Thursday, July 5, 2012

Arte, cultura, comida

First off, I hope everyone back home in the USA had a fabulous 4th of July!  It was just another day of classes here in Spain.  Although one American student made quite an entrance into my 8:30 am Spanish Culture and Politics class, arriving late and wearing an American flag t shirt. 

I spent my afternoon at the Guggenheim Museum here in Bilbao, just across the river from the university.  We saw an exhibit of David Hockney art, which was great! There were many colorful oil paintings of landscapes, but the most interesting part was Hockney´s use of technology in his artwork.  Some of the works on display were done on an iPad, and there was also flim footage on display recorded on multiple cameras and displayed on a grid of 18 screens.  The other exhibits in the museum are pieces of modern art.  My conclusion from viewing these works: confusion.  I really don´t understand modern art.  Nevertheless, it was interesting to explore the museum!

Some cultural notes I´ve observed here:
 - It seems that people tend to dress their children in matching outfits. I see this from time to time in the US, but here, I see it multiple times a day.
 - Breakfast is NOT "the most important meal of the day".  I usually have coffee and toasted white bread with jam.  Totally fine, but it doesn´t hold me over until the late lunch hour, and as my mom will attest, I get irritable when I´m hungry.  Yesterday I set out in search of a mid-morning snack with a craving for Greek yogurt. Apparently grocery stores here only sell yogurt in 4-packs; no single servings. So I resorted to going to McDonald´s in the mall food court where they serve "yogur griego con frutas" (Greek yogurt with fruit). Yay! The irony is that I rarely ever go to McD´s at home, and that´s where I ended up in Spain.
 - Speaking of breakfast, the coffee here is very good, and very strong. "Café con leche" is popular, coffee with steamed milk similar to a cappuchino.
 - It´s common to hear a mix of Spainish and American music playing at restaruants, shops, and grocery stores. One song will be Lady Gaga, and the next will be some Spanish pop song.
 - Spain seems to be more environmentally conscious than the US. Recycling is obligatory, and there are HUGE recycling bins outside on the streets where we would normally just have trash cans.

For anyone who would like to try something from the Spanish kitchen, here´s the list of ingredients for the first "cena" I ate here.  This is the dinner that we eat around 10 pm, and is usually a lighter meal, especially during summertime. It´s a great fresh summertime dish, enjoy!

Ensalada (salad - but this isn´t your typical American salad!)
 - pasta (bowties, etc.)
 - patatas - sliced cooked potatoes
 - manzanas - apples peeled & sliced
 - cebolla - sliced onion
 - pepino - peeled and sliced cucumber
 - pimientos - peppers
 - atún - tuna
 - cangrejo - crab meat
 - gambas - shrimp
Combine and toss with "aciete de oliva y vinagre" (oil and vinegar). Season with salt.
A salad of "lechuga y tomate" (lettuce and tomatoes) was served alongside our ensalada.


  1. I don't know how I would do with such a small breakfast - I would be super grumpy! And how does that bode for the us? They keep telling us we have to eat our largest meal in the morning, and yet the healthier europeans don't! Interesting. The coffee sounds great! I love reading your blog and showing your pictures off and bragging about my friend in spain. Love you!

    1. From what I've observed here, the "Europeans are healthier" thing is all relative. I'm sure a lot of Europeans are healthier than a lot of Americans, but it totally depends on the lifestyle of each individual. My family at home in the US eats very healthy - lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain carbs, not much greasy food, etc., so I don't think it's true that Europeans are therefore healthier than us. That really applies the the stereotypical American who eats a lot of fast food and processed food. We get a lot of fresh fruits and veggies in my host family, but they have a lot more processed/packaged foods than I'd expected, such as pre-made tortilla, boxed mashed potatoes, and white "Wonder-style" sliced bread. I haven't seen wheat bread at all here, even in supermarkets. Vending machines here have bags of mini chocolate-filled croissants and pastries like that, along with Doritos, candy, and other typical vending machine things. One thing that's different here is that people don't tend to snack as much as in the US, they eat bigger meals at lunch and dinner, and might have a mid-morning or evening snack in between meals. Overweight definitely isn't as big an issue here as in the US though. It seems that people here have more active lifestyles and less stress (time is not as important here, and people know the value of relaxation), which I think might contribute to health more than the food.
      So there's my lengthy explanation of that, based on my own observation, I didn't collect statistics or anything! Maybe I'll make a blog entry about cultural stereotypes I've encountered though, because I've met people from various countries in Europe, and the things they say and ask about the US are very interesting!
      love you too, and hope you're having a fantastic summer!