Next week a unique cultural event is happening in New York, Eat Spain Up. Food and cultural sessions, classes, tasting guided and much more. I will cover the event as a Photographer, which makes me really happy. And just today I booked my flight ticket to go back to Barcelona for Christmas. Everything says great food! All of that made me think of food and Spanish people, and how we relate to it, about food and food’s behaviors. And how different we all are regarding food. I mean, culturally.
I spent last winter in Barcelona, including probably the most obscene food feast in Spain, Christmas. Yes, obscene because it seems that Christmas feast is a free-for-all. So, basically, we start eating, it might vary depending on the region, on Christmas Eve (December 24th), we keep going on Christmas (25th), and Sant Esteve —this, only in Catalonia– (26th). Then, we have a break from this food delirium, which as you might suspect, it is not a real break; cause you have to eat the leftovers. In any case, on New Year’s Eve, we are ready to get back to the table. In some families, Año Nuevo (January 1st) is more suitable to be skipped it. It has never been like that in my family; we also celebrate my father saint (yes, some Spaniards celebrate those things, but we can get back to that matter some other time). However, at that point, we are still at Christmas time, and there we go for our second break (January 1st to 5th), the period during which some start behaving a bit better while others still keep the feeling of being in this free zone of healthy rules. The closing day is January 6th, Día de Los Reyes Magos, the famous Three Kings, who leave tons of presents for kids and grown-ups, and the most important, the relief that the feast has come to an end and our diet has to get back to normal.
Throughout this elongated holidays, the most of us would have seafood. What we eat varies depending on the region, but I believe the most of the Spaniards eat seafood and of course, traditional dishes with meat, like beef or lamb, and some other goodies. Moreover, as is to be expected, we have sweets; the ingest of sugar is mandatory: chocolates, neulas, polvorones, turrón… and, well, yes, alcohol, tons of wine and liquors. Probably, the best part of it is that you drink a lot with your family, which it is funny. A few months ago, The New York Times published an article on about that topic; it mainly contrasts how French, Italian and Spanish families (versus Americans) behave related to wine consumption at home.
As you can see and many of you already knew, food has been “socially” crucial to Spanish citizens. Let’s review some facts that practically everyone knows about Spanish food behaviors. We have big lunches instead of big dinners, we have dinner really late, eat the well-known tapas and have aperitivo or vermut on the weekends instead of brunching around, and we usually sit to have our main meals except for tapas and aperitivos. The most important, we like to gather around a table full of food and we can easily spend hours on it eating and chatting, this might be the main reason why we eat that much during Christmas time. Though, things are changing since we live in a more global world, right? Barcelona is full of brunch proposals for the weekend and burgers became, since I moved to New York, a big thing, among many other cultural adoptions.
However, being an expat make you realize that even if things are becoming more global, we have grown up in a particular culture, and this is something that sticks with you no matter where you end up living. It is just you do not think that much about it until someone asks you to do it. And that was what it happened in Brooklyn a while ago…
In the beautiful neighborhood of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, a group of people from Madrid and Barcelona gathered to participate in a Food Focus Group. We all have been living in New York for at least five years and some even more than ten. Different professionals: journalist, editor, architect, teacher, lawyer, publicist, art curator and the host, a food professional. Our host Gloria is a Fulbright Scholar Program’s student. She is pursuing Food Studies at NYU and runs the Eat Spain Up, the event you do not want to miss next week.
As a part of research, Gloria was trying to comprehend how Spanish citizens behaved around food while they live abroad. We just knew we were a part of a study and that we will be asked about our food habits during and after a food feast. We all have to bring some food or alcohol. I brought tortilla de patata and olivada, some brought fruits and wine, tons of wine. Gloria cooked a traditional Cocido madrileño. Most of us wondered how she could get some ingredients in New York, because as a real skeptical Europeans living abroad, we do not easily trust the authenticity of the products from our hometowns. However, the cocido tasted exquisite like made in a Spanish mama’s kitchen.
The meal lasted more than six hours, the most of them, we were either in the kitchen or around the table, eating and drinking wine. Topic? I guess, but it was exactly what we did. During the sobremesa (the after meal conversation at the table), Gloria greet us with delicious cheese from Spain and started asking the question for her studies, which were:
Do you believe there is such a thing as “Spanish cuisine” and how convinced are you of this?
If you are, what is their definition of what Spanish cuisine is? What is contained and what is not?
– What is their engagement with what has been called the “New Spanish Cuisine”? Do they feel part of it? Does it represent them? How? Do they practice it? How?
– What is their relationship towards this cuisine since they have left Spain? Do they practice it? How have their practices of their food traditions changed from when they were in Spain and how have they changed since they arrived?
She might share her conclusions soon, but I believe we can say already after our Spanish Food Focus Group that we might have changed some habits, but we still keep our relationship with food, the cultural stuff. The most of us follow the Mediterranean diet, even if sometimes it is not easy. As my friend Liesl, who lived for a year in Spain and cooks like a real Spanish, we have fruits and yogurt as a dessert, but yes we do consume a lot of fruits and veggies. We certainly believe in such a thing as “Spanish Cuisine”, still share our pride about our food and chefs. How could we not? Three Spanish chefs have made it to the top 10 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. We keep this never-ending lunches with extended sobremesas. Olive oil leads our kitchens. We are always ready and up for a food reunion or food adventures, like a Scrappy Feast. We still have dinner late, and the most important we like talking about food, about how we relate to it, and we definitely love to share our food and passion for it.
As locals from my father town, Samir de los Caños, would say to you while passing by their home around lunch or dinner time:
Quedaos a comer, que donde comen dos, comen cuatro.
Come on, join us in this week of Spanish great food, wines, food behaviors and cultural events.
Let’s Eat Spain Up!
Eat Spain Up! is a cultural event that brings you the food and culture of Spain and its regions.
Take a trip to Spain without leaving the city in our Food & Culture Sessions. Share the kitchen with guest chefs in our Cooking Classes or learn about the iconic foods of Spain in our Guided Tastings. Enjoy the Food Photography & Design exhibitions and take advantage of Dining Specials at Spanish restaurants across the city.