When writing for an audience about cultural differences, food is so often discussed that it’s nearly impossible to add anything of interest the reader may not know. Now that I live in Spain (where the many tourists have already popularized the cuisine) this case is especially true. Still, I can’t help but write about the culinary differences between the United States and between the country I’ve been living in for the last five months.
First, a note about the culture I love to comment on: I believe food is an integral part to maintaining the health of the culture. Even if Madrid doesn’t hold to the stereotypical three-hours-for-lunch-and-two-hour-long-siesta-after that so many people imagine when they think about Spain, meals tend to take more time than their equivalents in the United States. And by meals I don’t refer simply to the process of transferring food from the plate to your mouth. I mean that meals include socialization with friends and family. So, I’m not sure which came first-mealtimes as an important family activity and thus the delicious food, or the delicious food which has resulted in mealtimes as important for families. In either case, food is special both in meaning and taste.
The biggest surprise for me is that I don’t miss food from the United States. Granted, the food here isn’t as different as it might be in other countries, and if you search, you can probably find whatever you’re really craving. Still, it’s so easy to eat tasty, quality food in Spain that I haven’t gotten bored. Maybe the ingredients are better quality from the start, but the results always are delicious and well-done.
Perhaps I’m also lucky because I loved cheese and pork even before coming to Spain. That appreciation has only grown since I’ve been in a country which has such a robust dairy and pork culture. For me it’s impossible to get bored when I’m constantly exposed to “jamón” that almost melts in your mouth, spicy “chorizo“, or flavor-packed “fuet“. And there is always an abundance of well-cured cheese. In my opinion, the bluer, the better.
The excellent food culture and the generosity of the school coincided in the form of a Christmas box that was gifted to every teacher. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the secretary hauled my box off the top of the stack, gently laid it on the floor, and broke out the wheels so I could lug it away. My eyes bulged even further when I actually got home to open the box. There was a whole leg of “jamón”! In addition, there were several bottles of cider, wine, and cava. The cracks were filled with boxes of “turrón” and other pastries. The scale of the gift made more sense when I considered the fact that they were probably designed with whole families in mind.
When I went to stay with some friends in England for the Christmas holidays, I brought the leg of “jamón” with me on the plane. I remember looking in consternation at the box as I tried to decide what I would bring as a gift. My Spanish family quite firmly told me to bring the jamón, a proposition I initially laughed at. But after repeated encouragement from my family and further consideration, I eventually caved. In the end I decided it was entirely worth the pain of lugging around a big leg of pork so that others might have the opportunity to experience just how tasty “jamón” is.
2014/2015. Posted by Douglas T.