"Look the fish in the eyes," our IES Abroad professor told us on our food tour of La Boqueria, a famous old marketplace in downtown Barcelona. Spaniards use all of their senses when deciding what food to buy to ensure that it's fresh. When buying a fish, for example, you have to look it in the eyes to see if they're clear and bright or yellow and droopy. It should also smell fresh and look shiny and clean, not dulled and discolored.
Our professor then set us free in La Boqueria to use all of our senses to take in the different types of food. The fish vendors were in the middle, forcing everyone to walk by the fish at some point. I tried to use all five senses to mentally pick out the perfect fish. It smelled like we could've been out sailing on a boat in the salty sea. There were also fresh fruits and vegetables, meats of all kinds and every type of potato product.
I couldn't help but compare Spanish food culture to American food culture. Spaniards take their time to pick out fresh food, while Americans are now starting to buy food online through grocery store sites or companies like Blue Apron, where they don't use any senses to pick out their food, they just have to press a button. And even in American grocery stores, food is packaged, sealed and hidden.
Also, the prices at La Boqueria, and other markets in Barcelona, are reasonable, ensuring that Spaniards of all socioeconomic statuses can have access to healthy, fresh food. While in America, you have to have money to eat healthy at expensive stores like Whole Foods, while those without money only have access to unhealthy fastfood.
Another food trend I've noticed is that Barcelonians eat outside when they have the chance. Obviously the weather factors into this trend, but weather can shape culture. As another professor said, "Mediterranean life unfolds outside." Friends don't meet up indoors at their homes, they meet at a local bar or cafe, and they sit outside. This professor noted that even after ten years of friendship, he still hasn't seen some of his close friends homes here in Barcelona. While in the U.S., if a new neighbor moves in nextdoor, we're quick to invite them into our homes for a welcome BBQ.
Although the two food cultures differ, I can take home some Spanish tips with me. I can take more time in the grocery store aisles when picking out my food, I can enjoy the outdoors while eating and I can continue to be adventorous by trying new foods.