Menú del día |
A couple of weeks ago I said that comida means food in Spanish. But comida is also what we call the most important meal of the day: lunch. You can also refer to lunch as almuerzo, but comida is used more frequently -and it’s easier to pronounce! So I’ll use comida.
If you have been to Spain before you will know this. But if you haven’t, you should be warned: mealtimes in Spain are late compared to other countries. The reason for this is that we are living in the wrong time zone (this article explains it in more detail).
As I was saying, la comida is the most important meal, but obviously not the only one. We also have:
- Desayuno (breakfast). Spaniards, in most cases, don’t take desayuno too seriously. Many just drink a cup of coffee before leaving their homes. That’s why it’s common for people to go down to their nearest bar or cafetería during their break, for a mid-morning café con leche and pincho. Despite that, we have a verb meaning “to have breakfast”: desayunar.
- Cena (dinner). It is usually a light meal. 10:00pm is a perfectly acceptable (and normal) time to have dinner. It’s not common for restaurants to start serving la cena before 8:30pm. We also have a verb meaning “to have dinner”: cenar.
Since it’s the most important meal, let’s concentrate on la comida. I already said that lunch in Spain is late, compared to other countries: don’t expect restaurants to start serving lunch before 1:30pm. And you normally have a couple of options:
- You can choose from the full carta (menu). This option tends to be more expensive, but it gives you the freedom to choose exactly what you want.
- You can go for the menú del día. Generally a more economical option. The price is set and you get at least 2 or 3 choices for each course.
El menú del día
Menú del día was introduced by law in the 60’s. Back then it was called menú turístico and, as the name suggests, it was created to cater for all the tourists that started visiting Spain in those days. The government set the prices and what the menu should include. It should be served as fast as possible and it should also try to promote typical Spanish dishes among the tourists.
Things have changed since, and restaurantes don’t have to offer a menú del día, although many do. Needless to say, prices are not set by the government either and they can vary a lot from one place to another.
The picture shows a real menú del día from a restaurant along the Camino Portugués.
In this menu, you can see the first and second courses separated by a line. So you have siete (7) primeros and cinco segundos to choose from. The price is €12.00 (€12.20 if you sit outside) and it also includes a bebida (drink), postre (dessert) and café (coffee).
The primeros usually include vegetables, soups, eggs and/or pasta. All of these are included in this menu:
Vegetables: ensalada (salad) as well as vegetable wok.
Soups: lentejas (lentil soup) and crema de verduras.
Eggs: revuelto (scrambled eggs).
The segundos are in most cases either fish or meat dishes.
Some places may offer a vegetarian option among their segundos, but you’re more likely to find one among the primeros. So, if you’re a vegetarian and you still want to avail of the menú del día, you can ask to have 2 primeros, instead of a primero and a segundo. That’s an acceptable practice and most places will be happy to oblige.
What is frowned upon and not allowed in many places is to share a menú del día between 2 people.
In some places, they have a plato del día (just 1 course instead of 2).
Today’s Spanish words
Menú del día
For the pronunciation of primero and segundo, check Eating on the Camino.
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