Spaniards have long mastered the art of eating well, drinking well, and living long. Here are eight ways you can follow their lead.

1. Break bread
A meal without bread in Spain is no meal at all. Bread is an extension of your hand – an edible implement used to convey calories from plate to mouth. Want to look like a Spaniard? Hold your fork in one hand, bread in the other, and make the food below you disappear.

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2. Show up late
Spain eats later than anywhere in Europe – starting around 2pm for lunch and 9.30pm for dinner. Tourist-friendly restaurants may open earlier, but just know you’ll either be alone or surrounded by people packing passports.

3. Snack like a pro
Eating lunch and dinner so late requires strategic snacking, an art the Spaniards have mastered. Almuerzo, around 10.30am, is time for a bocadillo and a beer, while merienda, a late-afternoon snack, might mean toast with olive oil and chocolate.

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4. Speak your mind
Argue. About the serving sizes, the price, the direction of the country. Anything, really, but do it with fierce, half-drunken conviction. When in doubt, say that whatever classic dish – paella, gazpacho, garbanzos – you are eating is better en casa.

5. Make it the menu
Lunch is the big meal of the day, and it gets no bigger than the menú del día: three courses – starter, main, dessert – plus bread, wine, and coffee for under 15 euros. Quantity is as important as quality for most menu-eating Spaniards, but you’ll eat well nonetheless.

6. Stay on your toes
Tapas aren’t made to be eaten in a single sitting; they’re intended to be part of a long movable feast. A real pro knows who makes the best croquetas, the best octopus, the best patatas bravas, then goes about building a long, boozy path connecting them all.

7. Keep it simple
Spanish food is about perfect product and impeccable technique. Spaniards don’t dig sauces, condiments, or intense spice. They dress salads with salt and a river of olive oil, seafood with nothing but their own rumbling anticipation. Enjoy the beauty of simplicity.

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8. Take your time
Spaniards can stretch a lunch until dinner and a dinner until the sky turns pink again. Sobremesa means lingering long after the meal is done, turning the table into a way station, a soapbox, a psychiatrist’s couch. Order yourself another drink and soak it up.

This is an edited extract from Grape Olive Pig by Matt Goulding published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $40 available in stores nationally.

(Images: © Michael Magers)

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