11 Reasons for steamy arguments or sweet laughs. Our line up!
If we talk food, one of our favorite themes as you know, the expression “Spain is different” is very accurate because there are some definite Spanish food differences and unique features thet have brought us joy during the years. “Spain is different” is a campaign with different emotional associations and different affectional connotations according to who express the words and who listens. Somewhat a historical tourist slogan shaped by former Franco minister and Galician president Fraga. Today the Spanish tourist board runs the slogan “I need Spain”. True as well.
Spain is unique, diverse and original in many ways and when we talk food it gets real, tasty and delicious! Just think of the Jamón Ibérico , the Wine, Pintxos & Tapas, the Rice dishes, the Stews or something as simple but tasty as Gazpacho or a Tortilla de patata… As a whole, one of the richest variations of food in the world we would dare to say.
Our line up of 11 Spanish food differences!
Food is a national and uniting matter and in the case of Spain, this takes shape in an incredible pride of what the land and sea give to Spain’s gastronomy. When I was a flight attendant some years ago, one college told me a secret:
- “Do you really want to upset a Spanish Captain … Tell them the Spanish ham is bad…”
During the years, I have learned this goes for any Spaniard. Don´t ever mention Italian prosciutto or culatello. It´s not even the same animal according to Ibérico lovers. Prosciutto is really Jamón Serrano – dry and cured ham but from any pig. It can be great of course but it is not Ibérico. Until recent years the Serrano ham was considered the best ham by foreigners, Ibérico was a new word and serrano was a sort of already established global word for Spanish ham. Ibérico had been a well-kept secret.
On our first tour in 2010, we decided to buy a Paleta (the front leg) of the Ibérico pig for our little group of 16 swedes to go loose on. It even hurt my eyes to find the Swedes carving the ham in big fat slices and laughing loudly. I guess my Spanish blood boiled there for a while and I´m really sorry we don´t have a photo of that part of that cooking session. You would have understood my feelings.
- What about the cheese? I remember coming to Spain being happy I brought my Swedish cheese cutter, just turned out I never use it to cut cheese. Impossible to use with well cured sheep cheese and in a country where you cut the cheese in fat slices or pieces it´s just a tool you will not need. Cheese is more than Manchego in Spain if you didn´t know. Try the soft cow cheeses from up north, the blue cheeses from Picos de Europa, the goat cheeses from the south. Many Spanish cheeses are true gems in the shadow of the French globally marketed cheeses.
- We shouldn´t forget the meat. El chuleton or the T-bone is a must on a Spanish celebration as well as the lamb chops or an entire lamb made the traditional Castellano way. When we talk meat though, there are some issues that always come up to discussion. Also during my Air Carrier flying years I would often do a regular flight between Madrid and Copenhagen and we would get off the plane for a couple of hours to enjoy lunch at one of the finer meat restaurants at the airport. More Spanish food differences and the discussion would always be:
“Why do they have to put sauces on everything? Rare? This is not rare this is medium!”
And when I ever get to eat meat with foreigners in Spain, the discussion goes the other way around:
“Where are the sauces?” or “Man this meat is not rare – it is alive!”
At home I have also gone some tough rounds defending “A la plancha” versus “Frito”. Grilled or deep oiled fried.
- This issue always comes up when I think I´m frying an egg but it turns out, according to a Spaniard I´m just grilling it. It has to soak in hot oil to get rid of the slimy white surface over the yoke. Now we´re talking eggs in Spain. The funny thing is – a Spaniard will laugh at you or really distrust you! Spanish food differences at its best!
- What about fish? Well here I guess I have less fire power to trigger to this food war but, what many may find odd is to get an extraordinary well prepared grilled let´s say cod, without neither potatoes nor rice. That goes for the country´s excellent sea food as well. If you haven’t tried barnacles take a look at them here on this thrilling documentary about this Spanish gourmet luxury! By the way Spain is the European leading consumer of fresh fish.
Back to the fish scene:
“What´s with this people? Just some sliced bell peppers with the fish?”
- Well to understand this think: “It´s all about the bread”.
A Spaniard would not even think about eating without bread. It is what the potato is for the Swede. On occasions it is even the substitute for the knife as they will use the bread to sort of push the food on the fork…That is actually good manners!
And talk about good manners. Keep the hands on the table in Spain. Historically speaking it was threatening to sit with the hands under the table. Maybe you were hiding a gun or a sable?
- I guess you didn´t know that Valencia has a D.O. marked rice Bomba which is the original paella rice. We also suppose you didn´t know that paella is the name of the typical cooking pan that gives name to the dish.
- I mentioned the stews above or cocidos and fabadas. We will make a separate blog article about the chick peas, the beans, the lentils and all the great combinations that are made especially in northern Spain. Slow food as its best without being labeled or marketed as such. Just traditional food cooked for a long time. My father came to Sweden in the sixties and found a restaurant serving brown beans craving for a rich Spanish stew. Back then the only beans existing in Sweden was the kind of sweet breakfast beans the brits have for breakfast. That was one unexpected food experience that could have ended up with an accident…
- What about the fruit?
With all the excellent fresh fruit from the Mediterranean or the Ebro Riverside, it´s fun and remarkable to get just a piece of fruit as a dessert. “It´s not even pealed!”. In Cataluña some years ago, one traveler ordered banana for his dessert. Maybe he had imagined it, at least sliced in a little bowl. His face and the following laughs when the waitress came out with a banana, a fork and a knife on a plate is a top ten culinary moment in my guiding career. But on the other hand my Spanish colleges, shakes their heads when they spot our foreign travelers picking up olives with a little plastic spoon from the olive cans on our appreciated picnics. I guess the beauty is in the difference between us!
- The wine from Spain has come a long way in just fifteen years and there is no doubt the rest of the world really is appreciating the wines from Spain. But when they get here there are occasions when they still get surprised. One peculiarity is the cold red young red wines one will get especially with traditional or daily typical three course menus. If you are going to eat all that you may just want to wash it down with something cool to drink. But shouldn´t wine be cellar tempered?
Due to the heat in summer this has been a way of coping. Drinking the red Jóvenes cold! Sometimes they even mix it with some Gaseosa (a less sweetened Sprite sort of soda). “Hmm” says the wine enthusiast from abroad while he wrinkles his forehead.
- The wine cool and of course the beer Ice Cold! Forget a lukewarm ale or lager. It just won´t happen! Served in small glasses (cañas) so you drink it all the way cold and with thick creamy foam – that is a ¡caña bien tirada! (well served small beer)
There are several top 10 listings on the web of food from Spain. Check out our selection of links and get hungry.
Spanish food – a nice recipe blog to give some background information