Preparing for a vegetarian’s visit to southern Spain ..
I am a carnivore, a meat-eater, a burger connoisseur. I’m down with chicken, pork, seafood and the almighty ham – as evidenced by my gluttony at last fall’s Feria de Jamón. However, I do realize that many people have opted out of this option and I often wonder .. how do they survive in this country? I, for one, have not been able to find a single salad to brag about. With an armful of vegetables from the local fruiteria, it’s possible to concoct such a thing in your own home – but don’t try to get one at a restaurant.
We joke about several key food items here in Sevilla: 1) mayonnaise, 2) french fries and 3) ham. For some reason, mayo is the condiment of choice in this country, and you can find it on EVERYTHING. Ditto, french fries. Our students look at us like we have three heads every time we mention mashed potatoes (patatas puree) – the starch of choice here is brought to you straight out of the fryer. When you commit to a tapas crawl you can rest assured that you do not actually have to request a plate of fries, because they will likely accompany every croqueta you get. And of course, the pièce de résistance in Andalucia: ham. We are simply mad about cholesterol here .. and yet everyone is skinny, go figure.
Regardless, Holly’s pending visit has put me to the test and I have been combing online resources and talking to locals in an attempt to find what works for the non-meat-eating folk. In all seriousness, Spain plays host to some delectable breads and cheeses, and as far as I’m concerned we are among the best in pastry creations. So vegetarian or not, make sure those are on your list. For safety’s sake, make sure you know the basic words: vegetariano/-a = vegetarian; no como carne = I don’t eat meat; sin carne = without meat. Most waitstaff should get the gist if you say you’re a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean you should trust there won’t actually be meat near your food. Sometimes there is tuna in salad, or ham on your soup .. they just can’t resist.
I ran through some of my favorite tapas and highlighted the ones without meat, so here is some of what you can expect on a meat-free tapas tour through Sevilla / southern Spain:
- tortilla española (eggs, potatoes, onions)
- espinaca con garbanzos (spinach and garbanzo beans)
- patatas bravas (fried potatoes in sauce)
- gazpacho / salmorejo (cold soup made with tomatoes, garlic, oil, bread)
- berenjenas (eggplant, usually fried, sometimes served with honey)
- paella (you can order this rice dish without the typical seafood or meat)
- ensaladilla (this can be tricky, but it’s usually potatoes, mayo, eggs .. sometimes tuna)
I say when in doubt .. get yourself a pastry 🙂
Some additional links:
- A list of vegetarian restaurants in Sevilla, provided by Jeff at exploreseville.com
- This blog by a student studying abroad who stumbled on a veggie-friendly restaurant in Granada, Spain
- CCS notes “there are very few vegetarians in Spain” .. they refer students to breads, cheeses and add that Spanish salads leave a bit to be desired (fact).
- SpainExpat points to the herbolarios as a veggie friendly alternative in Man vs. Ham in this article.