Before 10 a.m.: Breakfast (desayuno) by custom is light if not just a cup of coffee, sometimes accompanied by toast or a croissant. If you need more than coffee, have a croissant filled with chocolate or a more decadent version filled with chocolate and vanilla (croissant napolitano) from any of the local pastelerías. Your choice of croissant with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice (zumo de naranja) is a light breakfast or afternoon snack for any day of the week. Churros dipped in hot chocolate during cold winters or topped with sugar is a common weekend breakfast, but for those of you that consider vacation one long weekend, nosh on churros wherever you stumble upon a churrería.
Mid-morning: coffee, coffee, coffee, anytime, all the time. Coffee to Spaniards is like tea to the English: it’s ubiquitous and unbeaten as the caffeine drink of choice. Try the various preparations including café solo (one shot of espresso), café cortado (a shot with a splash of milk), café con leche (a shot with equal parts milk), or a café Americano (a watered down shot). Ask for sugar (azucar) if you like your coffee sweet.
2-4 p.m.: Lunch (la comida) falls just before the key Spanish siesta. Lunch includes a main course, bread and a dessert. Paella, stews, or roast meat dishes are good at this time. The heaviest meal of the day induces the following food coma. For some weary travelers, it may be a dream come true that the Spanish schedule does in fact include a nationally accepted naptime when most businesses close and recoup for the evening. After an all night clubbing extravaganza, the siesta is the most important time of day to prep you for another night of partying.
Late afternoon: Spaniards enjoy a small snack like a sandwich or another cup of coffee to tide them over to the traditionally late dinner four or five hours later.
9-11 p.m.: Dinner (la cena) requires some time adjustment by those used to an early evening meal since most restaurants don’t open until at least 8 p.m. Evening hours and beyond is the prime time for Spanish tapas – small plates of food called pinchos (pickings) in Salamanca. There are a myriad of explanations for the name tapas, but regardless of its origin, you’ll be thankful it’s around now. Pinchos can be eaten all night long since their small size keeps them from being too filling. This is one of the best opportunities to experience local Castilian ingredients since regional meats and cheeses are featured in most pinchos.
Plan a day around your meals and you may find the best way to experience Spanish culture is through the eyes of the Spanish stomach.