So for those of you who didn’t know, I have been living with a Spanish host family since the beginning of January. My friend Danielle (who moved here with me last fall) decided not to return to Spain after the holidays, so I had to find a new living situation. Instead of living with other college students, I opted for a more authentic, immersive experience 🙂 And what an experience it’s been!
Being in Spain on my own coupled with living with this family has been challenging in a lot of ways. For one thing, my host parents don’t speak ANY English. Fortunately, they have two daughters – 18 and 9 – who go to bilingual schools and have a basic level of English, so they are able to help translate when needed… that is, if they’re around 😛 On the bright side, my Spanish is improving exponentially!
The best part of this new set-up that I get to eat meals with them, which means I’m finally ‘eating like a Spaniard’ in its truest form! I gotta say, it’s pretty darn sweet to have authentic Spanish meals cooked for me every night. And now I’ve got the inside scoop on a what real Spanish family’s diet looks like. I’ve observed SO much, but here are a few of their biggest customs:
- The juicer is my backup alarm clock. Every morning, without fail, my host dad makes freshly-squeezed orange juice with their electric juicer. That’s actually the normal way to consume orange juice here – every cafe/restaurant has a Zumex juicing machine where the whole oranges drop in and are cut and squeezed for a fresh cup. I love it! hashtag natural. The family’s machine is pretty loud so it has actually saved me more than a couple times from oversleeping 😛 Double win.
- It’s not a meal without bread. I couldn’t be more serious. There is a baguette on the table at E V E R Y meal, of course fresh from the bakery that day. Everyone gets a plain ripped-off piece and no one says “Oh actually I’m trying to cut back on carbs.” And if for some strange reason the bakery errand is overlooked, they bust out sandwich bread or hot dog rolls or something -ANYTHING- to prevent having a meal without bread!
- Seafood all day, err’ day. Fish, shellfish, and mollusks are a HUGE part of their diet. They’re often served at both lunch and dinner and it’s not unusual to have some type of seafood incorporated into most of the dishes on the table at any given meal. Shrimp, mussels, cockles, bivalves, squid, octopus, tuna, cod, salmon, anchovies, and more. I love fish, but personally I’ve never been a big fan of shellfish/mollusks (it’s a texture thing). That said, I’ll try anything once!
- Dinner’s at 10. I’d always heard about those late dinners, but not until I started living (and eating) with a family did I realize how very real this is. Since it is usually a light meal, it’s not too rough on the belly to be eating that late, but it does prevent me from getting my 8 hours of sleep that I used to love. “Pero bueno!”
- Dessert = fresh fruit. Now this is something I can really get on board with. It is very rare that they consume “dessert” the way I’ve always thought of it. No cookies and milk, no ice cream, and certainly not eating it after dinner since dinner is so late already. Instead, they put two bowls of fruit on the table after meals. Ever-present are clementines and oranges (native to Spain), bananas, and apples, with a wide variety of others rotating in and out. Only if there is company over will there be some sort of cake, but this is of course after lunch, not dinner.
And couple non-food-related notes, for fun 🙂 :
- Siestas are also a very real thing. My host mom (a “stay-at-home mom”) takes siestas religiously immediately after lunch and my host dad (who works from home) often does as well. A half hour nap on the couch or the bed will do, with an espresso shot upon waking up.
- Partying quite literally all night and returning home at 7 A.M. is perfectly normal. Of course I wouldn’t know 😉 , but the 18-year-old daughter has spent more than a couple nights like this. I have to laugh when I compare this to the way my parents treated me when I was 18, and we lived in a sleepy little town! Ah, cultural differences. Always good for a chuckle 🙂
I’ll definitely be posting more about life and food with my host family because I have SO much more to share, but for now you’ve got a little taste of what eating like a Spaniard is truly like 😉 .
Has anyone else lived with a host family in Spain or another country? What were your experiences like? Leave a comment!