My curiosity of the Spanish culture and their exquisite foods began when I was quite young. I have always had an appreciation for the culture of Spain and it's appetizing foods. In high school, I volunteered in an English as a second language class in order to meet students from Spain and learn about their culture including their eating habits. With these interests, I developed a unique friendship with a girl named Arianna from Spain. We explored a curiosity in each others culture and foods. She is very family oriented and welcomed me to share in her family's eating customs. I was eager to go to her home and share a meal with them. This was my introduction to a distinct approach to eating.
One pleasant summer afternoon, I spent an entire day experiencing firsthand the typical eating patterns of my friend's Spanish family. The meals we ate were prepared skillfully and artistically by her family. They invited us into their kitchen to enjoy them and share in lively conversation. Since they spoke Spanish, I had a fun time trying to understand what was being communicated and also sharing a few words I had learned from my study of the language. The family unit is very important in Spain. I was treated like a family member which was a joyful experience. At around 8:00 am, we enjoyed a light breakfast. It consisted of a slice of toast with apricot jam, Torrijas (They are like bread pudding or french toast) and fresh squeezed orange juice. We had a mid-morning breakfast at 11:00am. We enjoyed bollos (small rolls). At 2:30pm, we enjoyed a three-course lunch. We were served vegetable soup, fresh fish, a green salad and flan (a rich custard) for desert. Following lunch, we enjoyed a 1 hour siesta. At 5:00pm, we enjoyed the merienda, a snack of Spanish hot chocolate, pastries and tapas (traditional Spanish appetizers). At 10:00pm, we enjoyed a light dinner. We were served paella (made from a variety of shellfish, sausage, vegetables and chicken), fresh fruit and fresh churros served hot and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Through my Spanish dinning experience, I learned about the Mediterranean diet which is followed by many people from Spain. It is considered to be one of the healthiest and most balanced diets on earth. It is primarily based on consumption of vegetable products. These are usually raw or minimally processed. The diet encourages consumption of cereals and pasta made from whole grains. Animal products are rarely consumed. Poultry is preferred. Up to four eggs a week can be eaten. High amounts of fish and seafood is included. Around 35% of its calories are derived from fat and it is low in saturated fat. Olive oil is preferred. One to two glasses of wine can be enjoyed daily with meals. This diet provides an abundance of antioxidants, fiber, photo chemicals and Omega-3 fatty acids. It may also provide for reduction in heart disease and forms of cancer.
As I thought back to my own American style of eating, I considered my typical eating patterns and the USDA food guide pyramid. For breakfast, I usually eat 2 eggs, have a bagel and some orange juice. For lunch, I may consume a vegetable salad, a turkey sandwich and a glass of herbal tea. For dinner, I may consume chicken, vegetables, milk and ice cream. I also like to have different kinds of fruits for snacks. The foods I eat are prepared quickly and consumed without much thought given to their preparation. The main time I usually eat with my family is on a holiday or family member's birthday. Due to my busy lifestyle, I may consume food from a fast food restaurant on occasion. After studying the USDA food guide pyramid, I learned the typical American diet usually contains more saturated fats and cholesterol than the Mediterranean diet which can lead to hardening of the arteries and increased risk of heart disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables that are not sprayed with chemicals are difficult to come by. One of my favorite learning experiences from my cultural dinning experience was exploring the Spanish culture's wisdom and creativity around the art and nutrition of their meals. I gained a new appreciation for food. It is a wonderful gift I have been provided. I look forward to sharing it with my family, friends and the people of the world.
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