If there is anything I learned as an avid Mary Kate and Ashley viewer, it is that your European adventure will most likely end with you speeding off into the Parisian sunset on the back of the moped of an obscure yet swarthy and handsome foreign man you’ve just met.
Well Mary Kate and Ashley should capitalize on their prophetic sight, and coach students before they go abroad: they were absolutely right. I have, as they prepared me so well for as an impressionable youth, found my moped-driving love in Madrid.
This love, however, did not involve cute C-grade actors. It also hasn’t been as effortless of a process as MK and Ashley made it out to be. It has involved pinching my pennies, pulling on increasingly tight pants over my “abroad-bod” and pouring over Yelp, trip advisor, and, my favorite social media application of all, FourSquare.
I am a shameless fool for love, struck by Cupid’s spatula; I am whipped.
The culinary experience I have had over the past few months has honestly been matchless. To be fair, I had no expectations about Spanish cuisine when I first arrived, but the food I’ve consumed has been superlative. I’ve had a culinary coming to god.
On a fundamental level, it’s important to know that the Spanish are big on their carbs, which act as key players at every meal. This means that you frequently see the Spaniards pulling carb-on-carb action that is sinfully good. For instance, most potato-based meals I have seen are accompanied by hefty portions of bread, like the perpetual sidekick of the plate. The same comes to pass with pasta dishes. These people are on to something, I tell you. A classic dish that is the paragon of many-carb magic is Spanish tortilla, which is a thick egg cake full of layers of potato slices, often served with bread, eaten at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Another fundamental dish that is muy típico in Spain is paella. While the Valencian Community created and mastered this meal, my madre española Pepa has made it her own, in a way that gives the entire autonomous community a run for their money. Her arroz negro, squid-ink paella with pieces of grilled calamari, is my favorite Spanish food hands down, and probably the best thing I have eaten over the past four months.
I also cannot in good conscience send a post out into the world about Spanish cuisine without mentioning the staples, meat and cheese. Jamón takes on a strange otherworldly role here in Spain. It is omnipresent. Not a day goes by without a full hog leg claiming its little pedestal spot in our kitchen. Ham goes into everything! Hidden in salads, cooked to lend its flavor to vegetables. I’ve seen ham flavored chips and candy shaped like a leg of ham. The air is potentially saturated with Jamón, which can’t be anything short of an insidious nightmare for many a vegetarian here. The cheese game is also strong. They have a berth of goat cheese, and queso fresco—which I still am not 100 percent able to identify in English—but my personal favorite is Manchego cheese (originally de La Mancha, like Don Quijote), which is a popular appetizer. There are also stronger cheeses that hail from different regions, like a bloomy cousin of Camembert from Galicia that Pepa has had me try a few times.
Basically, Spanish food rocks. Quality wine from the Rioja region is affordable, and when you order drink at a bar, it often is accompanied by a plate of tapas. So if anyone ever slanders Spanish cuisine… lucky you, more to enjoy yourself.