Perhaps in a previous life I was a Spaniard.
My husband celebrated his 55th birthday at the beginning of October, and since then we've been traveling in Spain - a dual birthday gift to each other since my special day was in September. At different periods in each of our lives we have lived in Spain and Italy and preferring Spain we try to get back as often as possible. We aren't typical tourists motoring from one city or tourist attraction to another, spending a day here, two days there. Instead, we choose an area - on this trip it is the Alpujarra region of the Costa del Sol - rent a house, set up home for two or three weeks, and live as the Spaniards do.
We make day trips to mountain towns or coastal beaches (each no more than 30 minutes drive away), participate in the daily shopping for meat, vegetables, and pan (bread), and soak up the luxury of the afternoon Siesta (2-5 every day), then delight in the evening ebb and flow of dinner starting at 9PM and ending in a leisurely paseo (walk) around town until midnight or so. It's not for everyone, but we both love it.
The more amazing thing for me on these jaunts to Spain is the food. When at home in America, food seems to be my nemesis - I eat then within 30 mins. I know if I'll feel okay or awful, bloated, and gassy, wishing I'd never let a morsel pass my lips. But, here, I eat what I want and think no further of it. No bloating, no gas, firm stool, and only one or two BM's a day. I've eaten a bit of pan nearly every day since we've been here and had no signs of gluten-intolerance like I do at home. It's lovely and I truly enjoy every minute, every morsel.
But our time here is dwindling and our three weeks will end in six days. Then it's back to America and dreading food, watching each bite I take, and hoping it doesn't make me ill.
And the question that lingers is, Why? And the answer I can come to is that quality of food production here is better. Yes, you can get fast food, frozen food, prepared food here in Spain. But, it's not how the typical Spaniard eats. The frozen and prepared foods are typically being bought by the tourists and some of the young Spanish kids. The more typical Spanish diet - and no, Spanish food is not Mexican food! - consists of fresh fruit and vegetables, copious amounts of olive oil on nearly everything, chorizo (a natural sausage made without preservatives from pork that has been grazed naturally), hard and semi-hard cheeses, olives, soups of garlic and olive oil or legumes and bits of meat, paellas made with rice, crusty bread with dense and chewy centers, and spices like pimenton (paprika), and fresh herbs, fresh goat's milk, and the best yogurt you'll ever taste. Where we are staying, fish is always available as is fresh lamb, pork, and rabbit and chicken.
The foods are prepared simply, to taste the product, not mask it. The animals from which the foods come are raised pretty naturally, with few or no antibiotics or additives. You can drive through the towns and see the goat, lamb, and cattle grazing on the grasses and herbs that grow, herded along by a shepherd.