For over 700 years Spain was ruled by the Moors and their Arabic influence remains today in many of the seasonings used in Spanish cooking including saffron, cinnamon and cumin. Many dishes are prepared today using the same cooking methods and ingredients as they were two or three hundred years ago and have made fabulous contributions to Spanish cuisine, and their influence is seen in many recipes.
The two basic ingredients of all Spanish food are olive oil and garlic. Grain foods such as bread and rice have been eaten and enjoyed for centuries throughout Spain. Bread is traditionally served as an accompaniment to food, often with a little extra virgin olive oil for dipping. Bread with cheese is a common snack, and bread is also used to thicken soups and stews.
In most parts of Spain meat has traditionally been eaten in moderation. Typically, meats like dry cured Serrano ham, lamb or chorizo sausage are used in small amounts to add flavor and texture to a dish instead of being the focus of attention.
Much of Spain is bordered by ocean, and fish and shellfish are abundant. Fish and shellfish are used in a myriad of ways—grilled over hot coals and served with bread and salad, fried in olive oil and served as tapas (small appetizers served hot and cold in bars and bistros throughout
Spain is famous for its wines and deserts and there are many options to sample and enjoy.
Breakfast in Spain is mostly eaten at home. A typical breakfast might include "café con leche" - strong coffee with hot, frothy milk, sweet rolls with jam, toast with jam or a mild cheese.
Tapas are eaten well after breakfast, but before lunch. They are small plates, canapés or finger food, may be warm or cold dishes, and vary greatly from region to region - season to season.
The midday meal is the largest meal of the day. It is a large meal, usually with multiple courses. Traditionally, Spaniards have a 2-3 hour break from work or school so as to take a short nap or siesta.
A dinner might include fresh fish or seafood, a portion of roast chicken or lamb, with fried potatoes or rice. Portions are usually smaller, and plates are simpler. It is usually eaten between 9:00 pm and Midnight.