For anyone who knows me (the "food Neanderthal"), you may already be shocked by the title of this article. So you may not be surprised to discover that I've invited the talented Karen McCann, author of Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad, to share on the simple pleasures of the Mediterranean culture of eating.
For one ghastly moment I looked down at my plate and began to see my dinner as a minefield of calories, fat, salt, cholesterol, mercury, white sugar and non-nutritive chemical additives. And then I remembered Chris Brady’s wonderful line in A Month of Italy: "There is never any talk of ‘low cal’ or ‘carbs’ or ‘proteins.’ For Italians, dissecting foods into these vulgar terms is as offensive as breaking sexual intercourse down into steps and sub-components.” With Chris’s words in mind, I came to my senses and tucked into my dinner with renewed enthusiasm. If my years of living in Seville, Spain, have taught me anything, it is that food should be treated as a welcome friend, not an enemy.
The Sevillanos consider it their God-given birthright to enjoy themselves every day. They fling themselves into their social lives with the same zeal Americans devote to their careers. Just meeting a friend for a café con leche can take two hours, not counting the preliminary debate about where to go for the best coffee at the best price. Lunch is even more time-consuming; my record so far is seven hours one St. Patrick’s Day in an Italian restaurant on the Costa del Sol. Dinners may last until four in the morning. Late nights can run until dawn and not infrequently include walking home through the silent streets, arm in arm with friends, and (if I am to be totally honest with you) singing a medley of old show tunes, Beatles hits, and Besame Mucho. The neighbors put up with it because they know that next time, they could be the ones serenading the barrio.
I have never met a Spaniard or an Italian who was in danger of saying, in T.S. Eliot’s famous phrase, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
The essence of the Mediterranean lifestyle isn’t living in a particular geographic region, it’s about how you live wherever you are. It’s about eating when you’re hungry, taking a siesta when you’re tired and enjoying your wine without guilt or the nagging worry that Merlot really is totally uncool. Like sex, eating for pleasure isn’t something to be done indiscriminately, but it is something you’ll want to stay in practice for, so that you don’t lose your touch.
Guest blogger Karen McCann is the author of Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad. An award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger, she has been living in Seville, Spain, since 2004. Wanderlust has taken her to more than thirty countries, including many developing or post-war nations where she and her husband volunteer as consultants to struggling microenterprises. A fourth-generation Californian, she lived in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband for two decades before the couple moved to Seville “for a year” and decided to make it their home. Today, she spends her time writing, blogging, painting, traveling the world and working on her next book.