After 2 weeks spent travelling around Spain we built a first impression on the country and the people.
¿Tu es vegetarianos? ¡No hay problema, tenemos jamon!
Vegetarianism is an unknown concept in Spain. Vegan is unthinkable, actually considered a homosexual behavior. Spanish life revolves around jamon, chorizo and bocadillos.
Life starts in the morning not earlier than 9 (mostly 10) with a bocadillo of jamon.
At 11 the first break from work: the breakfast is generally not heavy so Spaniards have a long coffee break with some addition of jamon.
At 14 lunch (also known as siesta). You can find the menu of the day in every restaurant (it seems that by law all restaurants must offer a menu of the day). During this break of at least 2 hours the typical Spanish feeds himself with some more pig meat.
At 17 another break with chorizo and/or jamon.
Around 22 dinner. Since the cheap menu of the day is not available, some tapas will fill the Spanish till the morning after. Tapas are not cheap though and you end up paying like a full meal. But this does not matter, as long as it is in line with the great national tradition of jamon.
Needless to say the most popular tapas are with jamon. (Did you know that tapas were invented because workers had only money to pay for food or drinks and they were inevitably choosing drinks, getting back to work after the siesta completely drunk and with empty stomach. The industrial production became so poor, that the government had to intervene and they obliged restaurant to offer always a bit of food with each drink that was served).
But what could you expect from a country that built its fame from bull fighting. For Spaniards watching a bull fight is like watching a football match. And since they watch the fight late in the evening, they watch it while eating tapas. Guess with what? Right, some jamon. Eventually to the Spanish it is just another game.
When trying to explain to a Spaniard that we are vegetarian (we did not even try the word vegan), we received a common answer: “Why would you be vegetarian? Animals have a happy life! You can make an exception…”
We tried to explain what we do not eat in Spanish: “Nosotros comemos no carne, no pescado, no leche, no mantequilla, no huevos, no mel”. The answer: “Ok, ok. Jamon!” Our reply: “No jamon”. The waiter: “Ok, ok. Chorizo!” and so on.
And that’s when we decided not to even try eating in a Spanish restaurant. Which of course is a pity, since local food should be part of the trip. (Did you know that in Madrid there are several stores selling only jamon. They are called “Museo del Jamon?. In these stores pig legs hanging from the ceiling are replacing the lights).
In the big cities we eventually ended up eating Chinese and Indian food. We have not been so lucky in the smaller towns, where we fed ourselves with cold beans spread on a hard piece of bread.