Spain is a wonderful country if you want to travel around and try the different specialties to be found in the various regions that you can visit. There is a huge influence of various seafood items along the coast regions, whereas the more inland areas are famous for their wonderful fresh and savory meat dishes and fresh vegetables and fruits. And, both on the coast and inland, you'll find "tapas" everywhere. With Tapas Bars becoming common in many countries, these have become the ambassador of Spanish cooking outside Spain, but you can be pretty sure that you'll find an amazing variety of tapas in Spain that you'll never have seen in any tapas bar abroad! Outside the main cities you'll not find many smart restaurants, but the food served in the tascas or bars will be tasty and based on fresh local produce.
In places like Madrid, Barcelona and other larger cities, you'll find restaurants of all types - and prices - where you'll be able to try not only local specialties, but also international cuisine to the highest standard. There are two main meals of the day, lunch ("comida" or "almuerzo") and dinner ("cena"). Both are eaten considerably later than in Anglo-Saxon countries. Lunch is usually eaten between 2.
00 and 3.30 in the afternoon, and dinner any time after 9.00 in the evening. Breakfast is a very light affair, and most people have a snack in the early evening, called a "merienda".
You cannot go to Spain without having paella. This is really a staple food of the countryside that has become the traditional food of the country. Paella is traditionally made from rice, pieces of rabbit, broad or green beans cooked slowly to make a one meal dish, then heated quickly to give a toasted, caramelized bottom to the dish. In the larger centers the paella is often very exotic combining seafood such as shrimp, mussels and crab or lobster. Fresh vegetables such as artichokes, fresh herbs and wonderful rich tomatoes make up many of the dishes served in Spain. Often these fresh vegetables are combined with savory pastry dishes to make easy to eat finger foods served in the tapas bars.
Desserts are perhaps a little less varied, but can also be delicious. The most common dessert you'll find in a "normal" restaurant is a crme caramel, but many different regions will tempt you with their own special sweet. And after your dessert, don't forget your coffee and, as long as you're not driving, your chupito - a shot of spirit or liqueur.
Terry Roberts has lived in Spain since the 1970s. Check out his website, Travel to Spain, for information and advice for your upcoming visit there - and don't miss his ideas on the Top Ten Things to Do in Spain.