I just returned from a perfectly timed Spanish vacation with my dad. In college I spent a semester in Madrid–probably the most fun 4 months of my life. I lived with a Spanish woman who cooked well, despite her frustrations with me as a non-pork eater. I made great friends, and even ended up with a really terrific guy. Spain was amazing!
When my dad suggested we go on a vacation together, Spain was the first place that came to mind. It had been over 5 years since I was last on the Iberian peninsula, and I definitely wanted my dad to experience a bit of España. So off we went just a week ago. We traveled to Madrid first, then spent 3 days in Barcelona. The weather was warm, and each day the sun shined bright.
As you may know, Spain is known for its bullfights, running of the bulls, and perhaps most importantly, Jamón Iberico (a “high quality” cured meat). Not surprisingly, it was pretty difficult for my dad (a vegetarian) and I to eat. Thankfully we rented AirBnb apartments with great kitchens, so we were able to cook for ourselves some days. Still, compared the grocery stores in the States, Spain’s vegetable produce section was sparse. We went to so many supermercados and were surprised to only find broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and one variety of leafy greens. There was bagged lettuce too, but I was really craving a massaged kale salad.
|La Pedrera in Barcelona|
To us it seemed as though every Spanish restaurant had the same menu. Spanish tortilla (like a potato omelet. An old favorite of mine), bocadillos (sandwich on a baguette), paella, and an assortment of tapas with cheese, jamón, and seafood. We were struck by the fact that Spanish people eat tons of bread, eggs, cheese and jamón, yet are healthier and fitter than Americans. How could it be? My theory is that it comes down to lifestyle. Here in the US we have a culture of progress, success, profit and singularity. In Spain they take siesta in the middle of the day and spend ample time eating with friends which seems to contribute to a lower stress level. Here in the states I feel we use food to self medicate. We eat too much of the wrong stuff, while the Spaniards seem to embrace ease and moderation.
In Spain I was reminded of how blessed I am to live in a place with such an abundance of food choices for vegans. I also was inspired to appreciate life a little more, and to stress less. Yesterday I even took a nap : )
If you’re going to Spain and need some recommendations on eating vegan/vegetarian, I can tell you about the few places we visited.
Madrid’s vegetarian scene was nearly non-existent. We went to a little place called Yerbabuena near Sol, and it was the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life! The food looked bad, and it tasted even worse. Oh, and it was expensive as hell for what it was. So so so sad.
I recommend going to my old favorite Madrid restaurant/pizzeria Pizzaiolo on Calle Horteleza near Chueca. Get the veggie pizza without cheese, and you’re good to go.
In Barcelona we had much more success with the food situation. We ate at Cat Bar, a restaurant/bar on Carrer Boria that specializes in awesome veggie burgers and beer. We both had a mushroom burger with patatas fritas. It was far from healthy, but delicious.
We also ate at Rasoterra in Gotic on Carrer Palau. I thought it was quite good. Not like a NYC veg restaurant, but good. My favorite part was my dad’s mushy bean burger (I was craving beans), the shaved garlic olive oil on my cold veggies and the cava. Of course, the cava.
Our last day in Barcelona we found a place called AQuistoi. It wasn’t vegan but they made me a mega-salad with plenty of fresh figs on top.
Go prepared vegans! Take your green powders for each day you’ll be missing your green juice or smoothie (no cold-pressed juice bars or green smoothies here), and pack all your favorite non-perishables like granola, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. You can buy great fresh fruit in Spain, so no worries there.
|El Junco. My friends and I spent about 4 nights a week in this bar back in 2008!!|
|off of Gran Via in Madrid|
|In parque Retiro|
|Me and my Daddy in Madrid at Templo de Debod|
|View from the kitchen in our Barcelona flat|
|I like what I see! Market off of La Rambla|
|I spy mangosteen and longan. Two of my favorite fruits from Thailand!|
|at Parc Guell|