Spanish food and drink – Spanish cuisine, if you will – is quite different from how it may be perceived in the United States. In fact, when most Americans think of Spanish food they tend to think of dishes that hail from Mexico rather than Spain. Tacos, tostadas, enchiladas and such are, however, wholly Mexican creations and the tourist will be hard pressed to find them in Spain unless Taco Bell manages to open a franchise there.
Like most things in modern Spain, traditional Spanish food tends to differ based upon the region that it comes from. The Southern city of Seville, for example, offers cuisine that is reputed to be very delicious while also being very simple to prepare. Here you’ll find the cold soup Gazpacho, which is a vegetable cream that includes tomato, cucumber, garlic, paprika, olive oil, and vinegar. This is usually served with bread or even with tomato-bread.
In the Northern region of Navarre you may find many specialties of meats and fish, with one original recipe consisting of a delicious trout stuffed with cured ham. Many dishes here include the local beans Pochas de Sanguesa, and of particular interest are the vegetables like asparagus and Pimientos del Piquillo, a mild red pepper dish. This Region is also famous for his Tapas.
In addition to traditional regional fare, the nation of Spain does have some delights that are enjoyed nationwide. For instance, many like to snack on quick Tapas, prepared bite sized snacks that may include pieces of fried squid or octopus, spicy sausage, cheese, squares of fruit, or even sweet candy with almonds. Tapas is literally everywhere in Spain and is often enjoyed during siesta as opposed to a full meal. Prices for Tapas vary slightly from place to place, but it is often a very inexpensive treat. In some places you can get a Tapa for as little as one Euro and in others that same one Euro will get you a glass of red wine and a Tapa. No wonder many Spanish stop at the local bar, for a meal.
Another well-known Spanish food is Paella (pronounced paeya) delicious mixed dish that consists of rice combined with many different types of meat and Seafood. Paella, is perhaps the most famous dish to come from Spain and, although it originates from Valencia, it can be found and enjoyed pretty much everywhere in the country, from the north to the south.
Spanish drinks are not quite as varied as the foods, but there are some particularly enjoyable specialties. Spain, like France, is a wine-drinking country and is famous for its various forms of Sangria, a sweet red wine that is combined with any number of other wines, liquors, and fruits. Sangria recipes differ based upon who is doing the mixing, so it’s not uncommon to find sangria that includes apples and bananas in one bar or restaurant and one that contains grapes, white wine, and oranges in another. Tinto verano is very similar to sangria, and is very popular at the south, were it is drunk during pestival. Wine is available everywhere in Spain and costs very little, starting for 1 euro for a glass. The wine loving tourist will have little to complain about when visiting Spain. Moreover, the prices of alcohol are cheaper in Spain that in any other western european country.
Spanish wines differ from region to region but most share two common traits: they are delicious and very inexpensive. The region of Catalunya, for example, offers wondrous Red wines from Peralda, Alella, Priorat and Tarragona, and the famous sparkling wine known as Cava. The region of Galicia offers several fine wines as well. Here you will find the remarkable Ribeiro, and other favorites include Fefinanes, Betanzos, Rosal, Valdeorras, Ulla and Amandi. Talking of Wine, you can’t escape Rioja, which come from a region with the same name and is a lovely, greattasting, inexpenssive popular wine. They even have their own Wine festival in the end of summer, where red wine is splashed everywhere.
It is important for the tourist, visiting Spain to note that Spanish libations are typically much stronger than those they may be accustomed to in the US. In fact, a Spanish drink may be as much as three times stronger than a similar drink made at home. Some experts advise that the visiting American count three rounds for ever one actually ordered. Also popular with the Spanish and visitors to their country are Horchatas, which are frozen drinks made with milk and a variety of crushed and chopped nuts. Heralded for both their taste and the fact that they are rich in vitamins, Horchatas are enjoyed in every area of the country and differ only slightly from region to region or recipe to recipe. In the hot summer, their popularity is on top.
Coffee and hot chocolate round out the staple of Spanish drinks. These are enjoyed daily by most Spaniards, including children who often receive chilled coffee topped with ice cream as a treat. Coffee and hot chocolate are often drunk for breakfast and lunch and are enjoyed with churros, a pastry that is comparable to a fritter. Many tourists, however, complain that the Spanish coffee taste more like the american mild one, and not like the rich french/italian coffee.
Ofer Shoshani has been working for the last 5 years as a professional journalist, writing about finance, economy, travel and people. The Spanish / Latin culture soon became one of his favorite ones and for some years he lived and wrote from Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, USA, Israel, India & Thailand.
His book Siesta time: A new horizon for humanity is about to be published soon.