3 Spanish Eating Customs you need to know in Spain
Eating in Spain, as you can imagine, is steeped in tradition, culture and habit. This is a list of observations of the Spanish in their natural habitat, enjoying a good meal with friends and family. They are small, mostly completely insignificant details, but if you want to understand and immerse yourself fully in the Spanish culture on your next trip, or you just love to know these little things, keep reading!
A piece of bread is the third cutlery utensil after the knife and fork in Spain. If you want to stop a Spaniard from eating, just don’t put any bread down next to his plate. Spaniards will eat bread with anything and everything, including heavy carbohydrate dishes like pasta and rice. All ‘Menu del Dia’ include bread. Spaniards just don’t eat without bread!
In fact, in each area of Spain there are typical breads from that area, and it is considered one of the main foods in their diet.
If you invite a Spaniard to eat at your house, do not forget to buy some bread, and you will have conquered his heart!
2# Water / Agua del Tiempo
So whilst we’re on the subject of drinking whilst eating, let’s talk about water. The Spanish do not eat without water. In UK, there is some variation family to family on this. Some families do tend to drink water with lunch and dinner, but a large proportion, if not the majority, wash their food down with juice, orange squash, coke, beer etc. These drinks are aperitifs in Spain – they usually don’t appear at the dinner table. The most you will find beyond water is a bottle of wine.
Water is always still, and mostly from the tap too, but it is always, always served – there is no variation across families here. The other little detail about how the Spanish take their water is the issue of temperature. When you order water at a bar in Spain, you’ll be asked “Fría” (cold) or “Del tiempo” (literally ‘of the weather’, actually meaning ‘ambient temperature’). Many Spaniards don’t like their water too cold, so don’t want it straight out of the fridge.
Another point about water, is that on rare occasions you will see people ask for or drink sparkling water, which is very common in other countries. What’s more, if you want sparkling water in a bar or restaurant, you have to specify it, otherwise you will be served still water.
Coffee is quite the Spanish phenomenon. Many Spaniards drink several cups of their favourite caffeinated beverage in the course of a single day. Coffee also traditionally follows a Spanish meal and is served after the dessert.
The tradition has survived the massive landing of Starbucks and similar franchises. You can still find acceptable coffee for one euro or just over one euro in a bar, cafeteria or restaurant, although you have to know where and what types of coffee are suitable at every moment of the day.
First of all, explain that there may be local differences depending on the city of the country where you order coffee, we will talk about those that are more widespread:
1. Cofé Solo: The equivalent of Italian espresso, coffee and water under pressure in an express machine, it takes 25 seconds to make, and a good waiter will deliver it in a minute. The best thing early in the morning.
2. Café Cortado: A cortado, as requested in Spanish bars, is a coffee with a little milk.
3. Café con leche: It is prepared with the same amount of milk as coffee and is served in a larger cup or glass than the previous two, which is served in small cups. The king of breakfasts in the Spanish cafeterias.
These are the 3 types of coffee most common in bars, although there are others like bombón, cortado served with condensed milk instead of coffee, coffee with ice (a delight in summer) or a tocado, coffee served with a trickle of some liquor.
There are many other customs, but we leave that for another day…