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.


  • 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.

You’ll Catch a Cold (On Mothers and Love)

Growing up with a mother who’s a nurse, I’m well-versed in many common medical fallacies. (Fallacy: a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning.) For instance, “sugar makes kids hyperactive.” In a study performed at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, physicians could not note any differences in behavior between kids who had had sugar and kids who hadn’t. Interestingly, parents who were told their kids had eaten sugar noted that the child was more hyperactive. Seems like it’s in the parents’ minds, eh?

Here in Spain, I can never go a day without hearing “you’ll catch a cold.” Why? Not because I have been in contact with germs, not because I came into contact with a virus, no – because I went outside and it was cold.

How, in fact, does one catch a cold? Do you have to use a catcher’s mitt or will a pitcher’s suffice? How cold must it be – freezing? Is the cold slippery, hard to keep from slipping through my fingers?

Mario’s mother is imminently concerned with my clothes, footwear, and outerwear. If I go out in sandals, she asks, “But won’t you be cold/catch cold?” If it’s raining, she worries about the size of my umbrella and its inability to protect me from the rain that will inevitably penetrate my skin and inject the cold right into my bloodstream. She is not, from what I can tell, atypical. She is a mother, so she worries. (From my own mother, I’ve learned that it’s truly a mother’s preogative. Worrying is what they do.) While my mother worries more about me behind the wheel of the car, Mario’s thinks about whether we’ve eaten enough or have on the proper jackets.

Wise people often say that people are essentially the same. We all dream, hope, strive, fail, achieve. More mundanely, we all eat, sleep, and, ahem, go to the bathroom. To me, this truism is reflected perfectly by Mario’s mother. I may sigh in frustration when I cannot convince her that I’ll be fine with what I have on, but it’s no different from the sigh I emit when my own mother says for the zillionth time to “Drive careful.” (Never mind that it should be “Drive carefully.” Let’s leave grammatical hyperaccuracy out of this.) Mothers everywhere love and protect to the best of their abilities. And so I say thank you, Pepita, for loving me the best way you know how.