CHRISTINE MAKUWA- I don’t like eggs. Since I was a little girl, I wouldn’t eat them unless they were baked into a cake or used for breading chicken. This aversion to eggs therefore made me very nervous about adjusting to the Spanish diet. The simple idea of a Tortilla Española (basically eggs and potatoes) was incredibly unappealing to me. More than that, I don’t really eat pork, didn’t like fish and had trouble accepting soup was an actual food. Luckily for me, my food tastes have adapted some and I have learned to appreciate Spanish cuisine.
I am extremely lucky to have host parents who love to cook, and are good at cooking. I’ve definitely heard several people express dissatisfaction at typical Spanish food, whether by lamenting the unavailability of kale or the excess of bread. But with Joanna and Rubén I’ve been beyond satisfied with a phenomenal combination of traditional (Favourites: salmorejo and berenjenas rellenas) and not so traditional (Favourites: thai noodles and baked goat cheese in pomodoro) food. Contrary to what others have said, I have found Spanish food to be very flavorful and varied even though bread is served with every meal.
Potentially my favorite part about food in Spain, is not necessarily Spanish food itself, but rather the myriad of international cuisine I have found to be easily accessible. One of my favorite restaurants is the Pupusería in Villaverde Bajo (one stop south from Sol on the Renfe) specializing in Central American food. Before the all womyn IFG meeting that brought me to the Pupusería, I had no idea that “pupusa” meant very cheap fried rice based thick tortilla filled with a combination of usually meat, beans and cheese. Pupusas are a deliciously satisfying comfort food that I am so glad I found them. I have since been to the Pupusería three times and am working my way up to *local status*.
Another one of my favorite restaurants is a little Italian place only a twenty minute walk from my house called Il Pastaio. This place has my undying love for three reasons: 1. Free fresh mozzarella for an appetizer (but you have to pay for the bread) 2. Home made pasta 3. 10,50€ Menú del día covered by the daily food stipend. Most restaurants in Madrid (and other cities in Spain) will offer the option of a complete menu including two courses, dessert and a beverage for a flat fee from Monday to Friday. Menú del Día prices usually range from 7.50€ to 14.50€ but in almost all cases you receive most amount of food for the least amount of money relative to the rest of their menu. Menú del día is a great way to give yourself a true Spanish culinary experience, or in this case it’s a cheap way to get some really really really good pasta.
Last weekend the program took us on a two day trip to Logroño and Bilbao to get a taste of some of the best wine and food Spain has to offer. Logroño is the capital of La Rioja, a region about four hours north of Madrid famous for its red wine. Unsurprisingly, the tour of a vineyard and subsequent wine tastings were incredible. Bilbao is a gorgeous city in País Vasco famous for its pintxos and overall gastronomic excellence. Pintxos are essential Basque tapas, but are bigger and better. Even though the pintxos were great, my favorite culinary experience from Bilbao was the rotisserie chicken. After two hours of traditional Basque “games,” I found myself eating an entire half chicken, mashed potatoes and french fries in under twenty minutes. It was one of my most satisfying and proudest moments this semester.