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How the pandemic is changing our eating habits in Spain

How the pandemic is changing our eating habits in Spain

Old Oct 29th, 2020, 12:14 AM
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How the pandemic is changing our eating habits in Spain

"Spain is different" was the motto used by the Tourism Bureau of Spain in the 60s and 70s. That was quite true in many aspects, one of them being our meal times. As those of you that have visited Spain now, our lunch time is around 2pm and involves a big meal, while our dinners are normally "late" if compared to many other countries (the earliest in a restaurant was around 9pm...and that was very early). My parents never had dinner before 10pm, and our premium TV shows begin around 10 or 1030pm, so people go to bed kind of late. But this schedule fits very well into our way of living, maybe more for the mediterranean area than for the north (where I live), we are very social people and like to stay out in the streets hanging out with friends and family until late. Going home after work is not an option for most people.

Of course, the times they are a-changinī and the new generations are slowly becoming more "European" in schedules. and now you find lots of persons having dinner between 9 and 0930pm (normally a light one). But what has really changed our eating habits is this pandemic. Given the current (and possibly, long lasting) limitations in bar and restaurants opening hours, there are two big changes: one is the "tardeo", the "eveninging", quite common in our weekends now. That is, going out early (6pm) and getting home early (11pm), after socializing in bars the way we do (going from place to place with short stops in each one), with friends, kids and family. Before, people went out at 9 and returned home at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning (the young generation mainly, but also many in their 40s and 50s), on Friday and Saturday nights. That is not an option anymore. And the other one is the change in dinner time: restaurants now are sending messages in all social media to let diners know that there are new early dinner schedules: you can have dinner at practically any place from 8pm onwards.

A big change in our way of life and weīll see if it will last, next time you come to Spain from the US or other countries youīll probably be surrounded also by locals and not only by tourists when you have your dinner at 8pm!!

What a huge blow for the hospitality industry in Spain this pandemic has been...
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 05:29 AM
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That's interesting to hear. I had read a few years ago that the long lunch time (siesta) where businesses closed was problematic for businesses that did business with other countries - to be closed for so long in the middle of the day, and was therefore slowly becoming less common. Though I'm not sure that makes much sense given global interactions where times are so different from one continent to the other. I totally understand why warm weather countries do the siesta mid day, and therefore have later dinner hours. But I never understood why that dinner hour was so much later and as you said, the post dinner socializing going till 3 or 4 in the morning. On my first trip to Spain we arrived in Cordoba mid afternoon and had not had lunch since we were in transit. We intended to eat something but were so excited to see the Mezquita that by the time we were done it was around 19:00 (7 pm) and every type of eating establishment was closed. No lunch, no dinner, couldn't even find any place to get a snack. We were starving. We finally sat on the steps behind the thousand year old building as it got dark and as the lights came on, and then, right across the street we spotted a Burger King. I've since wised up re eating times in Spain.
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 06:52 AM
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Very interesting, Isabel. A thing I always tell my US guests is that our lunch is close to your dinner, in terms of quantity and length of time. And your lunch is our dinner, which for us is normally something quite light (an omelette, or a soup, or a salad, or just some fruit and a yoghourt). Luckily, we still (donīt know for how long, given the quick changes in our society) like to cook at home, and we have a strong cooking culture. I donīt know anybody that has a sandwich in front of their computer while working, thatīs still a big no-no for us. Lunch time takes around one hour, as it involves talking, a slow coffee....And siesta is mostly a myth, my parents take a small nap every day but those of us who work canīt afford to take a half hour nap every day (although itīs proven to be very healthy!). I live near Bilbao, on the north, and weather here (as you know) is quite rainy, much colder than in the south of Spain, and we do get snow, so that need for siestas because of the heat is not felt.

Take into account that the main news on TV are at 0230 or 3pm, during or right after lunch, soap operas start around 4pm, and the main news at night begin at 9pm, following our schedules. You probably noticed that we are very "social" and the streets are very lively practically any time...except during those "long" lunch times.

Thereīs a word that I cannot translate to English, "sobremesa", that is, the long time after lunch or dinner dedicated to chatting, coffee, maybe a glass of digestive liquor, when nobody leaves the table and everybody is talking about something while enjoying each otherīs company. A restaurant in Spain will never tell you to empty the table, as it happens in other countries, this "sobremesa" time is sacred!
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 10:09 AM
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That's one thing I've thinking about. I'm portuguese living in Portugal, and our lunch time is usually between 12:00 and 14:00, and dinner time between 20:00 and 22:00. It's not very early, but for Spanish standars it is. Reading the news and the limitations due to current times, I think a lot how strange limitations must be for the Spanish people!

Here in Portugal, due to the increase of tourism, restaurants (most of them) started having food all day. It was kind of funny (in 2019, not now, of course) when I went to a place just to have a coffee, 17:30, for instance, and on my right side a table of Spanish finishing their lunch (doing that thing you called sobremesa) and on the left side people from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc., ordering dinner.

I miss Spain! I live 100 kms from the border, so it is easy to go there. I hope next year!
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 11:03 AM
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When I was in Bilbao a couple of years ago, it seemed like the entire city was in the street outside the bars and cafes, drinking and socializing. Everyone from baby in the carriage to grandpa in the wheelchair, all ages in between. I have been to lots of places in Spain but the vibe in Bilbao was over the top. This must be so difficult for you Mikel.

I love the late, long lunches where if you eat again it is at midnight. I hope things get back to normal, eventually.
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 12:58 PM
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sobremesa, literally, over-table time?
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 03:50 PM
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really interesting to read such info, i thought that nothing actually changes
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 01:10 AM
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Scary stuff to be honest, here in Denmark the most strict things we have in our lives is having to wear a mask inside public areas.. but thats about it.

OH and the bars/restaurants close at 22 But i think we will have more strict things coming soon sadly..
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Revulgo View Post
sobremesa, literally, over-table time?
Correct, but that would be a translation, not grabbing the "real" concept of what a "sobremesa" implies. Itīs kind of quality time to relax and enjoy, as you well know!!
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by mikelg View Post
Correct, but that would be a translation, not grabbing the "real" concept of what a "sobremesa" implies. Itīs kind of quality time to relax and enjoy, as you well know!!
When DH and I first went to live in Paris as a young couple I would be amazed at the long Sunday lunches at friends’ places, where we lingered ā table with over coffee to just talk and relax. We’d sit down around noon after a coupe and it would be fourish by the time we got up, basically the whole afternoon. It’s still the same with my French friends, hasn’t changed in forty years... 😃
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 03:05 PM
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Times for Paris also changed quite a bit with the 21:00 curfew. Of course now they have changed even more since we went back into lockdown yesterday. People who refuse to change their dinner times are now able to have their meals delivered when they want, but it's just not the same.
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Old Nov 1st, 2020, 10:54 AM
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The Spanish eat later than other Europeans primarily because of Franco's insistence that the time zone should be moved to match that of Nazi Germany whereas it should be in line with GMT. The Spanish adopted the change and therefore their lunches went from 13:00 to 14:00 and dinner from 20:00 to 21:00.
The siesta is a bit of a myth as the vast majority do not take a siesta. Consequently all those late nights, eating late (eating so late is not good for the digestion or a proper sleep) and working hours that fit into a typical working day take their toll. I don't think I could cope with such a lifestyle.
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Old Nov 1st, 2020, 11:24 AM
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<<Here in Portugal, due to the increase of tourism, restaurants (most of them) started having food all day. It was kind of funny (in 2019, not now, of course) when I went to a place just to have a coffee, 17:30, for instance, and on my right side a table of Spanish finishing their lunch (doing that thing you called sobremesa) and on the left side people from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc., ordering dinner.>>

HelenaFatima - last year in the US I spotted a restaurant offering early bird DINNER from 3.30 - 6.30 pm. So that is literally having dinner when Spanish people would be starting lunch.

<<A big change in our way of life and weīll see if it will last, next time you come to Spain from the US or other countries youīll probably be surrounded also by locals and not only by tourists when you have your dinner at 8pm!!>>

Mikelg - we used to solve the problem of late dinner times by adopting the Spanish habit of having lunch in the afternoon [when it's hottest
after all and so less comfortable for sight seeing] and then having a tapas or pintxos supper at one of more bars, depending on what took our fancy. I was due to visit Bilbao for the the first time this June so I hope it's not too much changed by the time I get there.
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Old Nov 1st, 2020, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by jc_uk View Post
The Spanish eat later than other Europeans primarily because of Franco's insistence that the time zone should be moved to match that of Nazi Germany whereas it should be in line with GMT. The Spanish adopted the change and therefore their lunches went from 13:00 to 14:00 and dinner from 20:00 to 21:00.
The siesta is a bit of a myth as the vast majority do not take a siesta. Consequently all those late nights, eating late (eating so late is not good for the digestion or a proper sleep) and working hours that fit into a typical working day take their toll. I don't think I could cope with such a lifestyle.
Not really, that Franco story is a bit of a myth, too, but surely thereīs some truth on it. Spain, in the early 20th century, was (like many other countries) strongly divided in working class (the labourers) and the upper class (the owners of the land). The labourers had their meals early, to follow their working schedules and to adapt to the sun hours, while the tenants of the land did not want to mix with their labourers having their meals at the same time. When the working class slowly evolved into middle class, thanks to the changes in society, they adopted the meal schedules of their former patrons, to distinguish themselves from the rest. The relationship of our geographical position, the mild climate and the sunny days (southern Spain, mainly, not up here in the north) helped to late dinners.

I think itīs a fantastic lifestyle that helps to socialize and fortifies relationships. Take also into account that many people still cook and we live homemade meals, that involves a lot of work but itīs very rewarding when your family and friends enjoy your meals.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2020, 12:24 AM
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Before the Civil War the tenants in Madrid used to stay up very late so they also got up very late. For them, being seen on the street in the morning was "of bad taste" because it was not typical of people who lived on their income. As they got up late, they also had lunch late and over time the image was transmitted that eating late was "elegant." I remember that in the 60s the middle class used to eat at 2pm, but starting with the upper middle class on weekends they ate at 3pm.
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