Out and About

Out and About

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


"So you don't eat meat?"
"No meat? Like, none?"
"But...no meat..."

This is the typical conversation that I have with Spaniards that I meet for the first time when we are eating tapas (small portions of food that bars serve with drinks). I am the first vegetarian most of these people have met before. There must be other vegetarians in Granada, but they are far and few between. In Madrid and Barcelona, the big cities, there are vegetarians, and a lot of vegetarian restaurants, but in Granada, I’m a freak of nature.

This is what my dreams are made of

The Spanish eat a lot of meat. Not in huge quantities, but with almost all their meals they are accustomed to having some sort of meat with the food (except for breakfast). So going out for tapas can be a bit challenging.

When you go to a tapas bar, you sit down and the bartender asks you what you want to drink. You tell him, and depending on the bar, one of two things will happen:

a) The bartender brings you your drinks and a tapa to share. This way, you don’t get to choose your tapa, it’s luck of the draw, whatever the bar is serving that day.

b) The bartender brings you your drinks and asks what kind of tapa you would like, and you choose from a menu.

Guess which system I prefer. When the first system happens, 90% of the time the tapa has meat in it, because most tapas have meat in them. I understand that it is just how the system works here, and it is really a very hospitable system, because it is like being in the home of a friend. You sit down, and without even asking, you are brought food, which really is very sweet. There’s just a bit of a culture clash when I receive food I can’t eat.

Here is a typical tapa for 3 people. These wouldn't happen to be soy burgers would they...

The Spanish are not picky eaters. In America, we are used to ordering food exactly the way we want it and with the ingredients we want. For example, Burger King’s motto is “Have it Your Way.” American restaurants pride themselves on giving their customer exactly what they ask for. For example, in a restaurant, I will ask the waiter to grill my food instead of fry it, substitute in a different kind of cheese, hold off on the spicy, and put the dressing on the side, all for one dish. The Spanish are less picky (although, compared to me, the majority of the inhabitants of planet Earth are less picky), and just eat whatever tapa is put in front of them. There are fewer details mentioned when ordering food in Spain. For instance, when ordering a hamburger, details like ketchup, mustard, kind of bread, types of vegetables, etc, are just not as important.

My boyfriend and I were visiting a nearby village once, and we went out for tapas in a bar. When we ordered drinks, we asked for a tapa without meat. I went to the bathroom, and when I returned there was a plate of ground beef in front of me. I thought it was a joke. But it wasn’t. I’ll never really understand how that happened, perhaps the bartender thought we were kidding and ACTUALLY wanted the meatiest tapa they could serve us, or confused “tapa without meat” with “tapa with meat.”

Andddddd here's your tapa

I wasn’t even a vegetarian until I studied abroad in Spain. I just wanted to add some excitement to bar and restaurant trips.