Foods Spain Taught Me to Love

Moving to Spain has taught me a lot. It’s made me fluent in Spanish. I’ve learned how to navigate the metro system and bureaucracy. I’ve learned how to make foods I miss: crackers and peanut butter and Ranch dip. (Though I still long for bottled Ranch dressing and cottage cheese.) But more importantly, I’ve become a more-independent, self-assured person. I found my media naranja. I came to terms with just how important my home country is to me.

A lot of us experienced changes when we moved here. You feel me, auxiliares (and former auxiliares)? We learned just how little we knew about English grammar and Spanish slang. But we’ve also learned to love new foods. Thus, I asked some of you what foods you’ve learned to love since moving to Spain. Your answers were fun to read, and I’m listing them here.

Cat from Sunshine and Siestas: Snails

Eating Snails Spain Jerez

“So. Snails.

When I met my boyfriend, he somehow managed to slip me everything disgustingly edible—cow brains, coagulated blood cooked with onions, sherry-drenched kidneys. Growing up as a farmer’s son, he finds it normal to eat every part of an animal, whereas I came from a family with bland tastes from the Midwest.

By the time the snail season rolled around in Seville in late April, my palate had become more of a risk-taker, so I decided to take up his dare to try snails. I imagined I’d hate them. I did hate them.

By the following year, though, I’d happily slurp them down when the nights turned balmy with a beer. I can’t get enough of the sauce or the slimy little creatures!”

Trevor from A Texan in Spain: Octopus

Pulpo Octopus Galicia Spain

“I’m not a picky eater by any means, but things like octopus, squid, and other various tentacle-d creatures of the deep kind of grossed me out. I had a sort of irrational fear of octopus suckers getting stuck to the roof of my mouth, and chewing on tough squid simply did not appeal to me, at all. I would get the heebie-jeebies whenever my dad ordered fried calamari at a restaurant and never strayed too far on the seafood side of the menu beyond salmon or tilapia.

All that changed, however, when I moved to southern Spain last year, fresh out of college. My Spanish flatmate introduced me to “choco,” a type of cuttlefish he would grill with garlic and parsley, and trips to the southern coast forced me to try tiny fried squid and spit-roasted, whole sardines. I would stroll through the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings and be shocked to see terrifying, monster-like monkfish, whole populations of clams, and chunks of salted cod—all laid out on beds of ice. Although the purple octopus intimidated me, fishmongers would always have some displayed upside-down, suckers bared.

This fall, I moved up to the northwestern region of Galicia, where I have now been living for a month. A couple of weeks ago, the provincial capital city of Lugo celebrated their annual fair dedicated to San Froilán, a festival in which half a dozen casetas, or tent restaurants, set up shop and serve the freshest octopus you’ll ever have.

Called pulpo á feira in Galician, this “fair-style octopus” has already become my favorite dish in the region. Slow-boiled in a huge copper pot, it’s then snipped into medallions and garnished with olive oil and spicy Spanish paprika. I was floored the first time I tried it: the meat was extremely tender—not chewy at all—and the simple flavors of the oil and paprika were a perfect (and typically-Spanish) match for the tentacle meat.

Octopus has certainly been added to my list of favorite Spanish foods, but whether it has given me enough courage to try percebes (goose-neck barnacles) is a story for another day.”

Chelsea from Andalucía Bound: Meat

Chelsea Alventosa Meat Eater Former Vegetarian Spain

“My name is Chelsea Alventosa, and I’m 24 years old. I’ve been in Spain for 2 years as an auxiliar de conversación, and this is my third (and hopefully last) year as an auxiliar.

When I studied abroad in 2009 in Granada I didn’t eat meat. I was placed in a homestay with another American girl who was also “vegetarian” but she actually ate fish (I didn’t), so our host mother assumed that we both ate fish. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I actually didn’t eat fish because it was already a pretty big burden for her to have to make us special meals, so I sucked it up and started eating fish for the semester.

When I came to Spain in 2011 as an auxiliar, I found it really difficult to continue my vegetarianism due to the cultural norms that exist when people go out to eat. When we would go out with our new Spanish friends, we’d order lots of things to share and pretty much everything on a menu in Spain has meat or fish. After about a month of only being able to eat Spanish tortilla when we ate out, I decided that it was kind of hindering my experience to not be able to try all of the typical Spanish foods. Plus, it became apparent to me that most of the restaurant food in my small town was local, which made me feel a lot better about eating the meat.

One thing that I really enjoyed was lágrimas de pollo, like mini chicken fingers! It had been almost 5 years since I’d eaten chicken and It was delicious. I also love carillada, anything with shrimp, and chorizo.”

Becca from Becca Blogs: Plums, Meringues, Beer

Ciruelas Spain

“I’ve been settling into life in Catalonia in Spain (technically in Spain, though most people here want independence) for the past six weeks. I live with a host family and have been getting to try loads of lovely food, but there are a few things I love here that I wasn’t expecting to like!

Prunes: In the UK, prunes are gross shriveled things that are mainly known for helping old people’s digestion. However out here they have have fresh prunes (ciruelas in Spanish, or prunas in catalan), and they are delicious I assure you! They’re very sweet, like a cross between grapes and nectarines. I’m trying to eat as many as possible before they go out of season next month.

Meringue Spain

Meringues: All the meringues I’ve tried in the UK are crunchy, crumbly and dry, like weird biscuits. The meringues I’ve tried out here are like massive fluffy marshmallows with a thin crunchy skin. So good!

Clara Beer Spain

Clara: I really don’t like beer, to me it smells and tastes far too bitter. In Spain they have “clara”, which is a lemony beer shandy that is so refreshing on a hot day. There is bottled clara such as Damm Limon, but I’ve also seen them make it with lemon Fanta (or similar) and beer. I never thought I’d like anything with beer in it but it’s my go-to drink out here.

Careese: Panellets

Panellets Cataluña

“I’m living in Barcelona, Spain where I work in a private school as a language assistant with the ACTIVA program. As Halloween was nearing many of the teachers and students began telling me about La Castanyada which is essentially the Catalan Halloween. During the holiday a popular treat is panellets. Traditional panellets consist of sweet potatoes, sugar, almonds, and an outer shell of pine nuts.

A day before La Castanyada, I popped in the staff room and there I encountered dozens of panallets lying on dishes on tables, I dove in and devoured maybe six of them. They are so delicious and sweet! There was even one with a coconut and sweet potato filling with an outer shell of dark chocolate; need I brag more? Now that the holiday has passed, I find myself craving them. Instead of waiting until next year to try them again, I plan to bake them myself! My fingers will be crossed for the same sugary, comforting taste.”

Other responses

  • “I thought I hated chickpeas but now cocido is my fave!”—Kathleen Kirby
  • “Red wine—which I only started drinking here because sangría and tinto de verano helped me to like it. Or olive oil—I have it on everything now, toast, veggies, bread, salad, etc.”—Elizabeth Harding
  • “There are a lot of foods I have tried here and really love. Even foods I had tried before, and didn’t like, then tried them here and loved. Wine, seafood, octopus (typical and important dish in Galicia), rare red meat, cow tongue …!”—Amanda Harvey
  • “I love chipirones, the little squid babies that are usually sautéed and served in vinegar.”—Carolyn Dockery
  • Horchata … That stuff has become my liquid crack!”—Rachel Braedyn
  • Tortilla and paella.”—Christina from Fleeting Life

As for me, well, I’ve learned to like so many new things. Among them are olives (addicted!), red wine, jamón ibérico (believe it or not, I used to not be a huge fan of it!), and even beer! Since coming to Spain, I’ve tried some of their newer craft beers, and Domus will convert any non-beer lover!

What about you? Any new food favorites since you moved to (or visited) Spain?

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7 comments

  1. oh come on, it might be a bit harder but you can still be vegetarian (even vegan!) in Spain and still go out and have tapas… Yes, your friends will give you weird looks but they’ll get used to it after a few times. Vivan las espinacas con garbanzos, las berenjenas rebozadas y las aceitunas! ;)

    1. Are you from Spain? Just curious. Thanks for the comment! Anyway, I think it would be more difficult, but not impossible. Nonetheless, I’m a big fan of meat, especially embutidos, here in Spain.

  2. It’s hard to be a vegetarian when going out to general tapas bar. You must know where to go to find good, original vegetarian dishes. Let’s not discuss vegan!! I’m not a vegetarian but I love vegetables and I can do without eating meat, and I’m also tired of it, specially because everything’s usually greasy and oily :/
    BTW I hate snails!!! hahaha

  3. Yay! I’m glad this post went live :) And I will definitely second Cat’s story about falling in love with caracoles a la andaluza. Oh how I will miss them this spring in Galicia…and their spicy broth most of all!

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