My first taste of Spain
I started my Spanish adventure around three weeks ago, just four days after my final second-year exam at university, where I’m studying Marketing & Public Relations. I am currently on a placement working for Andalucia.com and living in Estepona where their offices are, about a half hour’s drive from Marbella. Since I started living here, I have been very surprised by the food.
Over the past few years I’ve begun to develop an interest for seafood. But the problem in England is that a good piece of fish or some king prawns can be quite expensive, and being on a student budget I usually have to opt for the miniscule prawns that could be mistaken for large maggots at a glance!
At the start of my stay here in Andalucia I went to a tapas bar in Marbella for lunch, where I experienced my first taste of Spanish seafood, Prawns Pil-Pil. The description on the menu read “prawns in a garlic sauce”, and as these are two of my favorite foods, it was easy to choose this out of the 80-something dishes on the vast menu. To my delight, it’s not just the menus that are oversized here - the food is too! I had never seen prawns so big - they make our English ones look pathetic. The “Pil-Pil” garlic sauce was a bit of a surprise as well, as I’ve since learnt it is made with garlic and jalapeño pepper, which will result in fire-breath!
After living here for a few weeks, I’ve noticed a few things which are quite different to England. For instance, whereas in England we would have blackberry bushes growing in the countryside (incidentally the Spanish blackberry is also massive), here in Andalucia there are orange trees pretty much everywhere, including Marbella town centre, so there’s no excuses for vitamin C deficiencies!
Also, whole legs of jamon can be bought from the local supermarkets - these giant lumps of meat cost around 50-100 euros and seem to be in plentiful supply. I was fortunate enough to be able to try acorn-fed jamon de bellota whilst working on location at a nearby luxury hotel recently. I could only describe it as dried-out Parma ham although still delicious, which seemed to slightly offend the purist Spaniards around me, who were astounded to watch someone taste jamon iberico for the very first time.
When my language skills improve, I would like to eat at a place where the menu is only available in Spanish, to get a true taste of the Andalucian gastronomy. But for now I will continue trying different food types and styles for the first time. I was pleased with my first taste of Spanish prawns (although in most places you have to butterfly them yourself) and jamon, and have since eaten my first snail. I have also heard of a place in Nerja that cooks on hot stones, so this will be my next big culinary venture.
Anyone visiting Spain really must sample some traditional dishes, even if it’s just picking at a bowl of complimentary olives or a small tapas portion - you’ll be addicted from the first mouthful!