Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cooooooookies? For Breeeaaakfast?

My rant of the week has to do with the health of the Spanish diet. I think, due to our obesity problem, Americans always think that other developed countries are more health-conscious or practice some sort of traditionally healthy diet. My experience in Spain has taught me that none of this is true:

Breakfast is, perhaps, the worst culprit in terms of health. The most traditional breakfast, churros (aka porras) y chocolate, consists of three or four sort of long doughnuts served with a cup of thick hot chocolate. Not exactly the breakfast of champions. Typically, however, it is coffee, some sort of sweet pastry, and fruit. In my house, this pastry is usually prepackaged and neither filling nor healthy, such as pound-cake, mini croissants, or mini muffins. The most hearty option appears to be "digestive" cookies. Let's not kid ourselves - these are not health food. They consist of two biscuits, about two inches in diameter, sandwiching a layer of chocolatey goodness. They're pretty good, if I do say so myself, especially with coffee between bites. It just doesn't exactly stave off hunger until 2:00 lunch.

It would be one thing if the Spanish were self-aware of their silly eating habits, but this is not the case. This Sunday, I woke up at 11:00 or so and went to get a cup of coffee. Pilar asked me if I wanted breakfast, but I said I would just wait for lunch, since it was so soon. She then made a big deal about how breakfast was the most important meal of the day. "What are you talking about?" I said, "people in this country eat coffee, cookies, and fruit. It's not exactly a healthy meal." She just shrugged. To drive home the point and because they're delicious, I got a cookie to take with my coffee. "Better?" I asked, and to really reemphasize what I was saying, in my best Cookie Crisp voice, I said, "Galleeeeeetas? Para el desayuuuuuuno?" Pilar looked at me like I was crazy. I guess she never saw one of their English ads.

My daily breakfasts, however, have palled in comparison to this week's. Always concerned (just like my real mother) that my diet is monotonous*, Pilar bought a couple of pre-packaged breakfast pastries. The first one I had wasn't anything absurd, but the second was what can only be described as a circular, chocolate-covered twinkie. I was a bit offended that it was even a bit better. While it lacked the quintessentially American artificial fluffiness, the cream was identical.

This makes even less sense in contrast with the attitude taken towards fruit. Not only is fruit considered an appropriate, if not standard, desert, but it is thought of as downright unhealthy. Pilar has said that Lili, the cleaning lady, got fat eating grapes and bananas, for example. She even recommended that Lili switch to apples, which are apparently much healthier.

Other meals are not so bad, though everything is laced with salt and there are few vegetables. I suppose the only real health improvement is in snacking. Snacks are sort of a planned social thing, and usually involve coffee or beer and a mini-sandwich, often of tortilla (a potato omelet). I'm slowly adjusting, though, and Pilar is a great cook. I guess I should just lay off on the American product jingles.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, Evan! I love this post! It's so interesting to read about food in other countries. I wrote a large post about food in mine a week or two ago.

    I miss you and your humor! I would have laughed at your "galletas" joke. But i do suggest you lay off the jingles. Not everyone loves you and gets you like I do, or appreicates that type of humor. ;o)

    miss you! glad you seem well, and glad you're practicing your spanish, even if it doesn't really matter that you speak in spanish. my bro said that in costa rica, unless he forced himseld, he didn't need to speak in spanish, but he was glad he did, and wished he had spoken spanish even more