Cooking in a Foreign Country

As much as I would love to say I dined at every eatery in the Bilbao-Getxo area, I cannot. My bank account and my waistline could not afford that expense. While I have sampled a large variety of local cuisine (including an amazing Indian restaurant the other night), I tend to cook most meals in my apartment. Cooking in a foreign country has had its trials and tribulations and has also shown me vast differences and surprising similarities between my two homes: Spain and the United States.

Produce, meat, and more

There is something incredibly special about the Spanish lifestyle. Grocery stores, produce stores, fish stores, and meat stores are on every corner. Seriously, you can walk down nearly every street with the expectation of walking past a collection of these wonderful places. This is intentional so locals can stop by these stores on their way home from work to pick up ingredients to prepare dinner that night.

Yes, that means nearly every day you find yourself walking into the store to buy everything fresh. A shocking concept coming from a culture reliant on weekly grocery trips due to convenience and the lack of time on a daily basis. This Spanish concept allows the freshest products to be available at all times. And it does not disappoint.

The produce and meat here is exceptionally better than at home, in my opinion. Not to mention the prices are vastly different. The healthier the food, the lower the cost. From my analysis, the processed snack foods tend to be more expensive than the fresh fruits and veggies. Even the meat is reasonably priced at the grocery stores. On average, I spend 15-20 euros on groceries each week.

Food prep

When your oven is in Celsius, your fridge is small-a little bigger than a traditional dorm room fridge, and the microwave is a dial rather than numbers to type in, some culture shock occurs in the kitchen.

My first thought was “Oh crap, how are three girls going to fit everything in the fridge. The full-size fridge in my house at school is constantly full from four girls.” I was hesitant. But as I now know, it is more than possible and we actually have more room than we need.

As for the oven, well I like to play the guessing game. But it forces me to be present rather than passively tossing my food into the oven and continuing on with another task. I have discovered my soul loves to cook. I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating a beautiful plate full of wholesome ingredients to fuel my body.

Some of my favorite moments in Spain have occurred in my apartment kitchen, preparing dinner with my roommate, or our Galentines Day feast for twenty girls. The food we put into our bodies is the fuel for our day, like the gasoline we put into cars. It’s an amazing concept and once you internalize the importance of quality, the mindset changes.

Cooking in my apartment in Spain isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

The photo from this article is one one of my favorite meals. White rice, kidney beans, roasted zucchini, roasted red peppers, and roasted garbanzo beans-all seasoned lightly with a fajita seasoning.

Hailee Brown attends the University of Mount Union. She is currently studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain for the Spring 2018 semester. You can read more about her adventures in Bilbao on her blog