A Taste of Spain and A Healthy Lesson in Mindful Eating
Spain is not only about what you eat…but how you eat.
Midway through September, I took a ten-day excursion to Spain for a long-anticipated reunion. My travels included Barcelona, in Spain’s Catalonia region on the Mediterranean coast, and a few days in San Sebastian and Bilbao of the Northern Basque region.
The best part about the trip was that it was solely about relaxation and enjoyment of the Spanish culture. And all I can say is, mission accomplished.
Tapas: an ideal way to pace yourself
Most people are familiar with the concept of “tapas” – light portion sizes that are rich in ingredients and flavor. With servings drawn out over a long period of time, tapas allow for relaxed enjoyment, leisurely sampling and sharing.
While tapas-style is not the only way to dine in Spain, it was definitely the preferred approach during my visit. And while I was originally excited simply to experience all of the seafood tapas that Mediterranean Barcelona would inevitably offer, some of my favorites also included some surprising alternatives such as brightly flavored and colorful gazpacho; patatas bravas, cut like French fries with a cream and red pepper sauce drizzled over top or cut like large roasted potato cubes cooked in a spicy/salty hot pepper oil; ham and cheese croquettes; and, of course, the plate full of mussels that tasted gloriously of ocean water.
Pintxos: variety is the spice of life
Once we moved north into the Basque region, tapas gave way to pintxos (“peen-chos”), which honestly looked at first like some sort of Golden Corral buffet of tapas. Lines of baguette slices topped with a variety of meats and cheeses and salty vegetables and olives adorned the counters of most restaurants in San Sebastian and Bilbao. Customers just walked right in, picked up a small plate of one to three pintxos and either sat at the counter or stood with friends and drinks, nibbling and chatting, then refilling their plates whenever the need arose. In this instance, pintxos were more an appetizer or a snack than an actual meal.
“Are these things even fresh?” was my only thought as I surveyed the variety of pintxos spread across the restaurant bar tops. But after ordering some memorable salmon and jamòn pintxos atop hearty pumpernickel bread and watching the chefs rotate in new, hot pintxos from the ovens every few minutes, I found myself sold on the whole idea. (Side note: it was at this same restaurant that we accidentally ordered the blood sausage because we wanted to try out the regular menu. Incentive to stick to the pintxos? Absolutely.)
Menu del dia: doing it up on a budget
We also enjoyed dining from the “Menu del dia.” Usually a four- to six-course prix fix menu that changed daily according to what ingredients the restaurant had readily available. These affordable, yet gourmet-quality tapas-like meals were paced and tastefully planned for you (with optional wine pairings!). A few of the highlights: quinoa salad with cucumber, lime and green apple foam (brilliant!); roasted tomatoes stuffed with squid and vegetables atop squid ink risotto; fork-tender lamb medallions; peach gnocchi with vanilla frozen yogurt and a lemon-lime sauce reduction; and small squares of stuffed French toast.
The whole experience was certainly a departure from the typical American-style menu focused primarily on main entrees. The tapas-style meals were a fun way to experience a variety of different tastes in a single dining experience, especially in a new cultural setting. And in my opinion, the experience also fostered more focus on extended, quality conversations and quality time spent together with your dining companions. But then again, I think that’s precisely the point.
Contributed by Katherine Dyer, GMM Customer Service Representative
Katherine is new to the Atlanta area and joined the GMM customer service staff in March 2012. Armed with a mission to spread access to good nutrition and healthy lifestyles, she is proud to be part of the team at Good Measure Meals and Open Hand. When Katherine is not at her desk, striving to provide customers with top-notch assistance, you’ll most likely find her on the jogging trails, at Atlanta’s weekend farmers markets, or hiking in the mountains.