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7 Signs You've Never Eaten Real Spanish Food

Spain Student Work Food + Drink
by Ana Bulnes Mar 6, 2015

1. You think Spanish food is spicy.

Let’s get this out of the way: Spanish and Mexican food have nothing to do with each other. We have spicy dishes, sure, but the ones you don’t have to be afraid of. Our spiciness makes Mexicans laugh (“You call this spicy?,” they’ll say, “I would call it tasteless!”). So if the waiter warns you about a dish being “a bit hot,” don’t worry. We don’t really know what spicy food is. Beware, however, of Galician pementos de Padrón (green chili peppers) — if you’re lucky, you’ll pick the only hot one and end up with tears in your eyes.

2. You think sandwiches are boring.

But then you try our bocadillos and everything changes. Remember to order “bocadillos” and not “sandwiches,” because that’s where the real difference lies. If you order a sandwich, you’ll get one of the normal ones made out of industrial sliced bread. It’s always toasted, so it’s not that sad and dull, but “bocadillos” are a whole different level, made with artisan bread that crunches and melts in your mouth. In the middle you can have almost anything: from jamón serrano to tortilla de patatas to calamari rolls. You should try them all.

3. You think butter is perfect for cooking.

Olive oil is a religion in Spain, and we are a bit intolerant when it comes to accepting butter as an alternative. Why would we accept it, anyway? Meals cooked using olive oil are so much better! Just a few drops for grilled meals, lots of it when we fry something. You should also learn the differences: extra virgin olive oil, the good, expensive one, is used for salad dressings. “Normal” olive oil, much cheaper, is the one we fry things with. Oh, and remember: it’s ok to reuse it, so in the end you’re not wasting it at all!

4. You think the best meals are always expensive.

Enter tortilla de patatas. The one and only real Spanish dish, loved by everybody and equally popular in every region, is made of potatoes, eggs, and onion. And olive oil, yes, but you already know it can be used several times. What could be cheaper and more delicious than that?

5. You think vegetable soups have to be warm.

I know, I know. In winter, when it’s cold outside and you get back home, nothing can beat a delicious, warm, vegetable soup. But imagine it’s summer, too warm to go outside, you’re sweating and wishing you could take you skin off as if it were an additional layer of clothes. A gazpacho, our cold tomato and cucumber soup, will make you feel happy and new. Fresh, healthy, nutritious, delicious, and also perfect for beating hangovers!

6. Bread is something you can do without during your meal.

If you go to a Spanish restaurant and you don’t get served a small basket with bread with your meal, it’s not a place you want to go back to. We eat lots of bread with our meals: We use it to help us put food on the fork, we dip it in soups and sauces, we fill our empty stomachs with it while we’re waiting for the food to be ready… You’ll learn to need it too.

7. You’re a vegetarian.

Things are changing, that’s true, and being a vegetarian in Spain is not that challenging anymore. Expect to be judged when you don’t try the chorizo or jamón serrano, but not as much as a few years ago. The problem? If your will is not that strong and you’re having doubts, Spain will make you succumb to temptation. You’ll make excuses, you’ll tell yourself this is temporary and you’re eating all that meat only to have the real Spanish experience, you’ll conclude that seafood is a gray area so why not eat it anyway? We won’t tell anyone, we understand. And don’t be remorseful — if you’re already eating it, you might as well enjoy it!

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