I’ve eaten many a meal with Mario’s family. His friends, too. But it wasn’t until recently that his cousin pointed out to me that, well, I eat funny. No, no, my chewing habits are just fine, thanks. But what’s up with your hand?
Think long and hard about what you do with your hands while you eat. Inspired by this post about Spaniards’ eating habits, I came up with my own list of the way Spaniards find us guiris weird at the dinner table:
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.
- 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.
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.