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No Meat? No Problem! My Guide to Meat-Free Eating in Spain

Marissa Talcott
October 11, 2021

So many factors go into picking where to study abroad. Of course, it is important to think about the classes you want to take, the country you want to be in, and the language you want to immerse yourself in. But for me, another equally important factor concerned the food that I would be eating. I love good food, and when I decided to study abroad in Spain, I envisioned myself feasting on delicious tapas and bocadillos, all while sipping refreshing sangria. At the same time, I had some reservations about trying to navigate Spanish food as a non-meat-eater. Spain is known for its jamón, and I worried that meat would be an integral part of the cuisine, and that I would be missing out by not eating it. Would I be stuck eating mundane meals while my friends got to try more exciting dishes? 

At first, some of these concerns were realized. The chefs in my residence hall, who make us three meals a day, weren’t very comfortable with vegetarian cooking. In my first couple of weeks, I had dinners made up of just a plate of broccoli, or a side of cucumbers and tomatoes. Even though all of it tasted good, I had food envy when I compared my meals to the much more filling meals that my non-vegetarian friends received. But, despite the initial shortcomings in my Spanish meals, I have since had a lot of amazing vegetarian and pescatarian meals. 

Granada is known for its thriving and affordable tapas scene. At most tapas restaurants, you receive a free plate of tapas with every drink you order. There are even sushi tapas restaurants, but my favorite tapas dishes have been more traditionally Spanish. I’ve also had a chance to try cooking a few dishes myself in a cooking class organized by IES Abroad. Here are some of my favorite meat-free tapas:

Tortilla de Patatas

Unlike the tortillas we are used to in the US, Spanish tortilla is made with eggs and potatoes, and is much thicker than a corn or flour tortilla. This quickly became one of my favorite Spanish dishes because it is filling, gives me some much needed protein, and can be easily dressed up with some sauce. This was also one of the dishes I got to make in my cooking class, and even for someone who is not highly experienced in the kitchen, making tortilla is relatively easy. The best part of my cooking class was that we got to take home the leftovers, which made a delicious late night snack!

Patatas Bravas

Another amazing potato dish. Granada’s patatas bravas fulfilled all of my expectations and more. Picture pan-fried potatoes covered in a sauce that is a perfect mixture of spicy and creamy. I’ve tried patatas bravas from several tapas restaurants and even my own residence hall, and each time the dish is absolutely delicious. 

Croquetas

Potatoes also make an appearance in croquetas (croquettes), which combine mashed potatoes and bechamel sauce, covered in a breading. They can include jamón, but I go for the spinach croquetas. They are perfectly rich, creamy, and filling. 

Gambas al Ajillo

Although not vegetarian, this might be my favorite tapas dish, and it is very pescetarian friendly! In this dish, shrimp are served in a mouth-watering buttery and garlicky sauce. Even after finishing the shrimp in the dish, the sauce was so tasty that I went through three pieces of bread trying to soak up all of the remaining sauce. This dish is a must try for anyone who likes shrimp!

Salmorejo

Among my friends in Granada, salmorejo has been a bit of a polarizing dish, you either love or hate it. I fall into the love category, and I’ll do my best to defend it here. Salmorejo was another dish I learned to make in my IES Abroad cooking class, and it is undoubtedly the easiest of all these dishes to make. It is made with a combination of tomatoes, garlic, bread, olive oil, and vinegar, which are blended and then served with your garnish of choice (often bacon, jamón, or hard boiled egg). It tastes kind of like a cold tomato soup, which can be a bit weird since cold soup isn’t a common phenomenon in the US. All this aside, its simplicity makes it super refreshing, and in the warm weather of southern Spain, its been a perfect dish. 

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Marissa Talcott

<p>I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and am currently attending school at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. As someone who loves the outdoors, I am excited to explore the natural surroundings of Granada, Spain. I enjoy writing, learning about history and politics, traveling, and meeting new people. I can't wait to try the food and see the historic, cultural, and natural sites of Spain.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2021 Fall
Home University:
Claremont McKenna College
Hometown:
Portland, OR
Major:
Political Science
Spanish
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