The Foreigner at the Table

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:

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La Siesta

Spain has imported several words into the English language: fiesta, guerrilla, loco, jade, and many more. But none so important as the siesta. What is the siesta? You may think it’s just a nap. But you, my friend, would be wrong. The siesta is so much more than a mere nap. It’s a national pasttime, and Spaniards are dead serious about it.

The word siesta comes, like most Spanish words from Latin, meaning “la sexta hora” or “the sixth hour.” The siesta should preferably occur when the sun is at its highest point and, thus, it is the hottest part of the day. In this way, one avoids the sun’s potentially damaging ultraviolet rays. Also, this means that you’re not out when it’s boiling hot, as it often can be in the meseta of central Spain.

Spaniards’ schedules are quite different the typical North American’s. They typically eat a small breakfast (e.g., digestive cookies and chocolate milk/coffee) and perhaps have a small snack during the traditional 11 AM coffee break when all the employees go to the nearest café to drink tiny cups of coffee and eat pinchos of tortilla española or jamón serrano. Lunch is typically from 2-4 or even 2-5, with most Spanish families sitting down to eat between 2:30 and 3 PM. This means that the meal is often not over until 3:30 or even 4. After a delicious meal involving copious amounts of carbohydrates in the form of crunchy baguettes, the need for sleep hits you fast. My eyelids are usually drooping even as I am drinking my after-lunch coffee and Mario’s father is encouraging me to eat some dessert. The bed looks soft and it is tempting, and so I succumb to a delicious 45 minute nap. (Mario tells me this is too long and should actually be anywhere from 15-30 minutes but I’m foreign so he lets this pass.)

All of this is well and good. I mean, who doesn’t like carbs and napping? I certainly can’t voice any objection to either one. However, the siesta is a nationally practiced sport and that means nothing is open. Oh sure, if you had a heart attack they might consider opening the hospital for you, but nothing else is open. You’d like to shop on your lunch hour? No can do. Need to buy stamps? Uh uh, girl. Wait until 4:30 at least and probably 5:00 because some of our naps last longer than others. Don’t even think about getting your hair cut! How could you?

After all, the siesta is a sport. One might even have to train for it. Hey, I’m up for that. Do not laugh at the picture that follows: TThis is a chair designed especially for the siesta. Why is this necessary? Well, it’s not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend approximately $2,500 on it, right? Right?

All this talk about naps has me tired. The bed is looking particularly comfy, so don’t mind me…I’m off to echarme una buena siesta!