A special series. Common Catalonian Cuisine – — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
One of the few things I love more than alliterations is food- or rather: eating it. Blessed with a job at what I would herald as one of – if not the – best restaurants in Duluth (shameless plug, but hey, I’m proud!) I have come to appreciate good food and where it comes from more and more over the past couple years. That being said, since having started working at said restaurant I’ve made it a personal goal to try everything that is put in front of me. Setting aside my “Minnesota taste” as my father always put it was difficult at first but has been a grand success. The world is now my oyster, and I’m ready to eat it!
In Spain there are culinary buzzwords that all tourists come prepared with: tapas, paella, sangria, churros, etc. Visit the more tourist-y spots and you will find signs hanging from every doorway advertising each and every one of the aforementioned. These things, I’ve been taught, are Culture with a capital ‘c’, the biggies that act as a reference to Spanish culture as a whole (despite their origins in very specific and very different localities). What tourists rarely get a chance to learn though, are what I’ve learned to be culture with a little ‘c’: the daily actions that make up every-day life in here in Barcelona and all over Spain. For example: Spanish Culture boasts tapas, paella, churros and everything else you’ve read in the Lonely Planet brochures/websites, but Spanish culture tells you that you should try one tapa in every bar you visit – not all at once and in only one place – and that paella is not a dinner dish (a common misunderstanding and an easy way to spot a non-local), but traditionally a Sunday midday meal prepared and enjoyed with family and loved ones.
What I’ve enjoyed learning most is Spanish culture, with a little ‘c’. These less advertised tidbits are the kinds of things that make me proud to be a Duluthian back home, and the kind of knowledge I always seek when visiting a new place to try and blend in as best I can and really take advantage of my time. These are also the kinds of things I love to share, because unless you have the chance to visit Spain, they’re likely to escape you in the shadow of Culture big ‘c’.
Spanish restaurants typically offer “menus del día” during their busy lunch hours, featuring 2-3 “platos” and a drink for a ridiculously cheap price. When ordering, you have a choice of 3-4 dishes for each plato, and the last is usually a dessert with coffee. Typically, you order the first and second platos all at once, and then once finished the wait staff will ask you what you’d like for dessert. *Wherever you are, whatever you eat, there is almost always the assumption that you will want to stay a little while after you’ve finished to enjoy a coffee.* The Spanish live for relations, and this ‘sobremesa’ the time spent at the table after a meal has been finished, is an excellent example of how they value their relationships with others more so than their relationship with time.
Other differences include when meals are eaten and the portions. Typically the largest meal of the day is either lunch or dinner, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an ‘American’ breakfast anywhere. Coffee and a light meal (toast, plain cereals, fruit) is much more common. Lunch is served anytime between 1:00-4:00PM and this is typically when restaurants feature the daily menus, and then restaurants and businesses are wont to close for a bit during the siesta period until later in the evening when people return to the streets. Dinners are served anywhere between 9:00-11:00PM, and in my homestay it’s on the earlier side: we usually dine around 8:30-9:00.
[Salads are almost always offered on the ‘menú del día’, typically as an option in the first plate. The produce is always fresh and the vinaigrettes are a delicious light alternative to the ranch dressing I was raised on.]
Overall, the types of food vary but especially in bigger cities like Barcelona there are an incredible number of options. Depending on what you’re craving and how far you’re willing to go there’s a pretty good chance of finding anything you could want. I’ve tried all kinds of dishes since arriving, and I’m exciting to keep tasting!
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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu