An Alaskan Abroad (in Spain)
Click for the full audio story:
Today we’re exploring Spanish cuisine. Meneka Thiru is a food blogger for the group Anchorage Food Mosaic, and she’s been living is Spain for the past several months. She says most of her culture shock has been food related.
“You eat the biggest meal of the day at 2:00pm, and then you don’t really eat anything else until dinner, which is 9:00pm. So it was hard getting used to that, and getting used to the time difference at the same time.”
And the food itself took some getting used to. Raised in Sri Lanka, Thiru is used to bold and spicy foods like curry, but you’re not likely to find anything like that in Spain.
“I don’t want to say it’s bland, but they definitely don’t use much more than salt and pepper. So it took a while for my tongue to adjust to that.”
Thiru says the food in Spain is certainly different, but it’s the culture around it that has really captivated her. She says the Spanish work schedule is built around eating. From 2-4pm, almost everyone leaves work to eat a home cooked meal with their family before going back to their jobs.
“It’s not so much about convenience and fitting it in to whenever you can grab a bite. It’s more about taking the time to enjoy the food, and enjoy who you are eating with than just rushing through your food.”
And that concept is what inspired her to write her most recent food entry, a dish called “bizcocho.” It’s a fruit based cake, made mostly with standard baking ingredients, but with yogurt added for a slight tang. Thiru says when she first arrived in Spain she was staying with a host family. And as much as she loves making and eating bizcocho, she wrote about it because of her nostalgia.
“Because I would always get so hungry around American dinner time, and my host mom would take pity of me and serve me a glass of milk with some bizcocho. And we would just sit in the kitchen and chat.”
Even as a food writer, Thiru says her favorite thing to bring back to Alaska won’t be recipes. It will be the Spanish lifestyle, and the way they use food to connect with the people they love.
“Spending time with your family and friends. And taking time to talk about anything and everything, and not looking at your clock to see what the next thing you need to do is, and just enjoying life. There was an expression that one of my study abroad teachers told me: ‘Spaniards don’t live to work, they work to live.’ And that really stuck with me, and I think I’m going to take that back with me when I come home.”
And Thiru says she can’t wait to get back. She really misses Alaska salmon, and pizza.
“I’ll probably hit up Moose’s Tooth first thing.”