For Happiness and Longevity
Spain has been among the top countries in life expectancy for decades, and its residents are considered some of the happiest and most cheerful people. The secret lies not only in the sunny Mediterranean climate, in the measured way of life, in the high level of medical care, but also… in the wonderful Spanish "diet". Attention! Side effects of this article may include an uncontrollable desire to rush out for tapas and sangria right now!
Spanish gastronomy is primarily about seafood and a large amount of vegetables. It's no wonder that for many, this is the ideal Mediterranean diet. All sorts of vegetables – from carrots to artichokes – are available year-round. Fresh fish, shrimp, squids, octopuses... whether baked, grilled, or under various sauces... salivating yet? We're sure you are. And here, these products are not only fresh and insanely tasty, but also affordable. A kilogram of salmon or shrimp can be bought for 8-9 euros.
Meat is also popular among Spaniards. They enjoy grilling beef, turkey, chicken, and the famous Iberian pork, from which the world-renowned ham is made. The ham comes in two types: "Serrano" and the more expensive "Iberico", which can be easily identified by the black hoof. They differ not only in the method and duration of preparation, but most importantly – in the breed of pigs and their diet. "Serrano" is classified by aging (from 7 to 36 months), while "Iberico" by the diet of the black pigs (it can be only acorns, predominantly acorns, or a mix with fodder). It's important to know that hamon is specifically the rear leg of the pig, while the front leg is called "paleta".
How is the most famous Spanish appetizer made? Raw meat is covered with a large amount of salt, which dehydrates and naturally preserves it. The whole process can take up to 3 years! No wonder that after such a "strict diet" and time investment, the product turns out to be quite expensive. By the way, this year farmers are very concerned about the lack of acorns for Iberian pigs, which might make traditional tapas a rarer and therefore more expensive product soon. In specialty stores or even supermarkets, you can buy a whole leg. To slice the hamon yourself, you'll need a special stand (hamonera) and a long, narrow knife. It's a complex task, and a hamon cutting specialist takes a long time to learn the craft, so we recommend buying pre-sliced hamon.
Spaniards generally love snacks, which are called "tapas" here. If you observe the locals during lunches and dinners, you'll notice that they mainly order a large number of different snacks for everyone. Tapas can be both cold and hot.
Traditional cold dishes include jamón, local cheeses, and olives, of which there are more than a dozen variations: with garlic, almonds, pepper, etc. In the summer season, Spaniards adore gazpacho and salmorejo – these are cold vegetable puree soups. Gazpacho is even reminiscent of tomato juice with spices, but it is indeed an excellent dish in the heat. Locals also love "ensalada mixta" – it's simply a mix of salad with fresh vegetables, corn, egg, and tuna, and the portion is usually huge. Very often, you can find "ensaladilla rusa," or "Russian salad," on the menu. It consists of potatoes and carrots, canned tuna, egg, peas (although sometimes they are omitted, which is a pity), and a lot of mayonnaise.
Hot appetizers are diverse and often replace main dishes for Spaniards: grilled squids or fried in batter, tiny fried squids "chipirones", fish in batter, shrimp in boiling garlic oil... All incredibly tasty.
Another traditional Spanish dish, which can be served both hot and cold, is tortilla, or potato omelet. Housewives love to cook it for breakfast: quick, filling, suitable for both children and adults. Potatoes and onions are cut into thin pieces, fried, covered with a beaten egg mixture, and baked until ready. This is the Spanish version of our potato casserole.
If one can find fault with Spanish snacks for their high oil content, the main dishes are purely beneficial. Locals love to grill fresh meat, fish, and vegetables – simple, tasty, and super healthy. Of course, we will tell more about the main Spanish dish – paella.
Paella is known worldwide and can be tasted in any local cuisine restaurant in Spain. But the dish originated in the Valencia autonomy – "paella" in Valencian means "pan". The name makes clear the cookware used – a large pan with two handles (in restaurants, you can see huge ones about a meter in diameter). The dish is cooked over a fire. Usually, the broth is prepared first (seafood, meat, or vegetable, depending on the type), additional ingredients are slightly fried, rice of a certain type is added, covered with broth, and stewed over a fire until the grain is ready. Ingredients for a beautiful appearance (shrimp, mussels) are also laid on top. Saffron – the world's most expensive spice, made from the stamens of crocuses, with just 1 gram costing 10 euros – is essential for paella. Saffron not only gives the dish aroma and a golden color but also additional health benefits. The result is a very filling, tasty, and beautiful dish that everyone who comes to Spain must try. It is believed that a good hostess knows and prepares at least a dozen variations of paella, and each region has its traditional recipe: in Valencia – with rabbit.
Of course, it's impossible to imagine Spanish cuisine without olive oil, but that's a topic for another article.
Spaniards also eat a lot of fruits. No wonder: citrus crops are available all year round, and in various regions, peaches, pomegranates, persimmons, pears, bananas, cherries... grow. In summer and winter, juicy melons and aromatic sweet strawberries are available in the market.
With such a "diet," it's impossible not to be happy. After all, it's full of benefits, flavors, vitamins, and joy. And what's even better – relatively low prices for all these delights. Come to Spain and experience firsthand how juicy and vibrant life can be.