Have you ever wondered at what time you should eat paella when you are in Spain? And why is it that at one moment everyone is enjoying paella and at another moment it can’ t be ordered? Many people don’t know paella is a dish that is eaten during lunch. At night it is often not available anymore, or the paella restaurants are closed completely. Perhaps the following story appears to be familiar to you.
Relax, it’s holiday!
After a great evening at a terrace or in a bar, you have slept well. After waking up with a bit of a hangover, it’s time to get out of bed, take a shower and get dressed. Breakfast at the hotel finishes in half an hour, and you need to eat something.
When you arrive in the breakfast area, the smell of freshly baked bread, bacon, and coffee will meet you. It is time to enjoy an extensive breakfast. After all, you paid for it and don’t want to get hungry on the beach.
When the tray and the breakfast are being removed, the waitress asks if you would like to leave. No problem, it’s getting time to get the beach gear. It has been noon already.
Off to the beach!
With the air mattress and beach bag under your arm, a little later you carry yourself to the beach. Along the way you pass by that nice restaurant on the boulevard and, just like yesterday, the whole terrace is packed with Spaniards. The first starters and the first paellas are appearing on the table — all with a delicious smell. ” We should do that too during this holiday. It looks so good after all, and we are in Spain for a reason.”
But it is not the time to think about eating paella right now. Breakfast is just behind us, and for now, you don’t want to think about food at all. ” First we go and relax on the beach. Eating Paella, we will do in the evening.
A few days later it is time to put our money where our mouth is. You decided to leave the beach early today and go and eat paella at that nice restaurant where all those Spaniards can be found.
” At what time shall we eat paella? Around seven o’clock would be fine, right?
Hungry at the restaurant
Shortly before seven o’clock the group gathers, neatly washed and dressed, at the swimming pool of the hotel. Time to eat, we are starving. So off to the restaurant!
After arriving at the boulevard, it’s noticeable that it’s still jam-packed on the beach. ” At such a late hour? Don’t these people have to eat?”
A little later you arrive at the restaurant, but what amazes you? There is nobody at all! Only a waiter who is decorating the tables and placing the chairs back at the tables.
With your hands and feet, you try to ask if you can sit down. This is fine, the waiter says, and asks what you would like to drink.
A bit later he arrives with a massive bowl of sangria, some beers and a few cans of coke. He neatly puts the drinks on the table and then gets off again to continue preparing tables.
” And the menu? Aren’t we going to get that?”
Misunderstandings and annoyances are increasing
You wait for a few minutes, but as the waiter has no intention of taking anything that seems to be a menu, you ask him.
Quite surprised, the waiter looks at you? Not because he doesn’t understand what you are saying, but mainly because you want to have the menu at 7:30 pm. It takes at least an hour before the kitchen is opened…
Due to the misunderstanding and the hunger that is increasingly beginning to grow, the annoyances start to build slowly. “Why don’t these lazy Spaniards do anything?”
As the kitchen only opens at 8:30 pm, you have to wait for at least an hour, and it is very late before you finish eating. This is not quite normal!
Out of decency and because you have drinks on the table you stay seated. The bowl of salted nuts is empty in a matter of seconds and way too little to satisfy the appetite.
Where is the paella?
After you have accepted the fact that you will have to wait more than an hour, it is time to take a look at the menu.
They also don’t have an English menu here. Anyway, paella is a Spanish word so it should be found.
After looking at the menu three times from front to rear and back again, you still haven’t found paella. “Does it have a different name in Spain?”
So, time to call the waiter again. This time to ask where the paella is. A bit irritated, he drops the stuff he has in his hands and juggles towards your table.
Seriously? No paella?
Using hands and feet, you make the waiter clear that you are coming for paella. It is just nowhere to find on the menu.
Also, you try to make clear that the paella must be without scallops because hardly anyone likes them. And you want to have it at 8:30 because it is pretty late already.
Even more surprised than when you asked for the menu the waiter looks at you. It almost seems as he is starting to laugh at you. “Paella? Are you serious about eating paella now? “We don’t have that at all.”
” Don’t they have that? You ask yourself. But all those people who are here every afternoon eating paella then… The frustration now has reached a climax, and some people in the group are about to leave. You go inside to pay, don’t tip a single penny and leave with the comment: ” you will never see us again”!
Then a firm walk is made towards the steakhouse where you ate the past few days. They at least want to help you. But we have to hurry because the kitchen closes at 9 o’clock.
Poor communication and ignorance
Anecdotes like the one above will appear familiar to a lot of people. The poor communication, ignorance, and incomprehension regularly cause irritations on both sides.
Communication by hands and feet
Communication in a Spanish restaurant can be challenging especially if you don’t know each other’s habits.
Apart from Spanish-speaking countries, there are relatively few people who can speak Spanish well. Often tourists start to talk English and assume that English is spoken throughout Spain.
However, often this is not the case. Unlike most Northern European countries, English is not a subject that is always taught in schools in Spain.
Today, it is more often included in the curriculum as standard and people are learning English through the Internet. Up until a few years ago, English language skills were very limited in Spain.
More people in the world speak Spanish than English, and for a long time, it was not necessary for the Spaniards to study English. They already speak a global language.
As a consequence of this situation, communication is often done with hands and feet. This is all fine as long as you understand each other, but as soon as there are confusion and miscommunication, it can quickly lead to irritation.
Unknown turns out to be unloved
The ignorance of each other’s, in this specific scenario, food culture is another disrupting factor in communication.
Most tourists think the food culture in Spain is similar to the one at home. They know that other dishes are served, but often have no idea that the way of eating, the hours of eating and table customs can also vary a lot.
In the case of paella, this can lead to tourists seeing a restaurant where the entire terrace is filled with the most delicious paellas in the afternoon.
They then decide to eat in the same restaurant at night and can no longer get paella…
At what time will you be able to eat paella?
Paella is a typical dish for lunch. Only in tourist establishments, it is possible to order paella at night.
This paella is often not made fresh, so the quality usually leaves something to be desired.
The exact time you can eat paella depends on the lunchtime in the region where you are at that moment.
On the Mediterranean coast, lunchtime is often from about 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm. Are you going on holiday in the east of Spain and do you want to eat paella? Be sure you are between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm in a restaurant.
When you are going to eat paella, it is recommended to make a reservation in advance. Especially in the weekends, the best paella restaurants are often pretty crowded.
When you reserve a table, it is often possible to specify that you want to eat paella and what kind of paella you would like to eat.
If you specify this, the restaurant can do some preparations. As a result, the paella will be on the table faster once you are seated.
Did you not place your order with your reservation? Then make sure that you arrive no later than 2 pm. The preparation of a fresh paella takes some time, and you will have to wait a while.
As most restaurants want to close again around 4:00 p.m. you understand that they are not happy if you arrive after 2:30 p.m. to eat paella unscheduled.