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Old 04-18-2008, 05:02 PM   #1
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ISO advice on Spain?

I am looking for postdoc positions in Bioinformatics, and there are some opportunities in Spain (lived in the U.S. my whole life). I have enjoyed all sorts of foreign foods here in America -- sushi, Thai, Indian, Italian. But, I don't really know very much about Spanish cuisine. Most "Spanish" food I find here is usually Mexican.

What sort of things can I expect in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville? Those are the three options that I'm looking into.

What sort of recipes could I try at home beforehand, preparing my taste buds for an entirely different culture?

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Old 04-18-2008, 05:29 PM   #2
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I was in Madrid in February and it was an interesting experience from a food standpoint. Again my experience is strictly based on Madrid so it is not the full picture.

I am Indian so I like food that is laden with spices and bright flavors. I found the food in Spain bland for my taste. A lot of food is seasoned minimally.

I also don't eat any pork and the dishes there use this ingredient liberally. The biggest delicacy is Jamon or ham that is cured and left at room temperature and enjoyed in a lot of dishes. It's interesting to walk into one of the Jamon shops. I had a colleague who had come to meet us from Prague and he actually took one of these big leg home

It is also a very heavy meat eating society. I don't eat a lot of meat so it was a bit difficult.

Now the good parts:

I enjoyed the sea food there - especially the cuttlefish dishes (tiny squids fried and seasoned with salt). I also enjoyed the octopus and fish.

The bread, cheese - queso fresco and manchengo were very good. I could survive on that.

I enjoyed Tapas dishes like garlic shrimp, beef meatballs and again the cheese platter. I also enjoyed the Seafood Paella. It was not the best seasoned but was good.

Overall I liked Madrid but not all the food. The worst experience was a stir fry chicken and veggie dish I ate. The chicken was still pink and the flavor is nothing like what I am used to here when I eat a stir fry dish. I could not eat it to say the least.

Also I don't speak Spanish and trust me it's hard to get around or get translations there. It was good I had a great deal of folks at work there that were gracious enough to take us to dinners and do all the translations. They even did taste test for me to ensure there was no pork in what I eat.

Other than that, Madrid is a pretty city and it feels good to walk around Plaza del Prado, Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace. The area by Plaza Mayor is dotted with little tapas joints and cafes. My one favorite was coffee and churros - Yum
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Old 04-18-2008, 06:53 PM   #3
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When I traveled in Spain (some decades ago), the food was one of the highlights. It is really nothing like Mexican food - much of Mexico's foods are free of Spanish colonial influence, i.e., the real staple of the Mexican diet is corn, which dates back many, many centuries. I can remember enjoying the tapas as well, and ordering "Pollo con ajo" in a nice restaurant in Seville, knowing that "pollo" was chicken, but not knowing enough Spanish at the time to realize that "ajo" was garlic. That chicken arrived absolutely smothered with whole cloves of roasted garlic, and it was one of the most memorable meals I've ever enjoyed. "Sopa de pescado" was always a reliable thing to order (fish soup), and it is here in Mexico as well. Full of whatever is fresh and available- I ate lots of octopus, mussels, oysters, yum.
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:26 PM   #4
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i've heard that you can get a good haircut and shave in seville.
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Old 04-18-2008, 11:31 PM   #5
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bucky...would you are too funny for your own good!!
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Old 04-19-2008, 04:28 AM   #6
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Spain

If you like your coffee black, in Spain FORGET IT! I had to make mine half milk! I never drink milk in my coffee here.

One of the most enjoyable food?? items was the Ice Cream bars. To die for!!

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Old 04-19-2008, 06:34 AM   #7
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OMG. I just spent, like, 15 minutes writing a post about this and accidentally closed the window before it was posted!! Ugh. I guess I'll start over. I think I was going on too long anyway.

I live in Barcelona, and have done for about five years. And when it comes to Spanish food Yakuta is absolutely right-- they don't know about spices here. Parsley, paprika, and garlic-- that's about it. What they do know about is ingredients. They have some of the most wonderful products in the world here. The fish is fresh, firm, and wonderful. The meat is, too. The fruits and veggies are 10 times better than anything you'd find in the States outside of a farmer's market. And so dishes here are simple in order to let the ingredients shine. It's not unusual to get a piece of fish or meat or a salad dressed only with olive oil-- they use a TON of it here. And it's wonderful. You just have to accustom your taste buds to something simpler.

Some of the best Spanish foods to try are tapas. I'm sure you can find a tapas place in your area that might give you a good idea of what this sort of food is like-- tapas are becoming increasingly popular all over the world. They're tasty and a LOT of fun to eat. Some of the my favorites are: gambas al ajillo (spicy garlic shrimp in olive oil), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy-tangy sauce and, if you're lucky, a nice scoop of alioli), croquetas, montaditos (small toasts) with cheese and cured meats, fried calamares, and... well, just about anything you can order. I could survive on nothing but tapas-- and it's all fried in olive oil, so you don't have to feel QUITE so guilty about the fact that it's all, well, fried. :)

The best tapas in the world are, of course, in Sevilla (a GORGEOUS city and worth a visit), but they have wonderful ones all over Spain. They're also great in the Basque country, where they're called pinxos (pronounced peench-os) and you pay by the "toothpick." Say, one euro a toothpick, a toothpick being one large croqueta or one small bocadillo (sandwich).

In Barcelona you can also get good tapas, and since it's the most international city in Spain, there are a TON of great restaurants. (There are also a ton of crappy, overpriced ones-- you have to know where to go.) Barcelona is especially big on fusion cuisine, and many menus combine Mediterranean cooking methods and with Asian ingredients-- really interesting and often delicious.

The bread here is also wonderful, and we have pastries to rival France. The Spanish are not much for baked goods in general (at least, not like we are in the US), but one taste of a flaky, rich flauta de chocolate and you're hooked. Have it with a cafe con leche or just a cafe (which is a plain espresso). While Charlie is sorta right about the coffee, he's also sorta wrong. You can get it black here. The espresso is absolutely wonderful. Strongly flavored, so you sip it very slowly instead of gulping like you would an American coffee. (Sorry if I sound snobbish, but I think American coffee is the pits.) Need your black American-style coffee? Just order a cafe americano.

If you're really considering coming here, my advice is: do it. It's a wonderful country. Barcelona is a little difficult as it considers itself quite separate from Spain. They speak a different language here (called Catalan-- but you can get around with Spanish just fine). They people aren't friendly the way they are in, say, Sevilla. But it's a very international city and, IMO, one of the most beautiful in the world. I LOVE it here. Put your toes into the sparkling Mediterranean just once and... boom, you're in love.

So yeah. The local food can be a little boring. But the ingredients are top-notch, the relaxed lifestyle is a wonderful change from the US, and the wine is the best (IMO) in the world and SUPER CHEAP. You can get a decent bottle for 3 euros at home, or 7 euros in a restaurant. It's awesome.

As for cooking, I would try to find a tapas restaurant if I were you. And if you want to make things at home, this website has some decent recipes:

Spanish Food Recipes

The website's a little wonky, but the recipes are good and, for the most part, authentic.

Feel free to post here if you have any more questions or want more details about Spain. I love it here and could talk about it for hours. :) Good luck with the position-- I hope you decide to come. Spain has a lot to offer and is, unfortunately, often overlooked in favor of France and Italy.
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Old 04-22-2008, 05:44 AM   #8
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In addition to what Karelyn is saying above, I would like to add that you cannot really talk about "the food in Spain" as if it was the same food all over the country. Spain is a country with a big, big diversity, and it reflects in the food as well. Fish is a very common ingredient in the Northen Spain, for example...Of course, some like Jamon, are a national "must try".

My advise is, if you go to Spain, take the chance to visit. Not only the cities that come in the tourist guides. You can find very nice experiences outside those touristic places as well. Public transport works ok and is not very expensive...so go and visit as much as you can!!!

and I wish you a very good time in Spain.
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Old 04-22-2008, 08:34 AM   #9
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Western New York wouldn't happen to be Rochester,

as in RIT would it? The sounds like my son's degree.
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Old 04-22-2008, 09:14 AM   #10
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The food in Spain is delicious!
We loved the paella in various locations, all a little different, with the local wines. The tapa was great and you must try the hams.
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