If you're thinking of heading to Barcelona sometime in the future, check out this blog from Nina to learn about what types of food you can expect to find in the city, including tons of vegetarian options!
Regardless of where I am in the world, when someone hears I am a vegetarian it is an instant conversation starter. I get bombarded with “How long?” “I could NEVER do that.” and “You are really missing out.” Before coming to Spain, I told myself after 5 1/2 years of meat-eating abstinence, if there was something that I wanted to try that had meat in it, I absolutely would. I did not want my diet to restrain me from taking in all the culture of Barcelona. I was open to trying something that caught my eye, or taste buds, but it never came. I successfully spent my time in Barcelona staying true to my convictions but still trying loads of new cuisine. That being said, I would love to share a vegetarian guide to Barcelona.
Traditional Spanish cuisine consists of tapas. Tapas are smaller dishes that are meant to be shared with others over a paired drink. I was told I would struggle to find tapas that didn’t incorporate the jámon that hangs from shop windows, but there are plenty of options for veggie-only eaters. My personal favorites include patatas bravas and fried padrón peppers. I had more potatoes topped with aioli and customary spicy bravas sauce than I would like to admit. Other long-established Spanish vegetarian tapas are cheese, olives, tortilla de patatas (classic Spanish omelet), and pa amb tomàquet (Catalan tomato bread). There are loads of other Spanish plates that are veggie-friendly and loads more than can be customized to fit this requirement. I ate the most delicious mushroom and asparagus paella while my friends dined on the traditional seafood filled rice platter. It is very possible to eat vegetarian and still keep up with the social scene in Barcelona.
While eating out and experiencing the culture was quite a high during my time abroad, it is important to touch on the food I cooked for myself. I, fortunately, have had the luxury of someone cooking for me throughout my college years thus far. It was the first time I would have to grocery shop and provide all 3 meals for myself. The first few trips to my local Mercadona left me feeling a bit anxious but I soon learned what I liked to eat. I relied a lot on broccoli, hard-boiled eggs, Caprese salad, and sour candy - all ends of the spectrum. I did enjoy cooking for myself but it is important to mention how easy it is to pick up a sandwich or snack on the go. There are coffee shops and bakeries on just about every corner of Barcelona usually offering a deal to go with a Cafe con Leche. The drink was usually paired with a croissant or a baguette with cheese and vegetables. You wouldn’t believe it, but a baguette with cheese really hits the spot!
People who know me well describe me as “food aggressive” which means food is on my mind quite a lot. As much as others will tease me, I do not think being vegetarian has held me back from trying delicacies from around the world. I am confident I am coming home with recipes and great recommendations from the meat-heavy country of Spain. I will miss the normalcy of eating a loaf of bread for lunch without judgement though.
Nina Vrtjak is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2020, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An Accounting and Human Resources major at University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.
Nina's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.