Bocadillos y Bocatas

Luke M. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He comes to SYA from Milton Academy in Massachusetts.

One of the things I was most worried about before coming to Spain was the food. I have never been a picky eater but to have to go for nine months without eating the food I was raised on seemed like a daunting task. However, now about six months into the experience, the ‘American’ style restaurants no longer look appetizing. Most of us at SYA had no idea what Spanish food consisted of when we first arrived, and although that seemed scary at first, it is part of what makes the experience so fun. Although I do not remember exactly what we had the first night, I am certain that it was a food I had never tried before. Because I have spent the last few months trying new foods every day, I no longer shy away from new meals. 

One of the main staples of Spanish foods is olive oil. At this point, I look around for my host family’s bottle of olive oil if it is not at the table. Spanish people cook pretty much everything with olive oil, and it definitely tastes a lot better than butter in my opinion. Along with olive oil comes bread. Whereas at home bread is mainly used for sandwiches, we eat bread at every meal here. We use it to mop up the sauce left over. We use it as a quick snack. Bread shops occupy every street corner and their lines grow long right before lunchtime.

Another amazing part about Spanish food is the incorporation of fruit. My host family always brings a bowl of fruits out after our meals, introducing me to a few new types. These new types of fruit range from cherimoyas which look like small melons with a squishy interior and rock hard seeds to caquis, orange balls of goo that always leave my mouth extremely dry. I love trying these new foods but the most fun part of our meals is when my host family and I argue about which country produces the best oranges. 

I truly cannot pick one Spanish food as my favorite but three tend to make my mouth water more than the rest. These three are the tortilla de patatas, horchata, and ham. The tortilla de patatas is a typical Spanish dish that consists mainly of eggs and potatoes. It is usually described by Americans as a thick omelette. However, this dish is so much more than just an omelette. It is the perfect meal for any time of the day and I never pass up the chance of eating a slice. It tastes like a perfect mix between scrambled eggs and a baked potato. Another absolute favorite of mine is horchata. Horchata is actually a drink that originated in Valencia, although other versions have been created in South America, that consists of small nuts called ‘chufas.’ When I traveled to Valencia for a school trip, I knew I had to order a glass or two. It tastes like a nuttier and more icy milkshake and makes the perfect afternoon snack. Unfortunately, horchatas are a bit harder to find here in Zaragoza. And then there is the ham. Spain is well known for its ham, but knowing about it and eating it are completely different experiences. Here, ham is part of the culture. Ordering a plate of ham at restaurants is common, and stores with pig thighs hanging in the widow are completely normal. In fact, there are stores called jamonerias which sell only ham! One of my favorite months here in Spain was December, when my host family bought one of the pig thighs and we would cut off little slices each night. 

Although the food here in Spain is amazing, I believe that the meals are truly one of a kind and my family meals are a large part of what has made my time in Spain so special. The Spanish schedule is a little different than the American one, as here we eat lunch around two in the afternoon and dinner around ten at night. Our weekend lunchtimes have created some of my favorite moments here in Spain. Hanging out at the table as the warm sun filters through the window while we eat and chat is unbelieve. The ‘abuela’ comes over and my host parents serve their famous dish of chicken with a sauce made up of plums or dates. The bread quickly disappears but the conversation lingers on for hours. The food in Spain is not only about eating, but also about coming together with loved ones. 

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