Archive | May, 2014

The Endless Dinner

Posted on 15 May 2014 by American expat!

I just can’t get used to the phenomenon here in Spain that is the Endless Dinner.

It’s quite normal to meet at 8pm for dinner and to still be seated at the table at 12:30am. Actually, those hours are more usually 9:30pm and 2am if it is the weekend. Of course, all throughout dinner there will be people showing up, since the “starting” time of something seems to be but a suggestion.

I agree that mealtimes should be social events, that they shouldn’t be a rushed affair that is over in 45 minutes. I like the visiting and enjoying company part. But seriously, by hour three I’ve eaten everything in the restaurant, drunk too much wine, and am staring holes through the side of my boyfriend’s head, willing him to join me in indicating that it is time to go. Because that too is a suggestion. You don’t just get up and go. You need to plan your exit by announcing about an hour ahead of time (more if you are at someone’s home), announce it, and then continue to announce it every ten minutes or so, lest your party forgets that it is time to ask for the check. You’ll receive the check 45 minutes later, whereby you will all head out the door and then continue the conversation in the street in front of the restaurant. At about the one hour mark you will finally be released to find your way home, usually long after the metro has closed if it is a weekday, or you will then move onto a bar with your party.

On holidays, it’s worse.

Last Christmas eve, we spent the evening at the dinner of a friend’s place just outside of Barcelona. We showed up around 8pm and finally headed home at 2:30am and were only permitted to leave so ‘early’ because we had a plane to catch at 7:30am.

What’s the big deal? I hear you saying. It’s a family gathering, you protest. Don’t we do the same thing at Thanksgiving? The answer is no. No we do not. We show up, help prepare, watch football or Twilight Zone marathons, and at some point sit down and eat. We then take our pie slice and go play cards, sit outside, feed the dogs, play video games, help clean up and pack away food…in other words, we socialize and visit and do things other than sit, eat and drink.  You think we were doing any one of the  aforementioned things during that eating marathon? We were not. Our asses were planted at the table from 8:30 until the time we started inching toward the door around 2am. There were five enormous courses served, one after the other (oh no, no buffet style dinners here!) all of them comprised of huge quantities of shellfish or meat or both. The second course alone was five (five!) little lobsters and several fistfuls of mussels served on a plate the size of a school bus steering wheel. If you did not finish your plate, you were asked what was wrong and didn’t you like it and all of the things designed to make you feel like an ingrate. Even if I did like everything served (which I didn’t) it was just way too much food. There is no way to hide quantities like that, and the dogs belonging to the hosts were all relegated to a life outdoors, so there was no help from the canine front.

The food thankfully stopped coming out of the kitchen around 1am, and as is typical with the endless dinner, the chupitas and other assorted aperitifs began. I’d had three different types of wine with dinner and was full to the eyeballs, but my protests went unheard and I was served various shots that I passed off to other people, poured in my empty teacup or, when pushed, touched the shot glass to my lips and set it back down again.

Side Note: I actually did have a fun and amusing evening talking with the two 80+ year old ladies sitting across from me, one of whom was feistier than any little old lady I’d ever met (and little she was-she stood about 4’11”). She recounted tales of police pulling her over after she turned into oncoming traffic to make a left hand turn at a roundabout (instead of turning right and going around it until she reached the street in question), answering that it was the shorter way to go when questioned why she made such a move. Or the time when police pulled her over for some other traffic violation (another shortcut perhaps?) and she gave the cop the middle finger in response to being asked why she did not carry the car registration papers with her. They let her go on both accounts.

I’m not unappreciative of the effort this evening required. And I know that the Endless Dinner is a part of life here is Spain that isn’t going to change anytime soon, so I either need to adapt or…well, I don’t know. I guess all I can do is adapt. But the Endless Holiday Dinner? That was too much. I’ll be skipping it this Christmas eve.


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