Photo by Cloris Ying on Unsplash

Lessons Learned About Food, Dining, and Eating from Living in Spain

Catherine N Wight
5 min readSep 18, 2020

Socializing over good food is what Spaniards do best. Let’s live more.

In Spain, we have a saying about the essentials of life: good food, good wine, good sex, good sleep. ~Antonio Banderas

There is a saying in Spain that life is what happens between meals. Food is a social activity and is to be savored and shared with others. I never saw the family I lived with eating at the kitchen counter or in front of the tv.

Living abroad during in Spain undergrad was often a culture shock, but the food and eating customs were always a delight. I did not drink coffee before living in Spain, but I converted after enjoying endless hours with friends in cafés and restaurants.

One of my favorite dining stories of all time was on a trip to Toledo. A friend was an Ernest Hemmingway fan, and we had to eat in every place Hemmingway visited. I have a picture of my friend snoozing off his meal and wine in Plaza de Zocodover. I think he was dreaming happily of chasing windmills with Don Quixote.

My favorite Spanish meal is paella. It is a stew made ade mainly of seafood (mussels and shrimp), chicken, prosciutto, sausage, saffron, and Arborio rice that is cooked in a two-handled pan that also used for serving.Arborio rice. It is common in Spain to find that restaurants serve paella on Thursdays because many service people take Thursdays off. Paella sauce is easy to prepare in advance, so the restaurant only has to add the rice for service.

There is no gulping down your lunch to get back to work. In Spain, people believe in working to live, not living to work. Slow down.

Days are planned around meals in Spain. Restaurants are an important part of the culture. It can be a daily experience that can take up to 3 or 4 hours because what’s the rush?

In Spain, breakfast (el desayuno) is the smallest meal of the day. It is typically light and more like a continental breakfast than anything else. In the mornings, the Senora I lived with would often toast French bread in a pan, and there would always be plenty of coffee. Some days there would be a tray of other pastries the panaderia (bakery).

Catherine N Wight

Former restaurant reviewer and newspaper photographer. Married to a part-time goat farmer. BA Communications; MAEd.