One of the things that struck Anna the most about her time with ALBA was the rich and unique dining culture of Spain. Follow her as she dives deeper into the intricacies of this aspect of Spanish culture:
While walking the cobbled streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter I was struck by the vibrantly colored produce spilling out of the market doors onto the sidewalks. The fresh, colorful, vivid harvest sat juxtaposed against the sturdy, brownstone of the city walls. It was a lovely metaphor for Barcelona’s combination of the new and old, testifying to the coexistence of past and present. Barcelona is both wise and curious, both ancient and developing with a history as rich as its promise for creation.
Barcelona also exudes an easy appreciation of the present. The need to rush feels absent. The encouragement to enjoy is contagious. This savoring is shaped by a Mediterranean culture that seems inherently appreciative of food. While sitting on the balcony of my apartment and watching a bustling restaurant on the sidewalk below, I begin to notice how people linger at their meals. Rather than rushing silently through their meal and hastily requesting a check, people savor their food, sip wine slowly and enjoy one another’s company. I sit on my balcony, enjoying an afternoon coffee, and then head back inside to work on homework. I return to the balcony a few hours later and notice the same group of people around the same table, still enjoying conversation, smiling, and relishing their drinks.
There is a sense of balance here – an understanding that time with other human beings is valuable. In the United States, it seems that we often first sacrifice plans with friends and family when we are short on time. However, the dining culture in Spain encourages people to relax into the moment; to set aside phones and to truly listen and absorb. People are present and attentive; the conversation is as rich as the food. I have yet to notice someone in a restaurant in Spain staring at a phone screen while at a table with other people. It is evident that people care about conversation and shared experience – people value connection.
I was surprised when my roommates brought me a cake on my birthday, only a week after meeting them. They have been so welcoming, generous, and giving. When they cook, they routinely invite me to join their meal. This gives us the wonderful opportunity to talk and learn about each other’s lives and cultures.
Spain has reminded me of the importance of nurturing connections and has shown me that meals create an opportunity to connect with people. When I spend quality time with people, I am happier and healthier. As a result, I can take better care of the people I love, enriching both my own life and the lives of those around me. Thank you, Barcelona!