Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Kitchen Mouse’s Spanish Menu - Entrees

Originally published July 9, 1984

While Spain has its share of great restaurants, the heart of the cuisine is in the home - partly for economic reasons and partly because of the fantastic (in today’s world) tightness of the family structure. The long lunch period is still observed in Spain, not for gastronomic or health reasons, but because the Spaniards still by and large consider it barbarous for a family not to eat together. The three-hour lunch break is hardly conducive to easy living  when office or shop workers sometimes have to travel and hour each way to get home for lunch and back to work. Except for highly paid executives who could afford to eat in restaurants near their offices, most people do not have the equivalent of the sandwich or hamburger shop (or, needless to say, the company cafeteria) available to American workers. Bringing one’s sandwich to the office is not considered undignified, but anyone who didn’t go home for lunch would be somewhat suspect to being not quite respectable.

Inconvenient as the custom may be, perhaps this is at least a partial explanation of why there appears to be less generation gap in Spain than one is aware of in other parts of the world. While the Spanish family is a patriarchal rather than a democratic unit, the generations do communicate and the family lunch is an important time for the exchange of the trivial news of the day which perhaps keeps the lines of communication open better than when they are reserved for major crises.

While the Kitchen Mouse does not wish to start a home-for-lunch movement or to emulate the Spanish family structure in other ways, I am a little wistfully envious of the Basque eating clubs. Each club consists of anywhere from 40 to 200 members, all of whom contribute to the cooking. There are no social lines. The same club will have tradesmen and lawyers on its roster, the only discrimination - alas, the clubs are reserved for men only.

Buen Prevecho, Amigos!

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