Written by: Emily Syrjala ’17 Biology and biomedical humanities double major, Spanish Minor, Softball and Soccer player, Avid Traveler.
This post was written about her 12-week experience in Spain with Professor Elena Iglesias-Villamel.
Growing up I had always been a picky eater. If we went to a steak house or any other restaurant for that matter, I refused to eat anything but pasta with butter and cheese on it. At home I refused to eat beef, mushrooms, any kind of seafood or anything else that looked strange to me. Of course throughout college I had become much better at trying new foods but it wasn’t until I went to Spain that I really begun to push my boundaries.
During my time in Spain, I lived with a host family. My host mother’s name is Maria Teresa (or as I called her Maite) and my father’s name is Roberto. At first holding conversations with them was hard. Many a time Maite would put a giant plate of food in front of me tell me in her quick Spanish the name of the dish. Mind you, before Spain, I would have told you ordering food in Spanish was the type of conversation where I felt strongest; however, I soon learned I really had no idea what each food was called and thus I had no idea what was being put in front of me. But, before arriving at my house I told myself that I would eat whatever was put in front of me, no matter how strange it looked and I’m so glad I followed through because it turned out to be extremely rewarding, in more ways than one.
I was lucky enough to try a lentil soup flavored by chorizo, a fish served whole deep fried in olive oil, conejo (a meat I didn’t realize was actually rabbit until the last week when Maite served it to me and called it Bugs Bunny), a purred vegetable soup that could either be green or bright orange depending on the day, and of course more potatoes than I could have ever ask for. One of my favorite main dishes was a rice and meat dish. The meat (either chicken, rabbit, or pork) was cooked with vegetables and herbs and then the rice was later cooked in that same broth giving it a red color and amazing flavor. My favorite dish to get for a snack or desert was filloas or orejas. Filloas are a crepe looking pastry that could be served with sugar or agave nector and orejas (ears) are another type of pastry named after their shape. Both are foods typically eaten around the time of Carnaval (a national holiday celebrated with parades, light decorations, and pyrotechnics).
Throughout my time in Spain not only did I learn about multiple different types of foods, I also gained a better relationship with my host family. By eating everything that was put in front of me my host mother felt more at ease cooking foods that she enjoyed which allowed me to learn more about her. Of course learning to like new foods was quite easy in her house since she was an amazing cook!