America is always in a hurry to kill itself. Just observe its eating habits, alienating social practices, and unrelenting facilitators of stress. This doesn’t exist anywhere else, at least not in such seam-bursting concentrations.
Just look at Spain — not perfect, but better. It’s a culture that we should strive to be like in many ways. One way in particular is how Spain eats, where food is less a means to an end as it is a way of life. Here are ten reasons the U.S should eat more like Spain.
10. You Aren’t Expected To Tip the Waiter
Stingy foodies would rejoice over this fact. No more quick mental math, or undue end-of-meal pressure to express to your server, via money, how much you appreciate his existence.
In Spain, unlike America, being a waiter is a skilled profession, and a well-compensated one. Only in America do businesses opportune on loopholes so as to back out of paying legally-provided minimum wages, which aren’t very fantastic by themselves. A survey taken by Payscale.com found the hourly wages of an average server to range as low as $2.73 an hour–which renders most servers’ paychecks obsolete.
In Spain, however, you have to go to proper school to be trained as a server, and it’s regarded as respectably as any other trade. With this in mind, most Spaniards don’t even consider the possibility of tipping, unless they are trying to make a sort of statement (they have cash to flaunt, the food and service was dramatically outstanding, etc.) The only sort of quasi-custom, with regards to tipping, is to leave any left-over change, if the difference is close enough.
9. Groceries Are Cheaper
While many things about Spain are much richer than America (as well as more expensive), the groceries run about 25% less on average there, compared to America. While meats and cheeses tend to cost more than those bought in the US (as do most things appearing on a restaurant menu,) produce and other essentials can be almost half the price of what they’d be in the US. Simply put, it’s easier to be poor in Spain.
8. At Least 5 Meals A Day
The closest thing to a Hobbit’s diet is that of a Spaniard. And you thought America was where all the over-eating took place. Truth is, Spain is a heavy eating culture, and just as much of a snacking one. The typical meal pattern is as follows: first up is breakfast, or “el desayuno,” which is the smallest meal of the day, consisting of coffee and perhaps some (often sweet) bakery goods. Then come “tapas,” or little plates of assorted foods, sort of like hors d’oeuvres, which are eaten in succession until fullness is achieved. Then comes lunch, or “la comida.” This is the largest meal of the day, and sort of an event unto itself.
Before dinner (“cena”,) which is eaten particularly between 9 PM and midnight, is a snack, or “la merienda,” which often involves bread and chocolate, or a type of meat. Dinner is particularly lighter than lunch (which provides the fuel for the day … or inspiration for a good nap.) After dinner is perhaps even more food, usually in the way of a churro and hot chocolate, as a sort of late-night treat. As Spaniards have a knack for staying up late, dinner usually isn’t enough to hold then over until bedtime.
7. Extra Sweet Breakfasts
For those who fancy a good jelly donut in the morning, or other such sugar-loaded, insulin-intensive pastries, Spanish breakfasts will look pretty attractive. For one, hot chocolate is a breakfast standard, but hot chocolate in Spain isn’t of the powdered persuasion as it is here. It is much thicker and richer, akin to a melted chocolate bar in a mug. Actually, it pretty much is just that, with the addition of some milk, sugar, and cornstarch.
They also eat “magdalenas,” which are essentially lemon cupcakes. Another favorite is “torrijas,” a bread pudding topped with sugar and cinnamon or honey. Just the thought incites a thousand toothaches.
6. Shops Close For Long Lunches (And Afternoon Naps)
In America, after-meal naps are usually only socially acceptable in the company of a successfully ravaged Thanksgiving turkey. In Spain, however, this behavior is a daily expectation. In fact, most shops close for several hours in the afternoon, during what’s called “siesta,” where everyone essentially takes a huge time-out. The benefits would be countless if America adopted this system: less crabby, sleep-deprived employees, less car accidents and road rage incidents, more patience, and an overall higher appreciation of life.
5. Free Food With Drinks
Free? Good enough for us! In Spain, it’s a big tradition to bar hop, sampling each patron’s specialty plate, and repeating until indigestion kicks in. Many bars will offer these plates as a complimentary accompaniment to drink orders. Patrons benefit twofold: the food helps absorb the alcohol, and beer/food money merge into one. College kids would lose all inhibition, even moreso than they do already.
Meanwhile, US bars counter by putting out a bowl of community nuts, doing its part to spread illness, one pair of unwashed hands at a time.
Variety is best realized in the concept of “tapas.” Tapas aren’t just one thing; they can be anything. The crux of tapas, which are always served with drinks (and are always plural,) is the miniature-ness of the portions. This just means you can eat any combination of dishes and call it a meal. Sick of the same old chicken and potatoes? Tapas make a veritable adventure out of dining.
Tapas, by the by, are not to be confused with “tablas,” which is where a whole bunch of these little dishes are served all at once, as a sort of sampler platter.
3. Food Brings Spaniards Together
Food is not just food in Spain; it’s a social lubricant. When you go out for tapas and drinks, you are only doing so as an accompaniment to some social activity. Food is made available in the late hours, for those out on the town trying to keep their torches lit. The tradition of siesta is strongly grounded by the fact that such a bountiful lunch is being shared with an even more bountiful family. The food is used just as much as a source of energy, as it is an excuse to slow down and be with the ones you love. As opposed to US culture, which takes pride in the invention of the drive-thru.
2. Home To The Literal Best Chef in the World
Okay, so quality is purely a matter of taste and opinion. There’s something to be said, however, about receiving top billing from several highly-reputed publications, namely the New York Times and Restaurant Magazine. They identified elBulli restaurant, and its head chef Ferran Adria, as the best restaurant and chef in the world respectively. El Bulli (now closed, sadly) was apparently such a big deal that it was only open for half the year (the other half was devoted to Adria perfecting new recipes,) required booking a season in advance, and could only accommodate 8,000 of the 2 million willful diners in any given season.
Meanwhile, somewhere else in the world, some guy is eating Big Mac #50,000,000,000 over a grease-stained white paper bag, completely oblivious to the potential for nuance that his taste buds possess.
1. Incredibly Healthy
Spain is one country in a region, including Greece, Turkey, and Italy, which eats in accordance with a so-called “Mediterranean diet” — which is rich in green vegetables, olive oil, cheese, wine, and seafood. This diet defies processed and packaged foods, disproportionate staples to the American diet.
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, in stark contrast, have proven tremendous in the way of increasing life expectancy and reducing the risks of diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Surely the American lifestyle, in and of itself, is an inherent contributor to all the aforementioned. After all, your internal organs can only handle so much Cheezy Squeeze and Octuple Baconators, before they inevitably go boom and completely ruin your day.