I just got back from a trip to Madrid. I think I am finally over my jet lag because this is the first night this week I haven’t fallen asleep on my couch at 10 pm and woken up in a confused stupor at 3 am. Now I am just straight up awake in a confused stupor at 3 am, so everything is back to normal.
I had to travel to Madrid for work for a one day meeting, so as a true academic I decided to bookend the trip with five days of vacation with my beautiful wife, and one day of being bored wandering around Madrid by myself. Now, I am not super into travel. I hate planes, I think other countries are generally weird, and I have never left the North American continent. I like North America. North America is a good place. So I have to say, when I first found out I had to go to Spain, I was not terribly excited outside of the fact that it would be my first trip abroad. But the more I read about Madrid, the more I realized…
Madrid is probably the place I am supposed to be.
Now, it’s not like I’m gonna be uprooting my life and moving there any time soon, but seriously, just about everything about Madrid that is different from the US is perfectly fine-tuned to my preferences. Some examples:
- They eat dinner anywhere between 8:30 and midnight….I EAT DINNER ANYWHERE BETWEEN 8:30 AND MIDNIGHT!
- They eat like four thousand small meals per day….I AM HUNGRY FOR LIKE FOUR THOUSAND SMALL MEALS A DAY!
- They mostly subside on cured meats, cheese, and bread…I BASICALLY SUBSIDE ON CURED MEATS, CHEESE, AND BREAD!
- They offer tapas so you can try everything in little, inexpensive portions….I WANT TO TRY EVERYTHING ON EVERY MENU EVER!
- Their “gin and tonics” are like five shots of gin and a 12 oz can of tonic in a giant wine glass….MY GIN AND TONICS ARE LIKE FIVE SHOTS OF GIN AND A 12 OZ CAN OF TONIC IN A GIANT WINE GLASS!
- They have like zero rules with regard to where you can wander around in public spaces with a glass of wine or beer in your hands…I HATE RULES RESTRICTING WHERE YOU CAN WANDER AROUND IN PUBLIC SPACES WITH A GLASS OF WINE OR BEER IN YOUR HAND!
- They straight-up day drink. Like elderly women knocking back beers and potato chips at 11am in a coffee shop while I’m enjoying a cafe con leche trying to wake up. This happened multiple times. Now, this is not very perfectly fine-tuned to me. I’m not much of a day drinker. It makes me sleepy. OH WAIT….THEY TAKE MID-DAY NAPS. PROBLEM SOLVED.
- Also, they pay waitstaff a living wage so you don’t have to tip more than 5-10%, they include the tax in the price of everything, and on top of that everything is extremely cheap. I HATE SPENDING MORE MONEY ON THINGS I LIKE WHEN I COULD SPEND LESS MONEY ON THEM.
So yeah, multiple times per day I think “I wish I was back in Madrid.” So in honor of the awesomeness that is Madrid, I give you:
Weird things I tried in Spain, with brief reviews:
- Chipirones en su tinta (squid in it’s ink) – excellent
- Tosta de angulas (Spanish baby eels on toast) – interesting
- Tosta de pulpo (grilled octopus on toast) – excellent
- Crab pate – wasn’t a fan
- Two godawful Caesar salads – please don’t eat Caesar salads in Spain it doesn’t work. Much like grain-based tortillas and consonants, Caesar salads are Mexican, but not Spanish.
- Orujo de jierbas (herbal liqueur) – taste: delicious smell: grappa
- Vermouth on tap – kinda like a Manhattan but made with Coca Cola
- Jamon iberica de bellota – this is special ham made from pigs who only eat acorns for their whole lives and it is amazing and my wife who doesn’t even like cured meats became completely addicted and THE MAN will not let it into the USA because there are TOO MANY FUCKING RULES IN THIS COUNTRY. But fuck them. Because you know what I did bring into this country?
SABOR A JAMON POTATO CHIPS.
And when US Customs started drilling me about the delicious food I had stashed in my luggage and they asked if I had any meat products I said “no” because Sabor A Jamon means “flavor of ham,” not ham, bitches. They are fucking delicious.
And now, for posterity, some awesome, less-weird things I ate in Spain that were amazingly delicious:
- Croquetas – my wife is a croqueta fiend, but I am more discerning. Light and airy, yay. Wet and heavy, nay nay nay. We ordered them at every restaurant we ate at and my approval rate was about 50%.
- Pulga de bacon – “pulga” translates to “flea” and I had no idea what that entailed but ordered it anyways and it was literally a mini bacon/french bread sandwich that I added on to my cafe con leche for like a dollar. God, I miss Spain.
- Padron peppers – I first discovered these in a CSA box and they are known as the “Russian roulette” of peppers because approx. 1 in 12 is spicy. 12 in 12 are delicious. The Spanish fry them up in olive oil and toss them in flaky salt. (If you ever make them yourself at home, keep the oil because you can dip bread in it and it is literally one of the most delicious things that will ever touch your lips.) Amazingly, we ordered two giant plates of these in Spain and didn’t get a single spicy one!
- Assorted burrata tapas – this was actually a little weird – they were burrata in name only, toast with thick whipped cream/fresh mozzarella shreds topped with stuff like jamon, boysenberries, pesto. I seriously ate so many of these.
- Venison bites – fantastic, probably the best tapa we had
- Marzipan from Toledo – least sweet and hence, best, marzipan I have ever had
- Cafe con leche – currently angrily resenting my morning coffees and saving up for a Nespresso machine.
- Chestnut honey – brought some back it was so good
- An olive oil that had sort of a spicy aftertaste – made me cough, not a fan
- Porras con chocolate – I have mixed feelings about this entire practice
- Freshly fried patatas fritas (potato chips) – almost died
- Chorizo – best chorizo I’ve ever had
- Chorizo pizza – tasted like my Mom’s pizza but it had chorizo on it
- Pigs in a blanket where the pig is chorizo and the blanket is croissant dough – ate this on my last day and regretted not eating it every day
- Wild boar – boar was delicious but the sauce was meh
- Several raw milk cheeses including arzua gallego, manchego, camembert, cabrales, and mahon – died
- Several varieties of olives – died
- Sardines with parsley and lemon on top of a freshly fried potato chip – the thought of eating it disgusted me but I tried it anyways and it was delicious and I can’t stop thinking about it
- Slow cooked beef cheek – died
- Slow roasted pork shoulder on toast – died again
Tosta de pulpo, breaded camembert and the chorizo/croissant pigs in a blanket situation.
Various meils (honeys)
Tortilla (spanish omelette), patatas bravas and chorizo con patatas fritas
Is that an earthquake? No, its JAMON.
Padron peppers and jamon iberico con pan con tomate.
And finally, to round it out:
Weird things I sort of wanted to try but didn’t
- McDonald’s “Cool Chutney CBO” – there were ads for this sandwich everywhere. I have no idea what CBO means, but “Cool” was literally the English word I encountered the most in Spain because of this ad. I wanted to try it so bad but I have not eaten McDonald’s for over a year and while it was oh so tempting, I didn’t want to break the streak. I did obsessively watch people who ordered various things from McDonalds in Spain because nothing they were eating was at all recognizable.
- Percebes (“goose neck barnacles”) – according to Wikipedia these are also available in California so hope is not lost
- Starbucks “American pancakes” – J/K I don’t know WTF this is all about but it was happening in every Starbucks case and it cracked me up every time.
As a final aside, the one thing I learned from all my travel guides is that Madrid is like a gazillion times cheaper than other European destinations like Rome, London and Paris. Seriously, I was paying for my “copas de vino” with coins. COINS. If you like the foods above, you should go to Madrid. And take me with you.