In Spain, eat when the Spaniards do. This means late suppers, beginning about 9:00 p.m. For nondieters there are topa bars to frequent before dinner. Topas, Spanish hors d’oeuvres, range from stuffed mushrooms to baby eels. Patrons are expected to buy wine or sherry.
Stay up all night and the in thing is to show up at a churria after 4:30 a.m. for churro or porra. Both are similar to deep-fried doughnuts. Dipped in thick, sweet Spanish-style hot chocolate, they are part of the all-night-out ritual.
The culinary experience in Spain centers around the many seafood dishes and an array of wines. Sherry is Spain’s claim to wine fame. In fact, the name sherry comes from the way the English perceived the name Jerez, the town that is the sherry capital of the world. A tour of the wine storehouses, the bodegas, is informative, and the sherry sampling a pleasure. Jerez de la Frontera is in the south of Spain; Northern Spain produces a number of table wines, some excellent.
Roast suckling pig, cochinillo, is a favorite food in Spain. For groups the piglet is served spread-eagle, head and all, on a sizzling platter. Roasted so that the glazed skin is crackling crisp, the meat beneath a layer of fat is well done, tender and garlicky. Other dishes, exotic to the American palate, include baby squid in their own ink, with rice; lima beans with pork ears and feet; garlic soup. This soup as it cooks loses most of the characteristic garlic flavor and takes on a personality of its own. Of course, if a visitor is to pick the one Spanish dish to remember, it is paella, the medley of seafood and boiled rice. Restaurants usually require orders in advance to prepare it.
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