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Hola!

What a question… On one side, it is great to find out about the interest on our habits. But… Oh boy, what a question…

Where to start… I guess we have a million typical habits. I would like to mention a few, but I would rather like to ask all of you back. PLEASE, help me out and leave your comments with what you think are the most typical habits of Spaniards.

meeting-and-talkingTALKING: First and probably most descriptive: We have the habit of talking, talking and talking. When we don’t, we laugh and sing loud all the time. The best of all, is that we have the habit of doing it all at the same time. When we are less happy about something, you get the same effect on the opposite: we discuss and complaint

We love our food!FOOD: We eat 6 times a day. Actually a very healthy habit, as I later found out. We have our breakfast, almuerzo, comida, merienda y cena. Ah, and drink coffee at all times of the day.

TIMING: We come late everywhere. Actually live late: Lunch late, dinner late, go out late… I guess you could talk about our “Late Back Mentality”

la-roja-celebraSOCCER: We watch soccer, talk about soccer, live soccer, love soccer. There is only one country in the world with more national soccer team coaches than Spain. It is Italy, and simply because it has a few more inhabitants.

PLAY ON WORDS: We have the habit of playing ith words constantly. make jokes about everything and invent double meanings and having 15 different words for everything.

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS: We also have a lot of small little habits that are very deeply anchored in ourselves. Such as listening to music everywhere and everytime, putting olive oil on everything (its healty and we love it), or parking in a “touchy” style. We call it to park “of hearing” (guess that is why they build car-bumpers and actually call them that way).

EXAGERATING: Last but not least, we have the habit of exagerating. We love to exagerate. It is our passion. We live for it. We can’t breathe without it. Day and night and night and day. 365 Sharing wine and talking; Amigos y vino tintodays a year, 24 hours a day, again and again, nonstop! Well, maybe I am exagerating a bit now.

But if there is a habit that would really describe us is the one of opening a bottle of red wine, sharing it with friends and talking for hours after lunch or dinner. You know what? I think I will grab a bottle of  “The Spanish Quarter” Cabernet-Tempranillo and walk over to the neighbours, see if they want to join a discussion about why we love being so “Late Back”…

Salud!
Francisco

Spain, with Cataluña on the top right corner Hola!

quite a touchy topic. But one that tends to generate frequent questions. It is a tough job to answer, but I guess I got into this position all by myself, when I opened the door for you guys to ask “Anything you want to know about Spain”…

To the point

First of all Barcelona is part of Cataluña and part of Spain. This is a political and legal fact. Period.

If that is the case, you wonder, why the heck is it at all being discussed. Well, first of all, because we like discussions. We love them, we need them. It is part of our culture and who we are. Secondly, and most important, because a large number of folks in this beautiful region in the northeast of Spain, think and feel that Cataluña should be independent. And I guess we all agree, that democracy is quite a helpful invention, despite greek…

Historically…

You must accept that it is a daring step from me to actually threaten you with “History”. BUT, see if you enjoy this more free interpretation of it… Ah! And I promise there is a bottom line.

First paper ever written in Catalan languageGosh, wonder where to start… After 700 years of muslim ocupation, Spain finally had managed to fight back its independency. The famous Catholic Kings held most of the country together. By the way, these are the same kings that sponsored Columbus’ discovery of America and that are therefore -very indirectly- responsible for watergate and the superbowl.

Cataluña kept a certain independence. It was never very monarchic, nor very keen on being included in the rest of the big Spanish party. But that independence did not held long. Roughly until 1700, where the Secession War in Spain ended with the Bourbon Crown Family as imposed kings of the whole country. It would have been easy to simpathise with such a great branded family, but… Somehow I recon that the problem started right there . This is …

… a very personal theory built on thin ice …

Catalonia is a wine region. You probably know that by know, since our shared loyal sympathy for “The Spanish Quarter“, our favourite Spanish wine, whose winery is in the heart of Cataluña. Nevermind. I truly believe, that the root cause for the opposition to monarchy was a perceived brand conflict. “We are a wine nation“, the Catalonians thought, “We can not swear trust and loyalty to no Bourbon“. I personally have nothing against Bourbon. “Jack and Ginger” tastes like candy and sounds like a lovesong. A good combination once in a while. But let’s face it, a good “Cabernet-Tempranillo” just does the better job…

Maybe Catalonians were too susceptible. Maybe they made too big of a deal out of a conflict originated in the choice for the right drink. But I guess history took its path and here is where we landed…

Politically…

No, don’t worry. Just kiddin’, I won’t go there. Trust should be honored, not abused. And as you might know, I hate politics anyways.

sagrada-familia-by-nightThe promised bottom line

I think the best part of this whole story lies the process itself. God, we love to discuss and debate. So the best thing that can happen, is for neither “side” to win, but for the discussion to keep going forever. It is a bit like our beloved “Sagrada Familia“, Gaudi’s unfinished master piece. Probably the most spectacular and one of the best known Cathedrals in the world. Under construction since almost 100 years. Scheduled to be finished in 1926, but still far from being finished. We might never finish it. But -again here- we enjoy the process. That’s the fun, isn’t it?

So why don’t we leave it there for today, and get back to where we started, in the heart of beautiful Cataluña, close to “The Spanish Quarter” winery, with a glass of red in our hand, and some friends to start a hot discussion about this topic and my theory. What do you think?

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

that is a long question you must think. And you are right. I am still figuring out how to position the questions in the headline. Tips are welcome. Heck some of you really have complicated way to express your doubts and questions… But I love it.wondering-about-waking-up

Nevermind. To the point.

A great question that I enjoy in all its different versions. The relaxed but still intense lifestyle in Spain is indeed something that surprises foreigners a lot.

First of all: it is true. It is not a rumour.

Some of the reasons:

1) We do sleep less
2) We start to work later
3) We make more breaks
4) We need longer for most things (not always a bad thing).

Bottom line: yes, we are more relaxed.


Here comes an average day of a Spaniard living in a major city (which might be the closest it can get to American lifestyle).

desayuno de churros y cafe 7 to 8
Wake up call. Rush in the bathroom. Breakfast honours the second part of the word: fast, faster, Spanish breakfast. Most of the time it is a bite and dark coffee. It might be in your own home or downstairs in the cafetería. Nothing beats churros at that time.

8 – 9
Get to work. Bus, car, tube, train… Maybe a quick stop on the way for a coffee? If you work in a store, you start towards 9.30 or 10.


11 – 12
We take a break. Coffee, maybe churros (delicious grasy and sweet. Sort of the sinful version of doughnouts) , a fruit if you are on the healty side.


14-16
Lunch break. We go out and most often have a proper meal. And yes, we most of the time have a glass of wine with lunch. A healthy habbit if you ask me. The lucky ones manage to get home, eat, have a 30 min nap and go back to work. That is what we call “siesta”. My father did tis programm all his life. Or you do like a good friend of mine, who lived too far from work to go home, but had it quite close to his mothers place. He had the luxury of eating at mums for half his career.


La sobremesa de los tertulianos16 – 19
Afternoon session. If you have a meeting, there goes the afternoon. Take it easy. Have a coffee. A “cortado” (a cut coffee), which is an expresso with a tiny bit of milk.
Or have a “cafe con leche” if you are less in a hurry.

19 – 21
Go back home. Kick off your shoes. Or have a glass of wine with friends or colleagues after work. Do some shopping if need be, or if you did not get to it during lunch break. Or put your kids to bed if you have any… Or you start preparing dinner…

21-22
Dinner. We love cooking. The cocooning trend happens in Spain often in the kitchen. I call it “Cookooning”. But if there is something we love equally as much is going out for dinner. Either or, the whole procedure happens most often as of eight or nine in the evening, and goes till midnight, and is accompanied by wine and a good conversation.


22-24
Having una copa de vino tinto de sobremesaWhat we call “sobremesa”, meaning “over-table”. We keep seated and talk talk talk. Or tell jokes or, yes, lets be honest, we watch television. At more or less midnight we go to bed. The rest is rest.


Having said all of this: We also have commuters, half day workers, single parents and all sorts of byproducts from a high speed globalized world. And yes, we are getting more and more influenced by other cultures and countries (I call it the tupperware-effect).

Maybe that is why I try to share a bit of Spain with the world. Who knows, maybe we end up saving some of the relaxed attitude. Want to give me a hand and spread the word?

Or jusy try to do it and get back to me with your feedback. In the meantime, I will finish my glass of The Spanish Quarter red wine and go to bed. It will soon be 1 o’clock. But don’t worry, my first meeting starts at 10. I think I will sleep in and blame it on the traffic ;-).

Salud!

Francisco

Hola!

two of those please!I don’t get it. It actually drives me nuts. Why is one of the few sentences every foreigner that comes to Spain knows “dos cervezas, por favor”?

People don’t get it! We are a wine nation. Actually I believe we are THE wine nation. Yes we have great beers. Worldwide famous and ubiquous “San Miguel” or increasingly trendy Barcelona beer icon “Estrella” to name a few. But its beer!

Can you imagine two brits coming to spain and ordering (nevermind an eventually perfect accent) “dos platos de pescado empanado frito y patatas fritas con vinagre” (which would be “fish’n’chips’n’vinegar”)? Or two Germans ordering “codillo de cerdo al horno con albondigas gigantes de patata y miga de pan y zucrut” (that would be “Schweinshaxe mit Knoedel und Sauerkraut”. Sorry for the last one, there is no true translation for “Sauerkraut”).

I guess you get my point. There is a famous saying that reads: “in Rome do as the Romans and in Spain drink wine” (few people know this second part of it…)

So today we go for a simple Spanish lesson. Erease the beer from your hard disk and repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor” (notice I made it quite easy through replacement).

Another advantage: “vino” is red-wine-cheersnot only tastier and more authentic, but also easier to pronounce than “cerveza”.

How much do you have to know about wine or Spanish wine before drinking it? Nothing! Wine knowledge is anyways overrated. People talk too much about it and drink too little.

Once again, repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor”. See? already much better.

Come to Spain and practice. If you can’t right now, have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and practice with friends.

Salud!
Francisco

“Buen provecho!”

O “Que aproveche”. Music to my ears! It is Spanish for “enjoy your meal”, or “bon appetit”, which has turned out to be the almost universal expresion.

When we don’t laugh or sing in Spain, it is often for one reason: our mouth is full. Which take us to

Reason Nr 3 for loving Spain: FOOD

paellaA couple of our dishes have definetly made the round. “Paella” is probably the most famous one. No, it is not our national dish. As you probably know by now, Spain is a country full of nuances and differences. There is not one Spain, there are infinite Spains with lots in common.

But back to the kitchen. We have “Cocido Madrileño” in Madrid: heavy but delicious. “Fideua” in Cataluña: similar to paella, but with noodles and of course alioli. “Gazpacho” in Sevilla: a refreshing and actually quite light cold vegetable soup. “Rabas” in north Spain: one of the tastiest ways to prepare octopus.

tapitasWe love garlic, we love olive oil, we love meat, fish or vegetables, we love cooking, we love Food. Trust me and give it a try: you will love Spanish food!

We might have exported less dishes than the Italians (they managed to steal pasta from China and pizza from north Africa, but no one beats them at selling that stuff).

We might have less sophisticated dishes than the French (or at least less sophisticated sounding, since I believe one of the keys of success is to make a fish soup and call it “Vichisoise” or similar).

But Spain is the only country I can think of that has succesfully exported an eating philosphy: Tapas. You can read about it in an earlier post. Before you do so, I suggest you treat yourself to a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and enjoy the reading.

Salud!
Francisco

New Year’s Eve: Probably the single biggest party event in the world. Independently of religion or believe, this seems to be the day that the largest amount of people globally have agreed to celebrate.

Dinner is of course spectacular. It seems like a revival of the Christmas Eve Dinner that I described in a recent post. Only that this time, mood is generally even happier and everyone has a bit of uncle Antonio. After all, we have had a lot of “dinner rehersals” over the past days.

puerta-del-solThe big moment comes. We are approaching midnight. You can welcome the new year at home with family and friends or in a bigger party, which we call “cotillon“. But the most fun is to celebrate in the streets.

In most countries the year enters with a countdown. We do it infront of the television, with the twelve bells from the midnight clock. There is the official clock in Madrid at the Puerta del Sol. By the way this is theoretically the exact center of Spain, with its “kilometro 0”. Most roads in Spain count their distances in km from this point. But that’s a different story…

The funniest and most peculiar tradition for new year are the twelve “lucky grapes”. One grape per bell tone. You might have heard about it and thought it was a myth. It is not. I promise. This year, the tradition has its 100 year anyversary, since it seems to have been initiated in 1909. The overstock of grapes of that year was distributed to celebrate the new year with the wish of prosperity. As you can imagine, a day or two before the 31st of December, grape prices sky rocket.

12 uvas de la suerteAt midnight, everyone stares at the TV, waiting for the clock to ring the twelve bell tones. It would be too simple to just ring twelve times, and you would not need TV moderators for it. We like it complicated: first you have a lot of small bells that announce the four quarter bell tones. Then -surprise- you get the four quarter bell tones. Their are double tones (sort of “dind-dong”) so it is actually 8 tones. Then – FINALLY – the twelve tones of midnight. Everyone puts a grape in the mouth per bell tone. This all happens at high speed amd everyone is excited. Plus: twelve grapes is a lot. That is why, by the time the new year actually enters, 40 million people in Spain have their mouth full, absolutely full of grapes. We will consume about 1.500 tons of grapes in the 36,6 seconds that the procedure lasts all together. This is why “happy new year” in Spain is “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”. This is more or less how “feliz año nuevo” sounds when your mouth is full. No matter how often you practice, how many times you tried to say Pamplona with a polvoron in your mouth. It is a mess. And it is terribly funny. We love it…


I have enjoyed new year’s eve in a few different countries in the world. No matter where and in what time zone I was: I always had my twelve grapes with me, and I always started the countdown at 12 to 12. And I always got funny looks from those around me. And last but not least, my new year always started with:
“fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”

Maybe this year I will try to have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Chardonnay-Albariño to spill down the grapes.

Salud and “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”
Francisco

The clock is ticking! You have your grapes ready? What do you mean “what do I mean”? Let me recover from the Christmas madness and I will soon tell you. Promised!

Salud!
Francisco

Feliz Navidad!

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas eve. I hope you have enjoyed and/or survived your traditions, your alc-punch, the food and the family.

We in Spain also have our traditions. Not better or worse. Like so often, just different. Lets look at a few:

turron duro

FOOD: No, we will not eat Paella for Christmas. It is interesting, but we do not have a super-standard-Christmas-dinner, like a the turron blandoUSA-Turkey (By the way, it always sounded more like a soccer game than a menu for me… Anyhow). Dinner menu in Spain varies largely by region. But for dessert, we all have the world-famous turron. There are two versions of it: the hard one and the soft one. Both delicious. Selection is purely based on teeth and cheek strength. Other than turron, we have polvorones and mantecados. All of these delicious specities consist on honey and almonds. All are terribly tastefull and full of calories.polvoron

Ah! Don’t forget to practice Spains favourite Christmas sports: say “Pamplona” with the mouth full of polvorones. Quite a funny sports I must say…


DRINKS:
Guess… yes of course we drink Spanish red and white wine with our dinner. But not that many people know cavaabout the outstanding sparkling wonder of spanish cellars. “CAVA”. Easier to pronounce than “Champagne”, at least half as expensive and equally tasteful. You don’t believe it? Find out yourself! Check out a bottle of e.g. Codorniu Cava. This is Spain’s oldest producer, and the inventor of Cava method (which is exactly the same than Champagne, but in Spain). I bet with you you won’t tell the difference. And if you do… boy, you missed a career as somelier, or you are just too posh for this world…

MUSIC: You will hardly hear me say anything negative about Spain. Not that I am biosed, there is just little negative to say;). But Christmas songs… Yoy have to know, that the ones in charge of carols in Spain are exclusively the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. But with the amount of sugar they get, and the fact that they have already been on vacation for a while by the time they get there, it can get a bit too much. Let me see if I can find an example for your -ehem- “enjoyment”. We should let them grow up, learn how to sing, come down from sugar and try again.

PRESENTS: Everywhere in the Christian world kids are now coming down from hyperactivity  after an overdose of sweets and the excitement prior to the opening of the presents. Not in Spain! Yep: probably as a remainder of the dark years of sadistic Spanish inquisition, we keep them suffering a few weeks more. Until the 6th of January, to be precise. The three Magic Kings from orient (which indeed sounds like the party menu of a famous burger restaurant brand) are the ones in charge of the presents. That gives us Spaniards a bit more of time to get our presents.

BUT WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
Some things though, seem to be definetly common to all of Spain, but also the parts of the world that I have the pleasure to celebrate Christmas in:
1) There is too much to eat and to drink
2) Dinner lasts for hours and hours
3) Uncle antonio gets terribly drunk and starts telling dirty jokes
4) Aunt Maria breaks up in tears because grandma used to love so much these reunions, and now she no longer here
5) Whoever has brought the most kids acts and feels the most important and is actually the most anoying
6) It is impossible to agree on music or which television program to watch
7) There is always someone who mentions, that we should enjoy each other and forget about TV/music (and he/she is right, though nobody listens).

But most importantly: great moments are shared, great feelings are in the air and something special covers the night when we all finally go to bed.

Feliz Navidad!
Francisco

Hola!pizarra-de-tapas

The other day I promised to get back to our beloved “tapas” experience. As you have learned, Tapas were tasty small bites you got for free to accompany your drink.

Unfortunately we have lost the authentic tradition of Tapas in many places. Restaurants in most cities have moved on to charge you for Tapas.

How come? Probably one day tourists started showing up and asking at the end how much it was for the bite. Or eventually pushed the Tapa back saying “I have not ordered that and I am not going to pay for it”. After a while of such visitors, owners certainly realized, that they could charge money for it. And they started doing so.

Good news: it is not everywhere like this. My favourite city in Spain for Tapas is Granada. I said it… They still keep up the tradition there.

A truly authentic and worthwhile experience: go “de tapeo” in Granada. Enter a bar, order a drink, enjoy it with your tapa. Notice: if you order a second drink, you will get a second, but different tapa. Go to the next place, order a drink, enjoy it with your tapa… That is to have a real “tapas” dinner. It usually takes many hours of walking, meeting people, trying new things and -of course – enjoying food, wine and talking.

A great place where you get some of the best Tapas in Granada is in the “barrio de la Chana” (the Chana quarter). Tons of bars with authentic Spanish people. Tasty! My overall favourite Tapas bar is somewhere else, close to the univeristy area. It is called “la Papa”. All tapas are made out of potatos. Simple, tasty and very creative.

At this stage I would like to invite everyone to PLEASE submit your favourite cities for Tapas and your favourite Tapas bars.

And don’t forget to enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco

You are going to love this one!compartiendo tapitas con vino

Tapas are becoming more and more popular. I am amazed, happy and proud when I see more and more tapas bars popping up all over the world. In most cases they are actually quite good.

What very few people know, is where the name and the tradition come from.

First you need to know, that the word “tapa” means “lid” in Spanish.

Then, you need to grasp a bit of our culture: Spaniards love to talk, discuss, joke and sing together. We love also to go out. A perfect evening has often been to leave home and go “de tapeo”. Could be translated in “go tapa-ing”.

This has always been like this, also in times where higenic laws were more easy going, and bars -specially in the summer- were full of flies. We don’t drink quick. Steadily and during hours, but not quickly. To avoid flies getting into your glass of vino tinto (red wine), you got your glass served with a lid. That lid was a sliece of bread or a tiny plate with something on top. It could be a slice of jamon serrano (the best ham in the world, which deserves an own post), cheese or any other tasty something.

And as you might have guessed, this bite literally served as “lid”, which in spanish is “tapa”. That’s all the mistery.

Some things have changed with the time: bars are clean, have few/no flies etc. We still love to talk and drink and eat at the same time. And we love the tradition of offering a tasty bite.

Unfortunately you get charged for your tapas in more and more places every time. But not everywhere! I will soon get back to you with more about this though

Till then: enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco

Yes, amigos…jamon en jamonera con botella y copa de vino

Today we talk about the meat. Let’s put some flesh to the bones of our little global culinary village.

I want to bring you a bit closer the king of all kings and non plus ultra of delicatessen. Yes: we are talking about Spanish ham. The one and only Jamon Iberico.

I like to think: It is not the pork, its what you make of it. Means: Of course all countries have their way of honoring the beatiful combination of hunger, talent, creativity and pork meat. But you can not beat Jamon Iberico (excusi cari amici Italiani).

Let’s revise briefly:

GERMANY: the most efficient. True. Kuddos to them: No other country in the world has more different variety of sausages and ways to prepare pork meat. They got it fully engeneered… Deserves recognition, sure. But non of their multiple creations can beat Jamon Iberico…

FRANCE: The most glamorous. Of course. Ces’t clair. Le France ces’t le France. Le grande nation. Sauchichonne, jambon, saucisse, boudin… Bonne. Sorry… You can not beat Jamon Iberico.

ENGLAND: you all knew this was going to be a short one…

ITALY: the best salesman. This is the toughest one. “Why Italians are better at selling” deserves an own post. Let me know if you are interested and I will do my besvino tinto y jamon serranot. But now in a nutshell: their parma ham is not bad. Sure: salchiche picante con pomodoro e pasta… Not bad. Mortadella… It all tastes great. And they know how to cut it, celebrate it, pack it (and -for God sake- how to price it. BUT: if you catch them in an honest moment they will recognize pressing between hard bitten teeth… “You-e can-e not-e beat-e Jamon-e Iberico”. (By the way: if you care and ask, I will be happy to explain-e why-e Italians-e hav-e to speak-e with-e an “-e” at the end of each word…e)

SPAIN: oooops!

This one deserves an own post.

Easy. Think about it, enjoy global pork creations and come back soon. Or drop a question! You might get an answer mañana… While you wait, enjoy a glass of  “The Spanish Quarter” Cabernet Tempranillo or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco