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Dani Bennett | Scenes From Spain

Spanish Gastronomy

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 08:02

What does vegetarian even mean, really? What’s a little piece of meat, though? Who doesn’t like jamón?

I believe this may be the thought process behind all Spanish dishes. The many vegetable-consuming Americans who study in Madrid have asked for the so-called vegetarian salad or the vegetarian sandwich have been pleasantly (if they eat fish) and not-so-pleasantly (if they’re vegan) surprised by the atún (tuna) that they find after sifting through the entrée. To the Spanish, it appears that meat is a key ingredient in their diet and a crucial part of their gastronomical culture. A typical sandwich consists of bread (a small baguette), ham and any light cheese of the day. Nothing more. Nothing less.

This is not to criticize the people of Spain in any way; rather, I admire their dining culture. In talking with a Spaniard recently over dinner, the very topic about which I am writing emerged. In Spanish, he stated, “I just couldn’t imagine a day without eating meat. It’s part of the Spanish food culture.” I wonder: what is it about chicken, beef, pork, or, most importantly, Spanish ham, that has made it all become so integrated in the Spanish gastronomy? What would a true Spaniard say to the “Meatless Mondays” we developed at Tufts? What would he or she say upon discovering the wide selection of vegan and vegetarian options that, in many cases, overpower the main dishes? 

The amount of meat consumption in Spain is followed closely by the amount of fish and poultry consumption — and for good reason. With a propensity for interesting fishes, such as gulas (mini-eels), Spaniards have proven that their proximity to the ocean is unquestionably in their favor.

Not only does it appear that the Spanish do not limit their total meat consumption, but the churro culture is unparalleled. If you have never had a churro, imagine taking a bite of crispy happiness. That is a churro. On any given night, the famous churro joints, including San Gin豠and Chocolater쟠Valor, are always filled with Madrilenians who take in the golden-brown deliciousness that can be dipped in smooth chocolate or consumed alone. They seem to understand that a good churro can brighten anyone’s day. Seemingly unhealthy? Probably. But undeniably healthy for the soul.

Interestingly enough, these late-night eating habits, including copious amounts of wine, ham and cheese with some form of carbohydrate, do not lead to an obesity problem. Rather, the Spanish manage to do all of these activities in moderation, with regular (usually smaller) portions and all of the walking exercise that one needs. Tapas in Spain are smaller dishes usually consisting of some kind of meat or fish and that are accompanied by a caña (a small beer). The Spanish have even created a verb “tapear,” which refers to hanging out with friends and eating tapas. So even with meat, fish, poultry and churros abound, everything is in moderation, so as to have a little bit of satisfaction everyday. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from the unique Spanish gastronomy?

 

This is just to say: From a Spaniard

 

I have eaten

the beef

that was on

your plate

 

and which

you probably

mistook

for a mushroom

 

Forgive me

it was delicious,

Tan jugosa

Y caliente.

 

Dani Bennett is a junior who is majoring in English and spending this semester abroad in Spain. She can be reached at Danielle.Bennett@tufts.edu.

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