Flexing My Food Familiarity
By: A. Chaplin, Claremont McKenna College
My study abroad semester in Madrid has been filled with learning opportunities.
My Madrid hosts, Andrés and Monica, are almost completely vegetarian. Fish is an occasional event, but garbanzo beans, lentils, cheese, quinoa, couscous, and rice are majority stake (steak, for a pun) holders for presence at the dinner table. I’ve never eaten a lot of red meat, but the lack of chicken and turkey has me missing Collins Dining Hall at my home campus. Yep, I am missing U.S. campus Dining Hall. Andrés is a yoga instructor, and Monica likes to watch YouTube videos about things like the Mayan calendar, lunar eclipses, and conspiracy theories. Andrés and I have compared the Spanish lifestyle to that of Americans and it is an at least a few ways drastically different. Spaniards don’t seem to ever really make solid plans; they’re schedules are permanently in a state of ambiguity. I don’t think Spanish work less because of laziness, they just aren’t haunted by ambition in the same way that Americans are. My host Andrés tells me that many Spaniards regard work as a fourth or fifth priority behind health, family, friends, relaxation, and overall happiness. Spanish are supporters of enjoying as much of life as possible and this usually translates to working a lot less. Perhaps it’s a style of living worth considering. With the exception of the vegetarian diet of my host parents, the eating style in Spain in general was challenging for me at first. Most Spanish absolutely love olive oil. It’s on everything, and I mean it seems to be on everything. In my home stay, we go through a bottle of olive oil a week. Most students on campus don’t eat lunch until 2 or 3 pm, and dinner isn’t usually until after 9pm.
Now that, I can tell you, is a struggle when you are used to American eating schedules. But meals are also a much longer event in Spain, as they are a means of socializing and spending time with friends and family. Going out for dinner can often be a three or four hour ordeal, and perhaps this may seem excessive. However, I think it also provides a nice contrast to treating a meal as a task, simply to fill one’s stomach before moving on to the next agenda item.