I feel like it would be a crime to not talk about food in Spain since that’s what my days revolve around. As someone who is an extremely mediocre cook, eating other people’s food all semester has been a wonderful reprieve.
The first aspect to note is the huge difference in eating schedules. In Spain, lunch is usually eaten around 2PM or 3PM and dinner is between 9PM or 10PM. The first few weeks, I thought I was going to die of hunger every day. Georgetown classes and Leo’s hours are conducive to early eating times, like 6PM or 7PM, so at first the change necessitated lots of snacks. Once I got into a rhythm, it got easier and I found some advantages of a delayed schedule.
Since lunch is so late, it’s easy to eat in the city after classes, which usually end at 1PM or 2PM. This gives me time to explore new restaurants in the city or to eat at home, as opposed to trying to pack a lunch to sneak into class. Late dinner also means that I’m always able to eat with my host family. I have time to study, go for a run, or call a friend from my home, all in the evening before dinner.
In terms of food itself, tapas (the snacks you get at bars) are what people usually associate with Spanish food: tortillas españolas, patatas bravas, and croquetas. They’re usually fried, made to share, and delicious. For lunch, the best deal in a restaurant is to get the menu del día. It’s a set menu: 2 or 3 options for a first course, 2 or 3 options for a second course, bread, pastry, and a drink, all for a fairly cheap price. As for dinner, my host family cooks food that’s closer to what I’m used to in the US. They have three kids plus me, so it’s a lot of simple dishes like soup, chicken, rice, and vegetables.
If I had a complaint it would be that Spanish people seem to think that postre (dessert) means yogurt. As someone who loves chocolate and was constantly using our Vil B oven last year to make brownies, yogurt for dessert is a painful concept, so I usually just opt for fruit instead.
I couldn’t talk about food without mentioning coffee, specifically café con leche. I am not a big drinker of coffee at Georgetown, (you could blame the Corp or the cost) but regardless, it has never been my thing. Here in Madrid, you can get café con leche for 1.50 euros anywhere and it is so good. If you’re aiming to be a true madrileño, you drink it leisurely at a café while enjoying some people-watching.
Final side note: people don’t eat on the go here. It’s seen as sad that you couldn’t make time to sit down. This is a strange concept to a college student who is always eating while running to class. Thought it does just go to show that Spaniards really believe in enjoying a meal in a community.