We only stayed a couple days in Spain—one day in Barcelona and one in Girona—but what I saw of it surprised me. I don’t know what I expected, really, because the only reason we decided to go to Spain in the first place was to pick up a soccer jersey for a friend and to briefly experience another culture. Actually it was the food culture of Spain that was exciting, colorful, and delicious, and it’s the vivid memories of food in Spain that stick out most when I reminisce about our time there.
The weather was warm, and as we walked down the streets I remember smelling different fruity scents or aromas of fried foods wafting toward us. In a small square just past the long, tourist-covered streets in Barcelona, we found a fresh food market that was a Mecca for all things delicious. I saw fruits I’d never seen before, tasted things I’d never tasted before, and set eyes on meats and carcasses that made my stomach rumble. There was a stand on the corner that had rows and piles of chocolate—this was Amanda’s heaven. Other venders served fresh-fruit smoothies or bags of fresh vegetables or whole fresh fish, and some were set up as little walk-up restaurants where you can order a plate of hot octopus pasta or steak tartar.
That afternoon, after walking along the colorful, pigeon-filled streets for hours, we found a little restaurant that served churros and chocolate, and we ate this fried delicacy like queens.
In Girona the next day, we stumbled upon another little square market where we found the most delicious homemade jellies we’d ever tasted, and we stocked up with flavors like strawberry, orange, fig, kiwi, chili pepper, and even onion. At lunchtime, we sat outside on a sidewalk patio to eat our Spanish paella (or pizza, in Rachel’s case), and we heard music from far off that seemed to come closer and closer. A few minutes later, a parade of musicians, dancing people, and a costumed king and queen on stilts marched past us—we laughed and smiled and enjoyed this wonderful random event of the afternoon.
It’s the food, the colors, and the waves of heat and the marching musicians and dancers that were the flavors of Spain for me. It was bright, warm, welcoming, beautiful, and even delicious. I think I owe my jersey-wanting friend a big thank you.