Today I would like to introduce you all to a special guest and a dear friend of mine who just happens to be another Wisconsin girl living abroad (and loving it). Claudia from Sincerely, Spain is here with us to share her knowledge of Spanish food culture and her personal feelings about the benefits of relaxing and enjoying the time spent around the table.
Things I love about the food culture in Spain
As someone who grew up with a strong food culture back home in Wisconsin, I really appreciate how much people and communities seem to value mealtimes and eating together in Europe.
And if living abroad in Spain has taught me one thing, other than Spanish, it would be about the integration of food into the community—including the food itself, but going so much further into the culture of food. With everything that is going on in the world today, it is easy to just think of eating as ‘necessary,’ drinking a breakfast supplement or eating a quick sandwich while working through lunch. However, there are many traditional aspects to food culture that still exist in Spain (especially in the smaller cities and towns) that really make me appreciate the importance that is given to eating. Let me share what I see:
THE IMPORTANCE OF MEALTIMES
Even during the week, many families make an effort to eat a home cooked meal together as a family. As lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain, this often means sitting down to a course (or two) and taking more than 30 minutes to have a sandwich. Even in bigger cities people are usually given sufficient time to eat a good meal—even if they don’t have time to go home—and maybe even have a nap. And, despite the idea that afternoon naps make you lazy, many studies show that taking 20 to 30 for a lie down in the afternoon is more effective than coffee at increasing productivity.
In fact, I believe that the whole culture around mealtimes allows people to truly disconnect for their work and take a necessary break (studies also show that working for hours on end isn’t as beneficial for the final product as we might think). In Spain this can also translate into a 15 to 30 minute coffee halfway through the morning or afternoon. I honestly believe that by indulging in break times and taking sufficient time to disconnect during lunch contributes to more productive working hours and happier employees. And while there are some companies in the U.S. that recognize this, they have nothing on Spain!
THE FAMILY CONNECTION
Like many southern Europeans, Spaniards really value the time they spend eating with families. Things like Sunday lunches can take hours, ending closer to dinner time than when you started. This family connection allows people to spend time with loved ones, eat home cooked food, and relax in a way that reminds me of Thanksgiving or Easter lunches back home, only on a regular basis. When I was living in the U.S. my genetically-related family lived far away, so we improvised and often had longweekend lunches or dinners with ‘new’ family.
There, it was a little odd to spend so much time around food; here it is totally normal to have regular gatherings with people that you care about!
By adding the family connection, I think mealtimes are given even more importance in Spanish culture as they give you a reason to put in a couple of hours making a homemade meal and spending extra time relaxing over coffee and something sweet.Family lunches take the rush out of the meal by bringing people together early to start cooking and staying late to enjoy the company. Personally, I see them as a way to remind you how to take a minute or so just to enjoy a good meal and people you care about and think this is something we often miss when we just eat to fill our bellies (although also important).
THE COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
And while the family is important around mealtimes, the community is also brought into the culture around food in Spain.
While many people do their shopping at normal supermarkets, there are a large number of families that buy a local market or fruit and meat stores. This means that community bonds and, in many cases, even friendships are created between the customer and the seller. This adds in another form of value as it creates ways to share experiences with other people, building the community—something that I personally believe is important to how we consume our food as well because you are more likely to buy local and support the people around you.
In addition, there is a strong culture of having coffee or meals with your friends on quiet afternoons or weekends. And local neighborhood parties happen at least once a year, bringing the entire community together to celebrate something that is important to every, the space where they live and the people that share it. In all community events, food continues to play a central role and everything from the cooking to the eating is shared between young and old members alike. Overall, the role that food plays in the community here is clear!
At the end of the day, food is important and in many places around Spain we can see how the relationship that people have with what they eat, how they eat it, and who they eat with is still a very key part of the culture. When visiting Spain (or living abroad here), make sure to plan in some time dedicated to eating and enjoying the food culture this country has to offer.
Author: Ali @ Sustainable Psyche
My name is Ali. I am an American living in Italy. I am passionate about delicious food that is also ethical, healthy and sustainable. I love pasta and pizza, traveling, horseback riding and exploring the vibrant city of Milan that I call home.
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