On Being a Vegetarian in Spain

I have been totally non-existant and for this I am sorry. I wrote this blog post 9 days ago and never posted it! Whoops. Anyways, here we go.

 This is the 2nd time I’ve been to Spain during my 4.5 years of being a vegetarian. The first time was when I studied abroad my junior year of college a.k.a. university. I lived in a home-stay with a woman, her daughter, and another American girl. Our program placed vegetarians in the same household to make it easier on the Señoras, so Sarah, too, was a vegetarian. I began my time abroad telling myself that I would not eat meat or fish, but I found out that Sarah did eat fish and I didn’t have the heart to tell my señora that I really didn’t want to, so I sucked it up. For the most part I enjoyed the seafood, it was just the actual fish that was hard for me. But I survived with some stories to tell.
After I returned home, I remained a vegetarian, although I would occasionally eat seafood if I wanted to, because, I mean, it was my choice to become a vegetarian and its my choice what I want to eat. Still, I had no desire to eat the factory grown and produced corn-fed “meat” that is available in the US so I happily stuck to my Boca and Morning Star products (missing them tonsss now).

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I returned to Spain in mid-September to live and teach. The second time around, being a vegetarian has not been so easy for me. Let me explain. Many of my reasons for being vegetarian at home stem from my disgust with the food production industry in the US. [If you’re at all interested in where your food comes from (and really, why wouldn’t you be) I highly recommend doing some research about the industry in the US, because you might as well be educated about what you put into your body, be it good or bad.] Here in my small town, much of the food is local. Of course, the things that can be bought in Mercadona (my chain grocery store here) are not, but there are plenty of delis, fruit stores and bread stores to go to where locally grown and less commercial items can be bought. That being said, I have used my “College Vegetarian Cooking” cookbook many many times since I’ve been here to try new recipes and to teach myself how to cook some things. I’ve made and invented some pretty delicious and easy (you all know how semi-impatient/lazy I am when it comes to cooking) vegetarian dishes, and I’ve even been ambitious and learned how to caramelize onions to make a quiche/tart! So as you can see, vegetarianism at home has been easy.

The problem arises when we eat out. We don’t eat out like every day or anything, but going out for drinks and tapas is a fairly common occurrence. And in Spain, tapas wouldn’t be tapas without meat, and lots of it. Jamón Ibérico, albondigas, lomo in salsa Pedro Ximénez, you name it. Tapas are ordered and eaten family style, meaning your table orders 3 or 4 (or 5 or 6…) tapas or “1/2 raciónes” of some dishes, and everyone shares, and then you split the bill equally. There are few vegetarian options in terms of tapas, but luckily I like the ones that exist. However, I decided a few weeks ago that if I want to try some meat dishes, I will. Part of my feels really really guilty about it, and part of me says to eat what I want because I am the one who put the “restriction” on myself in the first place. So there it is. I guess I can no longer classify myself as a vegetarian. It feels weird to loose a label I have used for my self since I was in high school, though I still don’t feel totally omnivorous. I don’t really order meat dishes for myself when we’re out and I certainly don’t envision myself going to the local carnicería to buy a giant ham leg anytime soon (or ever), but for now I’ll eat what appetizes me and avoid what doesn’t.


So that’s all for now. It’s a pretty relevant topic to my life currently because I’ve been feeling really guilty about it for some reason. Have any of you ever struggled with an issue like this before, or are you a vegetarian in Spain, and how are you dealing with it?

Until next time, besos wapos.

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2 thoughts on “On Being a Vegetarian in Spain

  1. I am going to be an auxiliar in 2012, and I was interested in learning about the “vegetarian experience” in Spain. Although I grew up vegan, I’m not a full vegetarian now (I still eat fish and the occasional egg), but I understand how difficult it can be to live in a country where meat is a huge staple. I don’t think I will be chomping down on burgers when I am in Spain, but I will not turn down a home-cooked meal that contains meat. I took the same approach when I lived in Southern Chile, which was “meat central”.I look forward to reading about more of your experiences! BTW — never heard of “College Vegetarian Cooking”…wish I’d known about that as I ate my millionth soggy veggie patty offered my by uni, lol 🙂

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  2. Haha glad to know there’s others out there with the same “struggle”! And yes, It’s a great book, I highly recommend it. And it’s paperback so not super heavy if you want to bring it with you to Spain next year!

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