CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Spring 2013
Home School: Carlson School of Management
The very first night that I arrived in Barcelona I went out with a few other CIEE participants in search of some local cuisine. We walked around aimlessly until finally deciding on a small, quaint restaurant that contained a few locals enjoying tapas. We sat down and were given menus in Catalan which rendered my small comprehension of Spanish useless. My eyes glanced over the menu for a while until I found the word Paella and decided that Spain’s national dish should be a good way to start my orientation to Barcelona.Then the server brought out the huge pan of paella there was one important detail I had overlooked, the seafood was still in-shell. Now this didn’t bother me with regards to my appetite but as Americans we are used to everything being ready to eat with little work to be done. So here I was in Spain and I didn’t even know how to eat the local food. The paella tasted great but the shrimp just required too much work, not to mention a bit of embarrassment as the waiter watched me struggle through my meal.
Needless to say Spanish cuisine is very different from what we are used to back in America. Also, Spanish food is one of the few culinary types that has so far failed to be Americanized, rendering it even more foreign versus let’s say Italian, Chinese, or Mexican food. Even the way the Spanish eat is vastly different than America. Now I believe that this unfamiliarity with Spanish food has made my study abroad experience even more exciting because I was unable come here with any expectations whatsoever.
After living in Barcelona for nearly two months, I have to say that going out for Tapas has to be one of my favorite gastronomical experiences in Spain. In America we have to choose just one dish and then we get a huge portion of it whereas in Spain I can sample as many dishes as my pocketful of euros can buy me.
I believe one of the best ways to get to know a culture is through food. This is why I’ve spent much of my time here doing my best Anthony Bourdain impression by sampling the local cuisine whenever possible in order to get a better understanding of the Spanish way of life. So far so good, but I still have barely scraped the surface of the local gastronomic history and tradition. Next up, Anchovies?
**Check out this great guide to Catalan Foods! http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/restaurants/catalan/catalan-cuisine-guide.html
*** Anthony Bourdain's Spain episode(s) are fantastic! Check out the Calçotada at 18mins: