Almuerzo – The ultimate brunch

It has been more than half a year since I started living in Agres and it’s about time I write about one of the most interesting cultural aspects I encountered the first moment when I arrived here – the idea of eating almuerzo.

In general, I have found out that the Spanish people have a significantly different eating schedule from what I am used to. Of course, I can say that I don’t always eat during the “usual Macedonian eating hours”, but the Spanish people really eat in strange hours. In Macedonia, the general eating times are breakfast, eaten before work or during work but no later than 10:00, then lunch after work which is around 15:00 (3pm) and finally, dinner at around 18:00 or 19:00 (6pm or 7pm). In my culture, I would say that lunch is the most social meal and the time when people sit with their family or friends and enjoy the meal together.

Here on the other hand, people start the day with a small portion of breakfast that is eaten before work or school. This usually consists of cereal, a piece of toast or just a cup of coffee. Then comes almuerzo between 10:30 and 12:00. Lunch is eaten after work and school and finally, an incredibly late dinner at around 21:00 or even at 23:00 (9pm – 11pm) which for me is just incomprehensible.

But, as I said before, we shall leave the strange eating habits of the Agres people aside and concentrate on the most interesting meal – the almuerzo. According to the Spanish dictionary, “almuerzo” represents a meal that is eaten in the middle of the day or the first hours of the afternoon, therefore I will say that this is the brunch version of this region. People here really take almuerzo seriously and even go out on a longer break from work just so they can have almuerzo. This would mean that between 10:30 and 12:00 all of the local bars and restaurants are packed full of hungry and chatty people, thus obviously making almuerzo the most important and social meal of the day. It is a time when people gather around with their friends, family and coworkers, a time to hang out, relax during the working hours and even discuss work matters over a meal.

The composition of almuerzo is and interesting topic as well. The main part is the bocadillo or the sandwich. Besides the bocadillo, almuerzo comes with a side dish of peanuts, olives, and pickled onions. The accompanying drinks are beer or a mix of red wine and sparkling water (which for me was new since back home we only mix white wine and sparkling water). In the end you finish off with a cup of coffee or a shot of herbero (local alcoholic drink) as “dessert”.