Each Spanish autonomy has their own specialty, using local ingredients and local tradition to prepare and cook it. Depending on where you are, a dish (un plato) might not be in Spanish but in Basque, Catalan, Galician, or another Hispanic language. The one common thread that runs through this diverse country is not what to eat, or even how to ask for it, but when you eat. No matter where you go, meals will occur during the same period in the day: lunch (la hora de comer) between 14:00-16:00; dinner (la hora de cenar) between 20:00 and 23:00, during the week. On the weekend shift the time one hour later.
Arrive outside of these set times and you may find restaurants door open, but not the kitchen (la cocina). And if you arrive right at opening time, it may take a while to fire up the oven (el horno). Now that the universal Spanish concept of time has been established, let’s turn to its variety of food and drink.
The North of Spain
(Asturias, Basque Country, Galicia)
Cantabria offers everything from fish stews to excellent meat, from bee to game, such as venison and boar.
Catalonia and Valencia share much in common, sourcing their fish from the same sea, although Catalan cuisine (gastronomía) is also influenced by the Pyrenees Mountains. Valencia is responsible for the world famous paella (audio) while Catalonia offers a rival to champagne, cava.
Further east are the Baeleric Islands…
South of Spain
What many outsiders imagine Spain to be. Andalusia is the birth place of tapas and gazpacho. It and Extremadura responsible for much of the cured Spanish ham (jamón). Murcia…
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Center of Spain
Madrid, as the capital, is home of some fine restaurants, but with its own local traditions.