Adventures of a Food Enthusiast: Typical Meals with My Spanish Host Family

Adrienne Prillaman is a student at University of North Texas and an an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with a high school student leadership class in Keller, Texas. Adrienne is studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain on an ISA Fall 4 program.

Soups, Soups, Soups…

I’m not entirely sure who was more concerned about my diet in Spain, me or my mom. She was constantly saying that she was concerned I wouldn’t have enough fruits and vegetables while here, however it’s quite the opposite! Although the typical Spanish diet doesn’t consist of a lot of produce, my host family provides me with several servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This isn’t as common with some other host families, so I really lucked out. In my biased  opinion, I have the best host family. And I have the best host mom, because she is an excellent cook! No really, she’s great for a lot of reasons, but the cooking is phenomenal. I think my favorite thing about the food is that I get to have soup at almost every meal, because I absolutely love sopas! But there has been such a great variety of food provided by my madre (Spanish word for mother, which my friends and I use to refer to our host mothers versus our real mothers). Some are very Spanish in origin, some more worldly. Have a look!

The top left corner is a sort of chicken noodle soup with vegetables, and the bottom left corner is traditional Spanish gazpacho: a chilled soup made with tomatoes, onions, cucumber, peppers and garlic, and is best enjoyed during the summer. Because of this, we only had it a few times when we first arrived (per my request) since it normally isn’t consumed from September to April.

The top right is a rice soup in chicken broth, the middle right is a potato and navy beans (judías blancos) soup in a broth I can’t quite explain, but absolutely love! I’m sure it has some kind of tomato base, I guess I should ask! And the bottom right is a traditional noodle soup with chicken broth, sometimes madre will put chicken in it as well, it just depends!

And More Soups!

On the top left is another rice soup with a broth I love! It is also made with lots of red chili powder which gives it its color and flavor. Top right is chicken broth with stars (estrellas), and bottom left is a lentil and carrot soup (lentejas con zanahorias), an excellent and hearty soup (especially if it has potatoes as well) for a cold day! The broth is made with garlic, onion, laurel, olive oil, and some red chili powder. And on the bottom right is sopa de patata or potato soup, made with puréed potatoes as well as garlic, oil, and red chili powder – which gives it its orange color.

Delicious Spanish Dishes

In the top left is of course pizza. We almost always have the same pizza, usually once a week. It’s store bought and not homemade, but still excellent, although quite different from store-bought pizza in America.

In the top right, we have something completely homemade, another famous Spanish dish – paella! Paella is rice cooked with saffron and can be served with seafood (usually shrimp and shellfish), vegetables, and/or chicken, pork, etc. Here it is has shrimp, green beans, as well as some shellfish and scallops. While I did sample some paella from other restaurants that I somewhat enjoyed, I actually was not a fan of this. Not because it wasn’t good, I’m sure it was! But since I hail from a part of Texas that seafood isn’t commonly eaten (except Long John Silver’s, which let’s face it, doesn’t count) I was not crazy about the extremely fishy taste.

On the bottom left, yet another famous Spanish dish: tortilla española! A tortilla in Spain essentially is an omelet, and so a tortilla española is made with eggs, olive oil, onion, as well as lots of potatoes. It is truly delicious, a very traditional thing to eat in Spain – but beware! Not everybody makes it great, so if you ever visit Spain, I would suggest having it from a nice restaurant or homemade, otherwise you could have a bad one. I don’t understand how it’s possible to make a bad tortilla española, but it is! So, ¡cuidado! (be careful).

In the middle on the bottom is an assortment of meats that my madre prepared for us to figure out what we like on our bocadillos (sandwiches). For my bocadillos, I prefer jamón york (York ham, the meat on the bottom of the plate with cheese wrapped inside), pavo (turkey), or pollo (chicken). I didn’t really like the mortadera (bologna, on the left of the plate covered partly by another piece of meat), cabeza de jabalí (a type of pork, that literally translates to “head of a wild boar” but is not actually from the head, it’s just the name for it – it is the meat covering the bologna a little bit), chorizo (a type of sausage deli meat, it is the dark circular meat on the top of the plate), jamón serrano (another popular cured ham, show on the top right of the plate). A note, chorizo in Spain is not to be confused with Mexican chorizo, which I actually do enjoy!  And finally in the bottom right is chicken cooked in a special (tasty) sauce, made with oil, flour, parsley and brandy – delicious!

Más Delicious Dishes!

On the top left is a simple starter dish in place of the traditional soup – rice and green beans, simple but delicious. The Frank’s Red Hot is of course not native to Spain, and I brought it with me from Texas because I knew the food in Spain would be slightly bland.

On the bottom left are the greatest pork chops (with toast cooked in oil in spices) I have ever had – no offense Dad! They are just so good! On the top right is pork loin with the closest thing to barbeque sauce my madre has used. On the middle right, the best pasta (called macarrones by my madre) I have ever had! Normally, I use more sauce than humanly necessary when I make pasta, but this pasta has a kind of sauce that is more oily than saucy, and therefore sticks right on the pasta so you don’t need as much. It is phenomenal. And at last, on the bottom right, another quite popular Spanish dish (but less famous) – albóndigas con champiñónes (meatballs with mushrooms). It is cooked in a sort of gravy that gives it such a wonderful flavor. I could eat so many…

The strangest thing my host mom has prepared for us, which I don’t have a picture of, was boiled eggs with tomato sauce. I’m not really a fan of boiled eggs (but I love eggs any other way), and eggs with tomato sauce is just not my cup of tea. That was probably the only thing I didn’t enjoy besides the paella. Another strange thing is that Spanish people eat bocadillos (sandwiches) a lot, but just dry, no sauce. I am a person who uses tons of sauce on everything, so for me this is a little bit of an adjustment. Everything else is so delicious, I will for sure get her recipes before I return to Texas!

Rainy Day = Chocolate con Churros

Although there are lots of postres (desserts) available in Spain, we don’t eat them very often, usually fruit is our dessert. However, there are countless pastelerías (pastry shops) on every street where you can try them. My favorite postre, however, is from a famous chocolate shop here called Valor. Here you will find the richest chocolate con churros (thick hot chocolate with long fried donut sticks) there is. They are best enjoyed on cold and/or rainy days, hence the photo collage above.

That, in essence, is all of the food I have consumed in Spain so far. Well not really, but at least the majority of what I have had in my homestay! I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new about Spanish food and are now eager to try some!

Until next time! ¡Hasta luego!

Author: Adrienne Abrahamson

Texas native, world traveler, food enthusiast, Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic.

27 thoughts

  1. Jamon serrano is my favourite – followed closely by jamon iberico… I didn’t find Spanish food at all bland when I visited – maybe not as spicy as I would have preferred it, but definitely not bland! The most traditional paella is seafood, but they also do chicken or chorizo paella – did you try that at all?

    1. Mostly I say bland because of the sandwiches and lots of tapas were like that… no I never was able to try paella with just chicken! it was always a mix.

  2. Wow, let’s just say i’m drooling. I was wondering, in Spain do they do the whole ‘three square meals a day’ or do they eat small portions like 6 times a day, or are they constantly eating, what do they do?

    1. its more like a very tiny breakfast, a huge lunch, and a decent but not super large dinner. I talk about this more in depth in my next post which will be up soon!

  3. Yumm! Everything looks delicious, you must be really enjoying the food :) Bring on more food pictures! Also I see that it does rain there, how is the weather there normally this time of year and how is it compared to here in Texas?

    1. It can be very bipolar like Texas, and it’s not really supposed to rain in Salamanca, but it did a lot early in the fall, which was kind of annoying

  4. The soup looks delicious! It must be impossible to resist eating since there are so many different varieties of food

  5. The food looks mouth watering! I was just wondering, does this food taste like anything you have tasted before and what ‘spice level’ would you give it? Also, are there any customs when eating?

    1. Nothing is spicy like hot spicy, and its mostly really new tastes for me, but somewhat similar to Italy in some things. The only thing is they really take their time eating, and don’t eat with their hands much

    1. I mean because Im a vegetarian and so I’m sure there nothing much I could experience. But if there is, what is it? And do you like it?

      1. there are definitely things you would like! i love lentil soup with carrots, and also the pasta is great with homemade sauce! also you could eat potato soup, rice soup, gazpacho, bean soup…there are definitely options for vegetarians. i had a couple of veg. friends studying there with me

  6. Okay, last one!

    The food there looks so delicious, compared to our American everyday fast food greasy burgers! How is the food there? Tastier than any other dish you’ve had?

    1. Homemade food here can be really excellent, but I definitely missed having a greasy cheeseburger every once in a while. The pasta though, I don’t know, my host mom doesn’t have a secret ingredient or anything but it is sooooo addictive

  7. Wow the food looks so good that I’m actually about to cook myself a bowl of soup lol. Did you find that you are a bigger fan of the starches or the soups? Because all of it looks delicious. And also are you going to try to cook one of these dishes before you leave Spain?

    1. We did do a cooking class one time! I learned how to make tortilla, paella, and gazpacho. I’m really a soup nut, so I prefer that. Although I loooooooooooove my host moms pasta

  8. This is my favorite post so far. That’s probably just because I am in love with food though. Everything looks so delicious and sounds so foreign. I don’t even recognize any of the soups, but they all look yummy. And that pasta looks amazing. I bet I could eat that every day.

    Do you miss any of the American foods that happen to not be around there? I’m sure that might be hard to think of with all the delicious new things you have to eat.

    1. Oh no, I missed Tex Mex soooooo much! Also Thai food was harder to find as well. But it’s a small price to pay to experience lots of new foods!

  9. Man, that pasta looks delicious, I would eat pasta all day, every day if I could! You said that the typical Spanish diet doesn’t usually have a lot of veggies and fruits in it, that means you eat a lot of meats and grains then, right? Do they have any specfic meats that they enjoy? Like, in America we eat a lot of chicken and beef, is it the same in Spain? Or do they have something else like pork that they use more?

    1. They probably use pork and chicken the most, then beef after. Veggies and fruits are only given a little bit, like fruit for “dessert” and veggies seldom. Lots of grains, mostly lots of bread. And if it were french bread, I would have been okay, but it wasn’t so I got pretty tired of it.

  10. All the food looks amazing! I would like to try all of it. Did you help prepare or cook any of it? What makes the pizza different from the pizza in America? Like does it taste different?

    1. The pizza is a little different, mostly it was the cheese…I can’t really explain how, but it was different. And the types of toppings vary a little bit too

  11. Wow! the food is making me crave all everything you just showed! What was your favorite sopa? When you first went to Spain what was one authentic food you were hoping to try?

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