The Spanish attitude to food
The Spanish cuisine is as rich and varied as the Spanish landscape. The raw ingredients are first class, the Spanish kitchen has traditions reaching far back in history and young, well-renowned Spanish chefs have been instrumental in modernising the food culture. Consequently, the food served in Spain is of a very high European standard. Just like the landscape and the mentality, the food culture in the North differs significantly when compared with e.g. Andalucia. Largely, one can distinguish six major culinary areas. The northern regions are considered the best for gourmets with high expectations and food heaven in Spain is found in the Basque country. The proximity to France has inspired many top chefs to create masterful menus and new exciting dishes. Another reason is the Basque peoples’ enormous interest in food - everyone is a food expert in their own right. The food takes centre stage, mealtimes are lengthy affairs, the quantity is enormous and it’s no surprise that most of the raw ingredients have their origin in the Atlantic Ocean. Spanish food is rustic, it is food for the masses and the emphasis is on nutritional value, not fancy cooking. The Spanish idea of hospitality is one of abundance, portions are generally very large, a small portion would bring dishonour to the host for his lack of generosity - a generous patron offer generous servings.
The Spanish people love to eat, drink and view it as a very important part of social life. The custom among many of the more Northern European countries to eat their meals in record time does not sit well with the Spaniards who can spend several hours enjoying a meal. There are many reasons for this: the amount of food is only one of them, but most important are the discussions that accompany the meal. “Don’t talk while you eat” is what many Northern Europeans are told by their mothers, but they had probably never travelled to Spain. You eat, drink, and talk - preferably all at the same time. No anxious glances attempting to figure out which fork goes with which dish or what glass used for the red wine. Self confidence around the table is enormous and when required, fingers may well do better than any cutlery - it isn’t viewed as barbaric in any way. A meal is always a feast and it matters not how you eat it. It is far more important that you’re enjoying yourself and that you take your time doing so. The average lunch in Spain lasts two hours or more and meals are eaten approximately three hours later than in most Northern Countries. Breakfast around 9 am, lunch between 2 pm and 3 pm and dinner is never served before 9 pm (apart from summer, when dinner is postponed to around 11.00 pm due to the heat). You also get to sleep after your meal, if you so wish, for an hour or so, siesta is between 14.00 and 17.00 p.m.