Food is a cultural experience, and no matter where you study abroad, the food will be an integral part of your time there as well as one of the things you will find yourself missing when you return home. I spent last spring in Granada, Spain and looking back on it now, I realize that the food I ate most often was representative of the city itself and the experiences I had there.
When someone mentions the gelato they ate during their time abroad, it’s easy to assume that they were in Italy. Granada, however, also has dozens of gelato shops around the city that serve delicious treats to enjoy on a warm afternoon. Easy to eat and perfect for the warm weather in Granada, I found that it was the perfect snack on an afternoon spent exploring the city.
One day in particular, as the spring weather was arriving, a friend and I decided to go for a walk through the city. We stopped for gelato on our way and ate it as we wandered the side streets. That afternoon we explored for hours, finding a park, a church that was a few centuries older than our country, and plenty of new views of the city. This was just one of many times that an afternoon spent out in the city began or ended with gelato. After a visit to the Alhambra with class, a few of my classmates joined me for a treat from my favorite gelato place.
While gelato might not be typical of Spain, the tapas absolutely are. Last year, as I looked ahead to my semester abroad, the tapas were one of the experiences I was most excited for. Upon my arrival in Spain, I learned that in Granada specifically, the tapas are served free with the drinks. While this used to be common throughout the country, Granada is one of the few cities that carries on this food tradition. Depending on the restaurant, the tapas are even big enough to be a full meal.
Tapas are available around lunch and dinner, and their popularity demonstrates how social Spaniards are, as many of them regularly meet up with friends to share a dish. One of my favorite outings for tapas was with my host family. I went with my host mother and her two daughters for a glass of sangria and a shared plate of delicious rice somewhat like paella. We stood in a plaza in the sun, enjoying the food and talking about our days. After we finished, we made our way to one of the family’s favorite restaurants for lunch. The afternoon was relaxing and fun and definitely brought us closer together.
Potaje is a stew with rice, chickpeas, and chicken that my host mother made often, especially when it was cold. It was a comfort food that, to me, represented the best parts of my home stay. Just like the stew was a comfort food, my home stay provided me with a welcoming safe space throughout my semester.
My family in Spain was incredibly welcoming, and I felt at home with them soon after my arrival. Food played a major part in my connecting with them in Granada. We ate lunch and dinner together every day, and I often spent time with my host mother while she cooked. After meals, we lingered at the table talking and watching TV or movies. My homestay food, such as the potaje, was a vehicle for me to bond with my family.