If you have been following along on this blog for any period of time, you most likely know that we love to eat! Since we have been here, we have worked to create a balance with the food situation as it can be easy to come abroad to Spain and mostly eat tapas, fried fish, or large portions of meat and french fries. With truly embracing the Mediterranean diet—read more about that here—we have come to love the food and how people eat in Spain.
However, due to the circumstances that we currently find ourselves in, going regularly to the market is not recommended and eating out is prohibited. This means that following the steps that you might usually take when preparing traditional Spanish food has probably changed. This change might be more or less dramatic depending on your eating habits but we’ve found that we are much more reliant on boxes and cans than we used to be. That is why we are sharing with you our top 5 tips for sticking to the Mediterranean diet while under lockdown.
1.) Use fresh ingredients when possible
We know that you are probably not getting to your local supermarket as much as you usually might and most open markets have closed down in Spain. However, you can still find fresh ingredients on a weekly basis and make the most of them! By taking into consideration how long your ingredients can stay fresh, you should be able to get by with one large shop every week or two. You can find the optimal freshness times for a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy, etc. by using online resources such as this one. We recommend buying a selection of goods that stay fresh over the time you have between shops so that you can enjoy fresh food all week long.
Top tip: In Granada, so we assume other places as well, many small fruiterías where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables have started delivery for a weekly dose of freshness!
2.) Using the best quality ingredients you can
The Mediterranean area is now known for rich foods, but this region has a history of being relatively poor. Despite not having much money, the countries around the Mediterranean have great land for farming and are known for their high quality fruits and vegetables. That is why you often find that meat is an add-in or used in small quantities with many dishes from this area. In addition, most recipes call for a short list of ingredients (mostly what grandparents could easily get during hard times). While the list is simple, the key to good cooking is making sure you have quality ingredients.
We understand that now is a hard time to make sure that you are getting the highest quality ingredients, especially if you are having your groceries delivered. However, making a splurge every once and awhile on making sure that you have extra virgin olive oil (read more about olive oil in Spain here) or that your tomatoes really smell like tomatoes will make a difference. If you do not have access to fresh food, something that also happened frequently in Spanish history, think about how you can cook using lentils, potatoes, and dried meats to create high quality meals on a budget.
3.) Taking time to cook
While there are many quick and easy Spanish recipes (stay tuned as we will be sharing some later this week), a lot of times traditional recipes require time. Think stews like cocido madrileño cooking all day or a slow cooked campero (farmer) rice that was made as a hearty lunch for field workers. Like we said previously, even in recent Spanish history, money and food could be scarce resources. To make the most out of the resources, people spent time preparing and cooking the food with the right seasoning to make sure it was as wonderful as it could be.
Nowadays, there are many more resources in Spain and supermarkets are often filled with high quality ingredients. However, you can still see Spaniards dedicating a fair amount of time to cooking. We would even go so far as to say that traditions stay strong and cooking is still a pleasurable pastime in many places around Spain. Therefore, make sure you plan a good hour or so to prepare your Spanish food. Enjoy the process of making food so that you enjoy it more when you sit down to eat it.
4.) Taking time to enjoy the food
One of the most important parts of the Mediterranean diet is taking time to enjoy what you are eating. That is why after you have made the effort to buy the ingredients and taken the time to cook something wonderful, we also believe you should sit down and appreciate the meal you have made. This might mean turning off the television or putting the computer to sleep for even 15 minutes to set aside time to really appreciate the food.
While people in Spain don’t always take actions like turning off the t.v. (in fact, they often have it on while they eat), they do sit down to properly savor their food. Take away is not a common thing here compared to other countries. That is why we believe you should remember an important thing in the Mediterranean diet: sandwiches are not meant to be eaten on the run, lunch is not meant to be inhaled at your desk, and that taking time for dinner is good practice.
5.) Make it a family affair
Finally, food and family are highly linked in Spain. That is why we believe, after you have put the effort in to make the food and time to eat it, you should share it with your family, loved ones, or friends. This is just one more way that you can dedicate to appreciating the food on the table. It is also a way to show your loved ones how much you care. Food and family are extremely important in Mediterranean culture and we think by valuing both your meals and your loved ones you are one step closer to embracing this diet in all its facets.
If you find that you are not able to connect physically with loved ones right now, consider hosting a virtual tapas party. We have seen friends doing this lately and, while it is not the same as being in person, there is something lovely about meeting up with someone who is anywhere in the world and sharing a meal with them.
How are you dealing with normal cooking habits in the current situation? Let us know in the comments!