I’m on a multi-week vacation in Spain, and I wanted to post my report on Madrid.
First, I can’t explain how this works, but eggs in Spain are not refrigerated. You go to the supermarket and the cartons of eggs are stacked directly next to the bottled water. I suppose when a chicken lays an egg in the field, that egg is also room temperature, but either the United States is wasting a ton of energy cooling eggs, or salmonella is rampant on the Iberian Peninsula.
Second, it’s nice to see raw meats show their natural colors: mustard-colored chicken breasts, meats marbled with yellow fat. On the other hand, there is absolutely no butter available made from the milk of pasture-raised cows. This superfood must be consumed by Americans uniquely, or at least it hasn’t made it to Spain yet.
I should mention I only stumbled upon these retail experiences by chance. In Madrid, everything is always closed. I don’t know how any establishment makes money. They are closed for siestas, after dark, on weekends, during the week, for bathroom breaks. There is a pharmacy chain that proudly advertises in flashing green neon that it is Open 12 Hours, as if that’s some kind of customer service breakthrough.
One of the charms of Madrid, at least when open, is the profusion of sidewalk cafes. While pleasant and relaxing, the menus at these spots do however present a challenge for the health conscious. For drinks, alcohol would be out, as are high-sugar fruit and vegetable juices; coffee is off limits after 12 pm if you’re interested in sleeping at night. The food—Tapas—consists of a lot of breads, fried foods, cured meats, and seafood of unknown provenance.
So how does one enjoy a traditional curbside experience while keeping your diet intact? My recommendation, which sits squarely in the Spanish wheelhouse, is: an absolutely magnificent gazpacho, a solid selection of cheeses, and I kid you not, the best sparkling water I’ve ever had.