Spanish Eating vs. American Eating

People often ask me about Spanish food: what I like, what I don’t like, what’s weird. There’s plenty of differences, but I often get annoyed at presumptions about America’s supposed terrible eating habits, when that is, of course, a huge generalization.

The lifestyle of Indiana (and many other small towns in the Midwest and elsewhere) was not based around fresh fruits and vegetables in the recent past, and still isn’t for the most part. Yet I hate it when Spanish (or European) people presume they know exactly how and why we eat the way we do. They often attribute it to laziness, an unwillingness to cook the vegetables, which requires a few more skills than sticking something in the microwave. I beg to disagree.

In Spain, there is an abundance of fruterías, places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at an astonishingly low cost, at least according to my standards. In fact, I can buy €2 of fresh produce here when it would cost me more than $10 in the U.S. Moreover, there are more than 5 (yes, five!) of them within 5 minutes walking distance. It renders me speechless (and thankful) at times. I love walking into them, seeing piles of fresh lettuce, apples, and zucchinis. Such locales really are my paradise and, no, I’m not exaggerating. But in my hometown of Crawfordsville, Indiana, buying fresh fruits and vegetables requires driving at least 10-15 minutes and, honestly, the selection leaves much to be desired. Sure, in Bloomington, where I attended college, there are superb farmers’ markets and local co-ops, but that’s the exception, not the rule. So I find it hard to swallow when Europeans talk about our abysmal eating habits. My students even tell me their favorite foods are not lentil stew or garbazos or even tortilla de patata, but spaghetti, pizza, potato chips, or hamburgers. It doesn’t sound supremely healthy, if you ask me. I don’t doubt many are quick to blame the Americans. Yet while our supposed culture is invading here, the new hip thing in the U.S. is local / organic / diverse.

The thing America has going for it is the diversity. Nowhere else can you eat Ethoipian, Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, and Moroccan cuisine in the same small town (Bloomington). We regularly eat tacos, pho, and paella. In many parts of the U.S., we are all about the local movement – eating from your region, your home. Without realizing it, many Spaniards are moving away from the local movement. It used to be that was the only way you could eat here. Now, it’s easy to get pineapples from South America or blueberries flown in from halfway around the world.

So what’s my point? Stop generalizing. Take responsibility for your own health and eating habits. Don’t blame the Americans, as though you didn’t have a choice to eat at McDonald’s. I too hate it when I see a KFC in a chic part of Brussels. But I don’t think that griping about it will change anything. Rather, let’s work together as a global community to improve our eating habits.

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8 comments

  1. That picture looks amazing! Only thing its missing is mango. ;) Actually I was going to let you know I had Ugli a few weeks ago – right after your post about it and it was really good. =)

  2. I loved this one, Kaley. “The thing America has going for it is the diversity.” Couldn’t agree more – although there’s some diversity here (I hear you can find okra in some of the moroccan stores if you look), it’s mostly separate from mainstream Spanish society and you usually have to go into the “dangerous” (i.e. immigrant) neighborhoods to find it. Obvious exceptions to this rule are “Chinese” food and the doner kebap.

    That’s one thing I’ve learned here – Spanish food is pretty monocultural. It’s made me realize how much of American (food) culture is actually Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Indian, etc etc. How many American expats do you know who haven’t craved Mexican food here?

    OK, that just got ridiculous, I’ll share any other thoughts in a blog post. Nice one though!!

  3. Good post!

    Just today one of the teachers at my school said she hated the food in America because it was too fatty. Really? There are 5 bajillion options for food there, like you said. I was a bit skeptical.

  4. I am an avid lover of clementines…but they are hella expensive in the States. I was in Italy a few months back and I was amazed at how basically every corner grocer had better fruit selections than our major grocery mega stores and at 1/10 the cost.

    Good post, reminded me of my annoyance in Italy when people asked if I ate everything fried back home.

  5. Although I have absolutely nothing to do with Spainish or American life (I’m Korean), I stumbled upon your blog while reading comments on some other blog ( I think it was about healthy food or sth) and found every post of yours so entertaining and hilarious!!!! You’ve seriously got a gift for making any topics double, no, no, triple enjoyable and amusing ! :) Keep it up!!!!!

  6. This post is great! Coming from Canada people often say such things about our eating habits as well and it really upsets me. You’ve made some awesome points here. The next time someone wants to talk to me about about North American eating habits in this way I’ll send them here.

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