Spanish Eating Customs

spanish foodFor anyone who isn't Spanish, the Spanish meal schedule may take some adjustment- the whole schedule seems to have been bumped forward a few hours! The best way to go is to simply throw out your conception of proper meal times and eat along with the Spaniards- trust us, you'll suffer less this way. Here's a quick Spanish meal cheat sheet to get you accustomed...
cafe con lecheEl desayuno - Breakfast
-Before 10am.
-Forget the huge bacon and eggs breakfast! Breakfast in Spain, if eaten at all, is often a single cup of coffee by itself or perhaps accompanied by a little something to nibble on as well. Toast, croissants, or "pan tomaca," a piece of toast with an oil and tomato spread, are popular picks.
spanish coffeeCafé - Coffee
-Between 10:30am and noon.
-Spain is, without a doubt, a coffee culture. Combine this with the contagiously social nature of Spaniards and you've got a country where coffee breaks are an integrated part of the workday. After a couple hours of work, it's quite common for coworkers to hit up the nearest café for a few minutes of caffeinated downtime. Don't know what to order? Here's a quick run down...
- Café solo- A simple shot of expresso.
- Café cortado- A shot of expresso with just a splash of milk.
- Café con leche- A shot of expresso and an equal amount of milk.
- Café americano- A shot of expresso and lots of water. Nice and watered down for Americans who find Spanish coffee to be too strong!
spanish foodLa comida - Lunch
-Between 2pm and 4pm.
-Undoubtedly the main Spanish meal of the day.
-Yes, the infamous siesta time does exist! While it doesn't necessarily include getting into your pajamas and sleeping the afternoon away, stores and businesses do close down and many people go home to eat the mid-day meal with their families.
-Many restaurants offer their "menús" during the comida. From a set menu, you can choose one appetizer and one main course. These menú deals, which you can find for anywhere between €6 and €15, also tend to include bread, a drink and dessert.
olivesLa merienda - Late afternoon snack
-With dinner being served so late in the day, there's a rather lengthy time gap between meals. Many people have a light snack, also known as a "tentempié," during the afternoon to hold them over until dinner.
-A small sandwich, a piece of fruit, a pastry, or simply a hot drink are common merienda choices.
La cena - Dinner
-Typically between 9:00 and 10:30 in the evening, although earlier and definitely later are fair game too.
-Most restaurants don't even think of opening up before 8pm. During the summer months and on weekends, dinner time is pushed even later- it's not uncommon to see people dining at midnight!
-Dinner is typically a much lighter fare than lunch, often consisting of something as light as a salad or sandwich.
-The evening hours are the ideal time to check out the tapas scene. In Alicante, the most popular foods you're likely to come across during a tapas adventure include rice and seafood.