Spanish Eating Customs

At first, Spanish eating customs may seem a bit strange to foreigners. Like most other nations, Spain has its own timetable for when they dine, what they eat and the manner in which they accomplish this favoured activity.

In general, Spanish food culture and the way that meals are planned and eaten is more laid back and people seem to be in less of a hurry to get through food. Many offices and stores close for at least two hours after lunch for a prolonged rest period known as a "siesta", although the practice of siesta is gradually changing in larger metropolitan areas. For the most part restaurants are opened later in the day. Eateries for dinner service generally do not open until as late as 9PM. Lunch is the most important meal during the day according to Spanish eating custom. Breakfast is considered the least consumed meal.

A generalisation is that the typical Spanish breakfast (el desayuno) is a small meal or a drink on its owne: breakfast in SPain normally consists of coffee, juice or hot chocolate and nothing more. This is a common occurrence around 10 a.m. for office workers. If people do eat breakfast, toast or pastry accompanied by many cups of coffee is a typical breakfast meal. "Churros" is the choice for others. Churros are fabulous fritters (not unlike doughnuts – albeit with a different shape) that can be accompanied by a thick hot chocolate drink.

Lunch (el almuerzo) is considered the meal of all meals during the day: an appetizer, a main course and a dessert are often commonly consumed. Most people do not begin to sit down for this meal until at least 2 p.m. and some even wait for an hour or two later. The appetizer may be soup, salad or some type of small side dish. A protein often comes with the main dish. The dessert may consist of a small pasty or fruit. Coffee is served afterwards. The Spanish believe that after a large meal rest and relaxation is deserved before returning to work… hence the siesta.

Dinner (la cena) occurs fairly late in the day. This meal may consist of appetizers or small portions of food. It is customary that dinner is eaten with with friends and family. The food is light and the drinks can be plentiful. Dinner service does not begin for many people until at least 9 p.m. and it may be even later in some restaurants. Certain people may skip dinner all together after their big lunch to enjoy bar service and a snack instead.

During the day, several breaks are taken to have a coffee (café). There are set times for workers to leave their offices to enjoy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at a local café. This is usually a few hours after or before lunch. Coffee has a very important position in Spanish life. It is the most popular form of drink that can be consumed during meals or after.