How much is too much?
Every day for lunch, my meal looks something like this:
Bread and butter, salad (without dressing), meat, starch, fruit, yogurt, and my choice of water or coca-cola…and often, inexplicably, a fried egg. At first, this seems like a very pleasant arrangement…until you look at the portion sizes that I am given. The bread is an entire mini-loaf, the salad comes in a serving bowl, if the meat of the day happens to be chicken I am guaranteed to have at least three pieces, accompanied by a mountain of either potatoes or rice. Lingering to the side is a dinner-plate full of cut fruit, with a little container of yogurt sitting innocently beside it, yet somehow taunting me still. Let me make something clear: My host mother expects me to eat ALL of this. When I can't (inevitably, because she has provided enough food for 5 very large linebackers), she frets out loud about how I don't eat enough, because only one piece of chicken was consumed, or how I am wasting away to nothing. Please. I know that her eyesight isn't what it used to be, but we can all plainly see that her fears of me starving are thoroughly unfounded.
This is the one issue I have with my Señora that, no matter how many times we discuss it, nothing changes. Breakfast isn't an issue, because by the time I awaken she has already left for work, and so I eat (or don't) as I choose. Dinner, too, is fine, because in Spain "la cena" is a smaller meal anyway. But lunch…whoo boy. An insight into Spanish eating habits: here, lunch is referred to as either "la comida" (the food) or "la hora de comer" (roughly translates to the "hour of eating". Those of you who have taken Spanish might be thinking, "Hey wait! I thought that lunch was called almuerzo." Well, they say that too. But in my house (and my friends houses), the Señoras often refer to lunch as "la comida". No matter what you call it, lunch is a serious past-time here, and I assure you it is treated thusly. Basically, it is the most important part of siesta…go home, have some lunch, maybe take a nap. But in my house, it is like a feast, every day.
Ah! I almost forgot to tell you about the salad dressing! When I arrived in Spain two months ago, my host mother would serve a salad that had, for lack of a better word, been shredded into very small pieces. In addition to the fact that it was practically mulch, she would then "dress" it (ahem douse it) with olive oil, vinegar, and salt. In theory, tasty…in practice, more like a salad soup. I am going to assume that most people would not want to consume a salad that contained as much liquid as lettuce, and so I hope that you will all understand when I tell you that I had no interest in eating my veggies. So, I did what all children do, quite naturally, beginning at a very tender age: I refused. I wish I could accompany this fact with a juicy tid-bit about me throwing a temper tantrum or something like that, but alas, this is not the case. I'm 21 years old, and that is an age that requires more cunning and intrigue in the matters of avoiding certain leafy substances. In essence, I just avoided eating the salad at all costs, even when it was placed directly on my plate in an obvious attempt to lure me into consuming it by accident along with my chicken. I managed to avoid the salad for three solid weeks, thinking I was being very clever and subtle…until one day my Señora finally asked me why I wouldn't eat the salad. Busted! I tried to think of an excuse, but "allergic to lettuce" didn't really seem plausible, so I confessed to her that I would really prefer plain salad. She looked at me for a moment, long enough that I thought maybe she hadn't understood me…and then she just started to laugh. She laughed so hard that there were tears on her cheeks, and when she was finally finished she asked me: "Why didn't you just say so?"
Needless to say I felt rather foolish…especially when she spent the next two weeks recounting the story to all of her friends, and even the guy that delivers our water. The foolish feeling only got worse when I realized that the whole issue could have been avoided entirely if I had just taken it upon myself to learn the word for "salad dressing", which (by the way), is the verb aliñar. As in, "Por favor, no me gusta la ensalada aliñada." Lesson learned.