February 26, 2024

Of course the title is a generalization – but I think it’s an accurate one.

Most all “United Statesens” I know whom have visited Spain tell me the same things; “Spanish food is so fattening,” “Spanish food is so greasy,” “Spanish food is disgusting looking,” “I can’t eat anything that can look back at me from the plate,” etcetera.

So then why are Spaniards so thin and among the “longest livers” in Europe?

I love telling Spanish-food-loving people my favorite stories of American friends whom have visited Spain. Most Americans say things like those listed above. But how can an overweight American who never exercises also be so fanatical about the healthy aspect of the food he’s eating? More than one American has been served a Spanish dish, oftentimes it’s the emblematic Paella, and the American couldn’t touch it because of the tiny crab sitting atop the pile of rice and looking directly at its maker.

This really happened. A former coworker visited Spain and was served a plate of paella with a small crab sitting on top. After the waiter set down the plate he slowly spun the plate so that the crab was facing the eater. The eater, not used to eating anything which looks exactly how it looks in its natural state, couldn’t eat the paella sitting below it.

Same goes with fish and roasted suckling pig. Americans can not eat anything with the eyes, ears, or tails still on it when it arrives from the kitchen. They just can’t. They’re disgusted. Spain is famous for its fish and pork and when an American receives his fish (s)he often sees something which still has its skin and scales, still has its tail, and – worst of all – still has its head and eyeballs. “Cochinillo” (roasted, suckling pig) is the same when it arrives, complete with its curly and crispy tail, crispy ears, crispy snout, and impossible-to-eat tiny hooves and toenails.

Most all Spaniards I know whom have visited the United States tell me the same things; “American food is so boring,” “American food is so bland,” “There’s no variety in American food,” “American food is so unhealthy and fattening,” and “No wonder why so many Americans are obese, the food is terrible.”

Yesterday I was in the company of 3 Spaniards having lunch at a Mexican restaurant near the Almudena Cathedral (yesterday was the holiday commemorating the Virgin Almudena, Madrid’s female Patron Saint). The restaurant was my choice because I LOVE Mexican food and don’t get it here in Spain as much as we Americans commonly eat it in the USA. I was in Mexican food heaven while the 3 Spaniards were unimpressed, unhappy, and didn’t even finish. They complained that it was too spicy and, probably, not too easily digested. Frankly, they said, they didn’t see what all the fuss was about, that Spanish food was SO much better. I can’t really agree with this totally but I do love Spanish food.

The lunch sparked a conversation from those Spaniards who’d been to the USA about how poor the food is there, how it’s boring, and that (exaggerating) “Everyone in the USA is so fat they have to get around in wheelchairs. This is because the food is so unhealthy.” I set them straight-ish but bragged that the USA is now only ranked the SECOND-most overweight country in the world (the 1st Place winning medal of dishonor we carried for many years). And plus, not everyone eats just hamburgers, hotdogs, and pizza – except maybe college kids where “The Freshman 10 (pounds)” when I went to university has now become “The Freshman 25”, the amount of weight first-year college kids gain after leaving the relatively healthy food prepared and eaten at home.

I can’t defend much the quality or taste of food in the USA. Generally speaking, I like it. But I like Spanish food so much more. I guess there is a reason why America’s first choice when dining out in the USA is at Mexican restaurants. I imagine it’s similar to the popularity of Indian food in England where, they say, the food is so bland-and-boring.

It’s a shame United Statesens don’t LOVE Spanish food as much I have grown to love it but I can’t fault them. My first visit to Spain in 1995 was exactly like their experience. I saw Spanish food as fattening, unhealthy, and disgusting-looking. Now, I often say that Spain is a food-lover’s and alcoholic’s perfect dream. The difference is Spaniards know how to self-moderate with these things but Americans generally don’t – which is evidence with the should-be-illegal popularity of the countless All-You-Can-Eat restaurants in the U.S.A. Here in Spain there are few and not at all popular because overeating – as well as drinking too much – is frowned upon.

Visiting Americans, Eat & Drink Well – but in moderation. And come with an open mind. Maybe have a big glass of wine before chewing on your first of many toenail-looking “percebes” or fat-filled slices of “salchichón“.

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20 thoughts on “Americans Don’t Like Spanish Food, and Vice Versa

  1. Hi MM, many foreigners do not realize that “American” food is so much more! Because of our very diverse population, you can get just about anything you want and we don’t just stick to hamburgers, though our beef is far superior bar none! Our ingredients, especially here in sunny southern CA are fresh and the restaurants are great!
    I too love Spanish food and try to replicate it here at home all the time, the incredients won’t be the same for some things and the paella won’t ever taste like our tia’s in Cullera, but I do know what you mean about Americans not liking heads and hooves on their plate!!!! That is often the best part!
    Hope you find a Thanksgiving feast, i’ll be in Mexico for the big day and sadly don’t think we will find turkey either.
    un abrazo, laduque

  2. Some of my English friends when they come to visit are loathe to try anything they don’t recognise, so when we eat out they want to go to Pizza hut or Burger King 🙁 – then we have a meal at home and my boyfriend cooks so they have some idea of what to ask for next time we eat out!

  3. There is no such a thing called “Spanish Food”, the food from Catalonia, Madrid or San Sebastian is as differenst as Italian or French (or so similiar since they are in the same region), but beign a Spaniard living in the States for a while I just realize you just like sandwiches and simple food, that’s the reason you don’t get the food from Spain, like any of the Mediterranean food, there are almos a dish for each town because besides a few dished Spaniards hate to eat the same kind of food over and over again, exactly the opposite of the majority of Americans I know, they eat leftovers and their gourmet food is a hamburguer with fries. America has a lot of good things but talking about food, their are just primitive people.

    1. “Spanish Food” INCLUDES all dishes from EVERY part of Spain (excluding Catalonia/Catalunya/Cataluña, of course, since it’s not part of Spain – tongue-in-cheek!), not just from one region or other, but I agree they’re all different. Calling United Statesens “primitive people” is pretty rude, dude.

    2. Spanish food is just ham and potatoes drenched in olive oil. And stop exaggerating the regional variety of Spanish food. Some US foods that aren’t sandwiches or fast food is chicken pot pie, clam chowder, butter milk biscuits, jambalaya, stuffing, gumbo, etc.

  4. I came across your blog with my girlfriend after we wanted to have a good time by laughing at how naive and ignorant people really are when they post in various forums and sites as to how amazing Spanish food is. I’m an American and she a sexy, well-travelled, beautiful, full-figured, non-smoking, intelligent, and hard-working Latina (without make-up) who knows what food is whom I met in another non-Anglo, non-Spanish speaking country a few years ago. Once again, out of fear and hesitation, we recently ate in a Spanish “restaurant” because we were curious as to how it is possible that this place could be so well-liked and acclaimed. Needless to say, utter disappointment, as always.

    As a result, I threw up numerous (six) times and have been having severe diarrhea for the past 36 hours because this “restaurant” was just so good. And no, it’s not food poisoning by any means, considering that my girlfriend has not thrown up once, nor experienced any digestive problems. We shared the same menu and like always, I left shaking my head, hungry, angry, and laughing. Angry? Angry at the gall and audacity of these people to consider their attempts towards elevating this cuisine above all others.

    As an American living in Spain for over two years now, your take on Spanish food in comparison to American food is at best laughable. Spain has zero concept of food. Period. I’ve never seen a population before avoid fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy cooking, until I came here. After having lived in Eastern Europe for some time, as well as around the United States, throughout Europe, and Asia, Spanish food is just awful. Spanish food for the most part is extremely fatty and heavy, almost always fried, and plates/dishes RARELY include vegetables. Having travelled throughout Spain in my time here (and before in the past), to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and the little cities in between, as well as vilages, I am amazed at the common theme shared by most, if not all places: poor quality, self-praise, very small quantity, and worst of all, overpriced. The audacity. No surprise though considering that the Spanish are generally very closed-minded and ignorant to the outside world, despite their friendliness and kindness.

    In the “restaurant” last night, I was served “patatas bravas” (we of course have the same form/style of potato in the States, therefore, nothing special by any means, though not glorified like here) in the form of deep fried potato chips (in fact, NOT what is considered to be the normal, cubed “patatas bravas”) with ketchup. I think that “plate” sealed the deal for me. As a result, I’ll never eat in a Spanish “restaurant” as long as I am here. It cost me 5 Euros. Never in my life have I ever been served potato chips with ketchup until last night. In the U.S., the ONLY time I would ever eat potato chips would be at picnics or with a sub/hoagie/club sandwich. In fact, those are the ONLY times when potato chips have ever been served, let alone, are served. Last time I checked and remembered, even the most basic and common, lowliest establishments in the U.S. don’t normally serve potato chips as a compliment in a dish (let alone, being a gourmet concept). Give me a break.

    I do not doubt that the wine, cheese, and meats are quite special. I in fact adore the wine, as well as speak very highly of the quality of fruits and vegetables produced here in Spain. Unfortunately, the Spanish don’t know what to do with them, sadly. Pastries and breads here in general are God awful with little to no taste. Pastries also constitute 70% “nata”, which is terrible. Murcia produces so many strawberries and Extremadura cherries, but where are they in the pastries and cakes? Hardly anywhere.

    Unfortunately for the Spanish, considering that they have nothing to offer the world except tourism, as a faux-pas “developed country”, they must export their best fruits and vegetables. These people can’t prepare any other juices instead of just orange juice with all the fruits they produce? A blender here more or less costs 30 Euro.

    Jamon is delicious, of course, but let me ask you: what else do the Spanish do with pork besides deep fry the hell out of it or cure it? I can count on my hands and toes the various ways pork is prepared and served in the United States, especially barbeque pulled pork, which is something I try to make from time to time, as best as I can. The Spanish do not innovate or try anything new or different with pork. I’ll take any pig roast over a “cochinillo” any day, as well as Polish wild boar. Soups are rarely found as well throughout Spain.

    Go to Food.com, Foodnetwork.com, etc…, or any other various American food websites that highlights the thousands upon thousands of healthy, diverse, and bountiful recipes that celebrate the harmonious mix of meat with vegetables, prepared in a most healthy way, and then proclaim paella as the second coming of Christ, as these people do here. By the way, paella is boring as hell and nothing special. I vigorously defend jambalaya as being far superior to paella. Everytime I had a jambalaya in New Orleans, I was a happy, happy man. Compare a normal, typical paella here with a jambalaya, and then tell me which is fuller, richer, more diverse, and more delicious. Paella of course, is a Moroccan dish, NOT Spanish in origin as alleged here, but tell that to a Spanish and they’ll burn you at the stake.

    Perhaps you are just being too polite or you come from the middle of nowhere in the U.S. where you haven’t been really exposed to good cuisine. Try going back to the U.S. and travel around the country to savour what American cuisine really has to offer. Then compare Spanish with American food. If you’re from a large city, whether Californian or Northeastern, then where were you eating? I’ve had many vegetarian friends and friends in general from here in Europe praise the abundance of healthy eateries throughout the States.

    1. Man, it’s hard to find a post so narrow minded and ignorant. I don’t know where in Spain you live, but, obviously you don’t have a clue about Spanish cuisine.
      First of all, there are many dishes with vegetables in Spain, which aren’t deep fried, such as “cocido”, which is present in every region of Spain (either with chickpeas or beans), “pisto”, “pastel de puerro” (leek pie), “gazpacho”, “salmorejo”, “coca de trampo”, “menestra de verduras”, “porrulsalda”, spinach and cheese croquets, “lentejas con chorizo”, a great variety of soups and “potajes”, salads, “escalivada”, “guisantes con jamón” (peas with ham), “alcachofas rellenas” (stuffed artichoke), “champiñones rellenos” (stuffed mushrooms)… the fact that you haven’t tried real Spanish food doesn’t mean it’s all deep fried and lack vegetables.
      About not knowing what to do with pork, except deep frying the sh*t out of it, I don’t even know where to start. One of the most famous dishes with pork in Spain is grilled baby pork, but we also have many forms of cooking it, stewed, roasted, with legumes and vegetables, marinated, sausages… Please, so some research before doing such preposterous claims.
      It’s probably true that fruits aren’t used much in Spanish cuisine; Spanish people eat them fresh, in fruit-salad (called Macedonia) or regular salads. But there are many cakes and desserts with fruits, you just didn’t find them.
      Anyway, just by saying that paella comes from Morocco proves how ignorant about Spanish food you are. You also say that soups are hard to find, are you kidding me? The amount and variety of soups and broths is huge. Please, just google Spanish cuisine and you’ll find lots of them!
      My conclusion is that you either don’t know anything about Spanish food or you are just trolling. If you don’t like it fine, not everyone likes the same food, but don’t post made up stuff, please.
      One last thing, jambalaya has Spanish-French origin. Just so you know.

    2. heaven forbid you give your take on it. I’m multi-ethnic/race, I’ve lived in several continents and always experienced many different cuisines while growing up- this is a benefit of being every colour of the rainbow. I agree with you on everything! P.S. I’m North American and I’ve lived here for 14 years! I’m also married to a Spanish person and very integrated into the culture I totally related to your take on the food culture here.

    3. Heaven forbid you give your take on it. I’m multi-ethnic/race, I’ve lived in several continents and always experienced many different cuisines while growing up- this is a benefit of being every colour of the rainbow. I agree with you on everything! P.S. I’m North American and I’ve lived here for 14 years! I’m also married to a Spanish person and very integrated into the culture! I totally related to your take on the food culture here.

    4. Hi “Reason in Spain!” Heaven forbid you give your take on it. I’m multi-ethnic/race, I’ve lived in several continents and always experienced many different cuisines while growing up- this is a benefit of being every colour of the rainbow. I agree with you on everything! P.S. I’m North American and I’ve lived here for 14 years! I’m also married to a Spanish person and very integrated into the culture! I totally related to your take on the

  5. I love Spain but nevertheless I believe Reason in Spain has hit the nail on the head when it comes to food.

    Spain does have many delicious foods:
    Paella, tortilla, gazpacho, fabada Asturiana, chorizo, palmeras, lomo adobado, many varieties of cheese and wine.

    Restaurants: In my experience, 9 out of 10 restaurants are mediocre. The decor, the food, the service…MEDIOCRE.

    Breakfast: Coffee and toast, coffee and 3 biscuits or 1 pastry, coffee and a piece of bread, coffee and bread covered with tomato. These things are fine but I like to leave the house without feeling hungry and this just isn’t enough food.

    Bakeries: You can find good bread if you hunt around for it but most of it sucks despite the ubiquitous bakeries. While the pastries and sweets at bakeries look lovely, the ones I’ve tried have been bland and not sweet; except for palmeras, croissants, and if you’re lucky the doughnuts might be good. Chocolate and churros are bland and boring! The chocolate is not sweet and the Spanish churro just tastes like dough! The Mexican churro which is covered in cinnamon and sugar is far superior in my opinion.

    Sandwiches: Dry and uninteresting! A piece of bread with either 3 small, thinly sliced pieces of chorizo or a piece of Spanish omelet, really!?

    Seafood: I guess their seafood is very good but I don’t like seafood so I can’t comment. As a side gripe, I don’t know why Spanish people find it so unbelievably strange that some people don’t like seafood! I guess it’s something similar to me not understanding how most people here don’t like spices / spicy-hot food

    Serrano ham is ok but it’s not amazing. Maybe this is because my taste buds are conditioned to enjoy honey baked ham which in my opinion is much better.

    Dinner at 10 p.m. Ummm…Why!?

    Telepizza: Meh! (I’d recommend Dominoes)

    Spanish people are are quite proud of their cuisine which is fine but they are often arrogant, close minded, and uninformed when it comes to the food of other countries. For example they seem to believe that all North Americans eat is french fries and hamburgers or claim that we kill the flavor of food with spices and condiments. They don’t understand that spices and condiments, at least for some, offer variety.

    So far, my favorite places to eat in Madrid are Tierra Burrito for Mexican Food and Alfredo’s BBQ for American style food. For Spanish food I’m afraid that the best food I’ve had has been the home cooked food and Paella in Valencia.

    If anyone can recommend any GREAT SPANISH or other restaurants in Madrid I’d love to try them!

  6. Let me start out by saying that I have been to Spain about a dozen times over the past fifty years and I am a very fluent Spanish speaker. My experience this time–I was in Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Cáceres, Mérida, Zafra, Cádiz and Puerto de Santa María–was very disillusioning. I find the food generally disgusting and I am not at all reassured by the cleanliness of Spanish kitchens. I find Spanish meal hours ridiculous, so much so that McDonald’s or Burger King (which I would never dream of entering in the US) have become attractive alternatives. For a country with such a huge tourist industry, surely SOME flexibility should be possible for the benefit of visitors without sacrificing traditions, I find Spaniards seriously and increasingly overweight (though not morbidly obese like Americans, at least not yet), which I assume has to do with their incessant snacking of unhealthy hors d’ouvres which they call tapas. I have posted on Trip Advisor my experience in a number of Spanish restaurants during my recent journey. Let me add that I find Spaniards as people inhospitable, arrogant, distant, incurious and generally unattractive, certainly when compared to Mexicans, Peruvians, Argentines, and so forth.

  7. Mark Falcoff,

    Its true, nowadays, there are many fat people here in Spain, but you know why? because they eat AMERICAN food, this is, Mcdonalds, Burger king, KFC, and all that shit that you americans have as food. 😉

    Jason: Really? I mean, REALLY? bakeries here sucks? and what about in America? well, Im not saying that bakeries in America is bad, basically because you guys dont have ANY bakery over there, just in mexican places you can get some bread (and very bad quality, btw) as France, our bakeries and specially, our bread, is one of the best in Europe.

  8. I just returned from 2 months in Spain. I visited many cities but not in Galicia, and the Basque country. The food is mediocre and bland. Vegetables are a rarity on the plate as are fresh herbs. I visited mostly medium priced restaurants and they don’t hold a candle to Southern California where you can find lovely grilled fish with steamed vegetables, simple but with loads of flavor. Many times, even in restaurants with exquisite ambiance, the meat usually overcooked, was accompanied with fried potatoes. It was unappealing to look at, because there was no color on the plate, such as fresh green veggies. The food was extremely disappointing. In medium priced restaurants in Calif, there is a much greater variety, better tasting and more visually appealing food.

  9. In my first trip to Spain I though the food was terrible. Lots of fried dishes and not a lot of spices. You could find some good things, Rabo de torro is one of my favorite dishes, along with slow cooked pork cheeks. Ask any meat loving American to say they don’t like it. I’ve been here for my second trip and have found that there is much more good Spanish food, although I’m still not a huge fan. Your typical everyday dishes aren’t that much to write home about, but I think most people are talking about restaurants here. Unless you wanna drop some coin you won’t find great food in Spain. But you won’t in the US for the most part either. Now go to a Spanish house and eat and cook with someone who knows what they are doing and you will love most dishes.

    I find it entertaining when people talk about American food. American food is nothing that you people on here have talked about fish and game with natural vegetables and fruit. Remember Americans are the rest of the world put into a mixing pot and put on high. So American food is a mixture of many flavors from many different countries and I love that.

    Btw a hamburger is not American nor is a pizza. Some deer or bison with corn and some wild greens might be more correct.

  10. It’s true, I have never experienced good food in Spain (I only know the south from Cadiz to Barcelona). There are a lot of reasons to travel to Spain. Food is definitely not on the list. Even the simplest Pizza was gross there. The meat is generally extremely done, so no taste of the actual meat is left and it feels like gum when chewing. It’s not a surprise that Spaniards and English only travel vice versa.

  11. I have been im Spain for 10 weeks. I have mixed feelings about the food. On the one hand, they have so many new things to try. My 1st meal in Madrid was snails :). But the reason I found this thread was I searched for “Why is Spanish food so bland?” Every time I order anything here, I ask for salt and hot sauce because I know the food is going to be boringly unflavorful.

    They don’t seem to care for herbs and spices here. I went to a Mexican restaurant to get some flavorful food and the salsa was super bland. Just tomato sauce. The Mexican owner explained that he loves spicy salsa but if he makes it spicy then the Spanish customers will complain.

    And to say that the Spanish don’t like American food is untrue. What is the biggest joke of American food? McDonalds. I went yesterday and the McDonalds here are way bigger than in the US. The place was packed on both levels. I had to wait with my tray until some people left. So if the Spanish like our garbage food that much, then surely they would like other things, too.

    But Spain is super beautiful. Don’t let the food stop you from seeing such an historical and friendly place. And if you get tired of the food you can always go to Subway. 😀

  12. Found this blog after googling “Spanish food sucks” to confirm my thoughts. After a summer in Spain I can say that it is certified trash. American food is barely even a thing because we eat so much other international cuisine. When Spain tries other cuisines it also sucks for the most part. Sure, there are a few gems. But you’re not easily finding great Mexican, Italian, asian etc. Any medium to large sized American city is absolutely crushing it in terms of food. Their cuisine is basic and repetitive and bland. And taking health into account- sure- we have large quantities of trash to eat. But it’s hard to find a well balanced meal in Spain. Half of it is potatoes and pork/beef. Like can I get a side of spinach or sautéed zucchini? No. also these Spaniards love American food. KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Burger King are always packed. And admittedly way better than the ones in America in my opinion. It’s like a treat for them. See whole families dining in enjoying some MickeyDs.

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