits and pieces that you just can't get in Spanish Supermarkets. A few 'essentials' like frozen curries and pizzas and so on, but little else more. It amazes me there is always one or two expats who do there entire shopping there – even the fruit and veg that has been grown in Spain, then exported to the UK, only to be shipped back again. What's that all about ?

6.) Have you ever seen a Spaniard in a curry house? I was at one a few weeks back when in came a group of about 8 Spaniards and proceeded to order a number of dishes tapas-stylee, taking recommendations from the waiter. He shot me a look of concern after the cries of “Aaaiee Picante !” came as they dug into the plate of poppadoms – perhaps the chicken phaal and chilli-lamb Madras were not the best of ideas after all! Curry – another essential expat food – and after all, there's nothing more British than a curry.

7.) One set of visitors who came to stay with us with their toddler brought a packet of oranges with them in their luggage because they 'weren't sure that they were available in Valencia'. Need I say more ?

8.) Only Tourists dine 'en la Terraza' in the height of the mid-day sun in August.

Anyone got anything to add ?

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