My Favorite Spanish Foods

A lot of people, mainly foreigners, try to make lists of Spain’s “best” foods. These lists are inevitably commented on by Spaniards who just have to tell them how wrong they are. I’m not into that. Why? I don’t think there’s any way to say certain foods are better than others, unless we’re comparing jamón serrano and jamón ibérico. Then’s there’s no contest.

Over my years in Spain, I’ve tried a lot of Spanish dishes, typical and atypical, homemade and in restaurants, in four different weddings … and I’ve come to realize that I’m very loyal to my favorites. Given the choice, there are certain foods I would eat day in and day out, every day for the rest of my life. If I could, you know, and money weren’t an option. What are these foods, you ask? Of course you want to know, because my favorite foods should be everyone’s! (Just kidding. The less people like them, the more for me!)

In no particular order, they are:

lentejas
[Source: Recetas de Rechupete]

Continue reading

No, Gracias—Spanish Foods I Dislike

Guys, I’m pretty obsessed with Spanish cuisine. Nothing gets my goat more than when guiris come here and declare the food to be bland. Oh no you didn’t, I want to shout at them while doing a dramatic z with my pointer finger. Insulting Spanish food is like insulting my suegra: I’m having none of it.

There are so many delicious things here, and they are not all terrible for you (another stupid myth!):

lentejas

  • lentejas (lentil stew, a.k.a. the bomb)

Cocido

  • cocido (healthy if you stay away from the tocino, a.k.a. fat)

By Valdavia (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

And of course my favorites: cheese, wine (remind me to tell you my favorite wines from Toro later!), chorizo, and salchichón! My in-laws make the last two, and if you haven’t had them … well, you haven’t had good chorizo or salchichón! It’s just the facts.

Buuuuut, let’s be real, there are some foods I don’t like. Yeah. It’s true. It’s true, and I said it. Not all Spanish food is to my liking. What are these foods, you ask? Why, let me tell you.

By Tamorlan (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Pulpo. Nope, I don’t like octopus and don’t tell me that I should, because the chewy texture just skeeves me out.

By Tamorlan (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Morro, oreja, callos. Not into organ meat, and I’m even less into eating pig’s snout. Oreja is really chewy and just thinking about it can give me the heebie jeebies. (I hope all Spaniards reading this are learning some new “words” today.)

By Tamorlan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Torreznos. What are they? They’re pieces of pig fat cut into strips and fried. Yum? Add to this varied fritanga, because it is way too fatty for my liking. Eating probably takes five days off my life.

By Javier Lastras from España/Spain (Flan de Turrón) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Flan. Not into that jiggling mess of a dessert.

By Lucía Domínguez (UED77)Lucía Domínguez (Own workOwn work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Aceitadas. Sadly, this is a typical dessert in Zamora, my favorite city in Spain, but I just don’t dig anise.

Aguardiente

  • Aguardiente. Not a food, but this liquor sets my insides on fire and tastes vile.

Which foods do you dislike in Spain? And if you say salchichón, I may cry. Tears of happiness. Because there’s more for me!

Truths from Spain

This post is basically just a smattering of “facts” I’ve encountered during my time in Spain.

  • Mercadona is the best. Do not argue, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

digestive

  • Eating cookies and milk for breakfast is perfectly fine. Okay, these cookies are digestive-type cookies and milk isn’t unhealthy, but it’s always shocking when a child tells me he/she has had cookies and milk para desayunar.
  • Dryers are not necessary. Okay, I agree with this—to a point. Dryers are wasteful, take up a lot of space, and are fairly unnecessary during the summer. But they are so, so nice in the winter, when your clothes take three days to dry on your clotheshorse.

iPhone 031

Me with my hair done for a friend’s wedding in September

  • Getting your hair done for weddings is a must. That is, if you’re a woman. Going to the hairdresser, though you are not a) the bride, b) in the wedding, or c) related to the bride in any way is very common. I heard a cousin of Mario’s tell the other women, “¡Nos vemos en la peluquería!” / “See you at the hairdresser!”
  • An herbal liqueur after a meal helps you digest. I really don’t know if this is true or not, but whatever—who doesn’t like a good crema de orujo (like Bailey’s) or pacharán (a sloe-flavored liquor) after a big meal?
  • Fruit after a meal is (almost) obligatory. I did grow up eating fruit, really. But I’m never going to be on Mario’s or Mario’s family’s level, all of who eat fruit with such regularity that it’s astounding. Mario starts each day with an orange, eats an apple for lunch, and after dinner grapes. That’s his routine right now, and it does vary in which kind of fruit he has for lunch or dinner, but breakfast is always, always, always an orange. Sometimes in the States we’d only have mandarin oranges, which were okay, but not quite the same.
  • Las madres love Tupperware. My mom loves me, but she never made me food, froze it, and put in a Tupperware container for me to take back to my apartment. The mothers and grandmothers in Spain are notorious for this. I work with a guy who’s American but with a Spanish father, so he has relatives here in Madrid. His grandmother insists on making him food and putting it into Tupperware for him to eat donde le da la gana (wherever he wants). It’s not that he’s not capable of providing for himself, but it’s just what the matriarchs of the family do. So prepare yourself. When your Spanish mother-in-law comes a-visiting, she’ll be bringing containers of lentejas (lentil stew), albóndigas (meatballs), pisto de garbanzos (chickpeas with a tomato-eggplant-zucchni sauce), and carrillera (chin meat, and yeah, it’s delicious). Get used to it.

Lentejas

[Source]

When I first went to Spain, I really had no idea what Spanish food was like. Sure, I’d read about jamón and tortilla de patata, but I had much more experience with Mexican food. In case you didn’t know (or live in another country), Mexican food (or at least our Americanized version of it) is quite popular here – it seems as though every small town has its own Mexican restaurant. At least one.

[Source]

In 2008, while studying in Toledo, I didn’t have that many homemade Spanish dishes. Sure, I ate in our school cafeteria, but the most popular foods there were paella, tortilla, and bread with olive oil. Good stuff to be sure, but I never had what would soon come to be one of my favorite Spanish dishes – lentejas.

Lentejas means “lentils.” But as a dish, it’s more like “lentil stew.” I know, I know, it doesn’t sound super appetizing. But believe me, it is. Especially if made by a certain Spanish lady with a knack for cooking (yes, Mario’s mother). It doesn’t even look that great. But appearances can be deceiving.

[Source]

A nice bowl of lentejas (served as a primer plato almost always) is a warm, comforting dish to eat during the winter. (Heck, I’d eat even in the boiling hot Spanish summer.) Like any dish that originated in the kitchens of yesteryear, it varies from home to home. I emailed Mario’s mother, Pepita, to ask her how hers are made. This is her reply:

Lentejas estofadas

Se ponen en remojo unas horas antes (8 horas, aproximadamente). Cuando se pongan a hervir se retira esta agua y se lavan un poco. Se parte zanahoria, puerro o cebolla (pueden ser las dos a la vez).
Las cantidades dependen del tamaño y de la cantidad de lentejas. O sea, según veas.

Se ponen en una  cazuela a hervir todos los ingredientes citados, las lentejas y se le añade una hoja de laurel, un diente de ajo entero, un chorro de aceite, sal y un poquito de pimentón. Es opcional ponerle un trozo de chorizo, o de costillas de cerdo…

Y cuando estén cocidas… se apaga, y ¡a comer!.

Lentil Stew

Soak the lentils for a few hours (approximately 8). When it’s time to cook them, remove the excess water and rinse the lentils. Chop up some carrots and leeks/onions (or both at once, if you like). The amount of carrots and leeks/onions depends on the amount of lentils and the size of the vegetables. That is, however you like them.

Put all the above ingredients into a pot to boil. Add a bay leaf, a whole clove of garlic, a splash of olive oil, and a dash of paprika. You can also add some chorizo or even pork chops.

And when they’re done cooking…it’s time to eat!

[Source]

It’s just too bad that, unlike any good Spanish cook, I don’t have a Thermomix (pronounced “ter-moh-miiiix”).

[Source]