One of the most useful tips I learned my first day in Spain during orientation is about food. Believe it or not, it is healthier, cheaper and more delicious to have a lunch meal in Spain compare to the US. Before I came to Spain, I was worried of how I was going to find places to have lunch, mainly because I thought it was going to be expensive. Good news! The food industry in Spain is fantastic, and great for businesses because produces a lot of competition between restaurants with the famous and recognized term: menú del día, my favorite phrase when is time to eat. This term also forms part of the culture and traditions of Spain so remember it very well for your visit in Spain.
Menú del día is basically a discount that you get by buying your lunch as a combo. It consists of choosing your desired dish from a list of options. The first one is called “Primero” which is one entrée or big appetizer, because the portions are so generous compared to a regular appetizer that I would get in a restaurant back home. Then, it comes the second part called “Segundo” and this is the full course like meat, fish or chicken that always come with potatoes or rice or another complement. Then, my favorite part is the dessert section. You can select a typical Spanish dessert, or fruit or even coffee prepared the way you like it. Finally, you can choose for drink a glass of beer, wine, water or soda. This combo or what is commonly known in Spain as menú del día is what workers and locals order most of the time during lunch time. It usually has a price range from 8 to 12 euros and you can find it in every restaurant. This special menú creates perfect competition because I have walked on a street full of different restaurants, and all offered the same options at the same price. Therefore, the characteristic that would differentiate a place from its competition is the quality and quantity of the food. That is why you can find really good food and at a cheap price during the week days. Restaurants need to prepare delicious food so their customers will come to buy from them a second or third time. Also, this deal is what motivates workers and locals to eat out instead of cooking or eating a “bocadillo” (sandwich). Without this Spanish tradition, the food industry would not benefit locals and only tourists who are willing to pay to eat in restaurants.
Thanks to Spain’s location, history and regions, you can find a wide variety of gastronomy in big cities, like Madrid. Even international restaurants and dishes from other countries. I ate Colombian food, and I paid a high price for typical dishes (they were delicious so it was worth it) because there are no Colombian restaurants in Pittsburgh. As well, you can try typical Spanish food in specific towns and just in them, not in other cities. Food is a perfect reason for travel to new places; it lets you learn about that specific culture from a dynamic perspective. When I traveled to Toledo, I tried a famous sweet bread called “mazapán.” It was a little bit expensive, but delicious. I could try it only in Toledo so I decided to spend a few euros to taste this typical bread. The other day, I went to eat out with my host family and they ordered different tapas. One of them was pig’s ears and I am a picky eater, so I was not going to eat them, but my host mom insisted that they taste like bacon and that eating the whole pig is common in Spain and I should at least try it. I tried it and in fact tasted like bacon, but with a crunchy texture. I am glad that I ate them because food is an important part of my experience in Spain, and still is!