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Eating in Spain is different than in your country …. Here are some (language) tips to enjoy the meals in Spain without any complications.

One of the first things you realize during your stay in Spain are the eating times. Lunch (el almuerzo, also called “la comida”) is between 14:00 and 15:00. The evening meal (la cena) is usually served between 21:30 and 23:00. In some places, eg Madrid it is possible to eat at 20:30. But usually, Spaniards eat very late, especially when they go eating outside. If you go to a restaurant at 20:30, you will most likely be alone but when you are finished with eating, the restaurant will be full.

Real goodies for lunch

Furthermore, the size of meals is also different than in your country: lunch is much heavier than the “cena”. Lunch consists of appetizer, main course and dessert, while the evening meal usually is later with omelets and a salad, sandwich or tapas, etc. The restaurants offer a rich “menú del día” (daily menu) for a price of 10 and 15 euros and consists of starter, main course and dessert/coffee.

Meat and fish but vegetables separate

Spaniards eat fish / meat and vegetables separately. Do not be surprised if you order a steak and just get a steak on a plate. Maybe you’ll get some leaflets as a garnish, but that’s all. I always ask for the certainty: ¿Cómo se sirve el / la (name of dish)? = How is the dish served? Another possibility is: ¿El / la (name of the dish) lleva guarnición? = Is the dish served with side dishes? Another possibility: ¿Cómo se sirve el / la (name of dish)? The last question is very extensive, it means literally: how is the dish served? So whether there is a side dish, but also whether it is served hot or cold.

On a menu you will find salads, vegetables, etc. usually with the appetizers. If you want a salad as a side dish, you can still ask: ¿Me / nos sirve la ensalada junto con el segundo plato, por favor? Me = singular. Nos = plural, if you speak on behalf of multiple people.

“Pan, vino y sobremesa”

Yes, these three things belong together. It is very normal to drink wine during the meals, as well as during lunch. The Spanyards do not have just a quick bite and leave straight after. They enjoy the “sobremesa”, the time after eating as a socioable discussion. “Sobremesa” also means tablecloth.

But note: do not drink wine after dessert. That is “not done” in Spain. Unless you order a dessert wine, eg a “moscatel” *
* Moscatel (= Muscat wine) is a powerful, sweet wine from southern Spain, suitable as aperitif or dessert wine. The wine consists of 100% of the Moscatel de Alejandría grapes, which are dried in the sun after being picked. The sun dried grapes are used to make wine. This wine is fragrant and powerful. Muscat wine combines perfectly with cheese, fruit and sweets such as pastries and ice cream.

Coffe Culture

Spaniards are crazy about coffee. Café con leche is coffee with milk, café solo is coffee without milk. What is very nice is a café cortado: a cup strong coffee (espresso) where a small amount of milk is added. In southern Spain it is custom to serve the café cortado in a glass. Be careful, because the little glass has no grip and it gets very hot. If you do not like strong coffee then ask for a café americano.
(Very) strong coffee = café (muy) cargado (preferably in Spain) café (muy) fuerte (preferably Latin America) coffee slave = café aguado / poco cargado. A “carajillo” is a strong coffee with an alcoholic beverages, eg liqueur or brandy.

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