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Olive Groves in Cazorla, Spain | www.myfoododyssey.com

Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on why you prefer one thing over another – a place, a product, even people. Research has shown that when asked to explain our preferences we often unconsciously make stuff up. I love that idea. Perhaps it’s a kind of natural defence mechanism, to prevent us from looking weak or foolish in front of the rest of the herd. I digress…

When Arūnas and I were planning our food tour of Europe I feared that we would never get beyond France, such was my love for French food. As it happened, the weather in France was miserable when we arrived and we raced through to find sunshine and warmth in Spain. And this is where we got stuck – we were totally and utterly smitten.

Was it the weather? Possibly. Was it perfectly manicured vines and the spicy, full-bodied wines they produced? Could well be. Was it the mouth-melting Ibérico ham, the finest I have ever tasted? I think it was definitely a factor. Was it the fruity, slightly peppery olive oil that they produce and consume in such abundance? Who knows.

Puerto de los Portillinos, Spain | www.myfoododyssey.com

What I think tipped the balance for me is that Spain does all this so well – and so quietly. Spain is the world’s largest producer (and consumer) of olive oil and the third largest producer of wine – facts that they do not shout from the rooftops as other countries might. It’s not for lack of pride or confidence, it feels more like modesty. So we’re the best – great, thanks – now let’s relax and have a beer.

I think the real beauty and wonder of Spain has been hidden for way too long behind a pocket of tourist destinations dotted around the coast and a few stunning cities. There is so much more to see and experience, especially if you happen to like good food. It’s a country of contrasts. On the one hand, they have mastered the art of tiny tasting plates. They take simple ingredients like bread or an egg and produce a mouth-watering morsel. But then there is the vastness of the olive groves and vineyards – stunning scenes stretching as far as the eye can see. I can’t really pinpoint why I love Spain. Even if I could, I’d probably be making it up.

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Vines in Rioja, Spain | www.myfoododyssey.com

Vines in Rioja, Spain | www.myfoododyssey.com

29 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a lovely post! You are spot-on with what makes Spain’s food and wine so beautiful..it’s simplicity and modesty! Love it. Let us know if you ever make it back!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 11, 2015
    • Thanks Renee! Shame I didn’t know about your tours when I was there – I’ll definitely look you up if we go back. 🙂

      Like

      February 11, 2015
  2. Marian H. #

    Hi June. I definitely agree with you! I had the luck to live in Spain and Catalonia (they don’t consider themselves Spanish) for 18 yrs and I adored each part I lived in – every region is different, but equally splendid and proud of itself. Now back living in co Mayo- used to miss tea brack etc , now it’s Catalan butifarra sausage or Spanish paella! Love your blog and learning about Lithuania- Marian x

    Liked by 1 person

    February 11, 2015
    • Thanks Marian! It’s funny – one of the great things about travelling is experiencing new places, foods, etc. but you always end up missing them when you move somewhere else. I currently miss fish a lot – it’s not great here. But then there’s great smoked meat here, which I love!

      Like

      February 11, 2015
  3. I miss Spanish food constantly–it’s hard to find here in the Midwest. My mom and I learned how to make tortilla española, one of those simple, tasty staples of Spanish cuisine.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 11, 2015
    • I love Spanish tortilla – so easy to make and such a crowd-pleaser. I’d be happy if I could just get the ingredients to make the dishes. It’s hard to find good seafood here, along with jamon, anchovies, olives, sheep’s cheese and all those other wonderful ingredients that go into Spanish food. Think I’m due a trip south!

      Liked by 1 person

      February 11, 2015
  4. smfarm #

    I would love to eat my way across Europe, they know how to appreciate fresh, seasonal and delicious food. My son will be studying abroad in France this summer and will get to experience all that deliciousness, and I’m so envious!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • Oh, how wonderful for him – I’m actually a bit jealous! You’ll just have to dream up an excuse to visit him. It’s tough being a mom, but someone’s gotta do It! 😉

      Like

      February 10, 2015
      • smfarm #

        Believe me, I’d love to visit him while there, but somebody’s gotta milk the goats! It’s impossible to get away during milking season.

        Liked by 1 person

        February 11, 2015
      • How about I go there and milk your goats and you come to Europe and eat lots of cheese! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        February 11, 2015
  5. That’s so true, Susan. And it goes on for miles and miles like that. I don’t know how they have the infrastructure set up but they’ve managed to preserve the beauty of the landscape. I get so frustrated here because we have a beautiful view opposite our house that is completely marred with electricity poles. I can only guess that the Russians did things the cheapest way possible and weren’t too concerned about the landscape. Such a pity.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • Vilnietis #

      “…that the Russians did things the cheapest way possible…”
      There was a mandatory: if the enemy is approaching it’s rather easy to cut the wires, destroy electricity supply and leave everything in ruins. For enemy 🙂 . If the territory is taken back, it’s rather easy to restore the supply, everything is more or less visible and can be done quickly. There were similar things in water supply (now, during every reconstruction of water supply, there is a mandatory to rectify the pipelines and links in certain way). I attended a military department in my soviet university, nothing special, but particular attention was paid to the infrastructure (in VGTU), so one can imagine now why 😉 . What looks like nonsense for normal people in normal life, had always been a certain military purpose in soviet union.
      There were some concerns about the landscapes: their concealing properties. Eg, relatively not so far from you there is Šateikiai village surrounded with forests. Check the crossroad at 56.01041, 21.667652 – the road to the north and the road to the south lead to the rocket base. Intermediate range rockets. Fly roughly 4000km, while the distance between Šateikiai and your hometown in Ireland is about 2000km. This is close to Plokštinė, you probably know it, but another one. Cleverly concealed. Similarly the bases south of Tauragė, even closer to your house in LT. And you say “pity” 🙂 . One must be happy that those bases are abandoned and you can walk across the forest and not to run into a triple electrified fence ;).
      Sorry for being sort of anonymous and posting almost off-topic, i read and like your blog, and actually your family itself is a genuine treasure 😉 Good luck 🙂 .

      Liked by 2 people

      February 11, 2015
      • This is a fascinating and intriguing comment and I don’t mind a bit that it’s off topic! I didn’t know most of this and am definitely going to look into it further. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment – it’s much appreciated.

        Like

        February 11, 2015
  6. longchaps2 #

    We live in the heart of vineyard country. It’s interesting how less mechanized the landscape is in Spain (fencing/wires/roads). They must do all the picking by hand. Makes for such a peaceful landscape. I can see why you loved traveling this land. Great piece June.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • Oops! Just realised I replied in the wrong place so you probably didn’t see it! See above! J.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 11, 2015
  7. wow, gorgeous countryside. I can see what enticed you to settle down there.

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
  8. Definitely makes me want to visit. Did you have a car or did you use public transport?

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • We were in a small camper van, Bunty, which was just perfect as there plenty of places to stop. I would definitely recommend having your own transport so that you can get off the beaten track and go to the most beautiful places.

      Like

      February 10, 2015
  9. Stunning photos June! I can only imagine how Latvia would shout this information from the rooftops – if they had it to shout about 😉 I like the modesty 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • Thanks Linda! Not too sure about Latvia but sometimes I wish Lithuania would shout a little louder about the wonderful products they have. Many compare favourably with the big international names but no one know them outside Lithuania. I’m all for modesty, but know when you’re awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

      February 10, 2015
  10. Justine #

    I couldn’t agree more June! I’ve had a love affair with Spain for some time now and the reason……well it’s just… cos! 😉 BTW the best tapas I’ve ever had was in a now quite touristy town of Mijas near Benalmadena on the costa del sol! A tiny place called El Refugio (the refuge) and even thought thousands of tourists visit the town ever year, still none of the staff spoke English and it was full of locals! Dave and I loved it and we left with the entire restaurant coming out to the narrow street outside to wave us off – I kid you not! One of my best meals ever, so good I reviewed them on trip adviser! So don’t give up on the touristy places there’s still gems to be found 😉 x Justine

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • Thanks Justine! Lovely to hear from you. You must get itchy feet now to get back to Spain and your Big Bad Bus. Travelling by camper gives you the time and opportunity to find those little gems – I just love it. Take care! x

      Like

      February 10, 2015
  11. Sorry I never comment on your posts but I always look forward to your breathe of fresh air. You are so right about Spanish unpreteniousness but it is a shame that the products aren’t better known, the lack of initiative here is frustrating as we see more and more secaderos closing down as they can’t/ won’t find the markets or sell it at the price it is worth :(. The variety of food across the whole of Spain is truely amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • That is a shame to hear, Lucy. I feel the same way about many Lithuanian products. They have fabulous smoked meats, cheeses and beers, among others, but nobody knows. I hope Spain gets a little more active in their self-marketing so that wonderful products are not lost to the ether.

      Like

      February 10, 2015
  12. I so agree with every word. Spanish food is divine but they have a delightful lack of pretention about it … they just do it. I would like there in a heartbeat. Stunning photos too!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015
    • I just love Spain. Not that I don’t still love France and French food, but something about Spain just touched me. Can’t wait to go back.

      Liked by 1 person

      February 10, 2015
      • Hope you get back there soon. Actually hope I do too! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        February 10, 2015
  13. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    February 10, 2015

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