So, following a light breakfast and tapas and an enormous lunch, there is yet another mealtime in Spain before dinner, which is known as la merienda, eaten only a couple of hours or so after lunchtime. However, bear in mind that dinner in Spain is usually a meal eaten very late in the evening - at least 5 or 6 hours after la merienda. This is a meal that is most popular amongst children or manual labourers, as it’s necessary to provide them with plenty of energy to continue with their work and play in the hottest part of the day. La merienda is actually the lightest meal of the day and usually consists of a light snack, such as a chunk of baguette with anything from cured meat to chocolate as a filling. La merienda is actually eaten at what would be dinner time for most other cultures, with dinner coming much later on, closer to bed time, as I discovered when I chose to volunteer in Latin America.
Bizarrely enough, dinner is Spain is actually a lot smaller than the lunchtime meal, as lunch is an enormous feast in Spain. It’s eaten very late in the evening, sometimes as late as midnight. A typical Spanish dinner could be fillets of salmon or trout with stewed vegetables and prawns or roast chicken or lamb with roast potatoes or paella. One of the most common Spanish dinner dishes is arroz cubano: white rice with tomato sauce and egg, which is quite unusual, yet very straight-forward to prepare. Any of these meals might be followed by fruit and custard for dessert.
And no, it doesn’t stop there! Many Spanish families will eat their dinner very close to midnight and go to bed at something like three or four in the morning, after going out to bars and clubs. After one of these late nights out, a typical Spaniard might even stop off to enjoy a fried pasty, which are available from late-night snack vans all over Spain. They can be sweet or savoury, though are usually sweet, best served with a sprinkle of sugar or a chocolate filling. Volunteer in Guatemala for a great Spanish-style night out!