There are benefits to eating like you are still on holiday, at home

by sophie on August 11, 2007 · 4 comments

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Like many people we have recently returned from our Summer holiday (a wondeful nine days in Barcelona) and I have been trying to make that rested holiday feeling last, switching my laptop off at a respectable time and getting to bed early. Without any conferring, my other half seems to have made the same decision – he’s sitting out in the garden hammock with a book right this minute.

As well as bringing home a different pace of life, I’ve noticed that a few holiday eating habits have tagged along with me. Pondering on this it occured to me that a holiday is one of the few times that we ever dramatically change what we eat. If you’re not that interested in food then yes, you could stick with what you eat at home, but I’ll take it that if you are reading this page then you probably aren’t that person. For a foodie holidays are just full of opportunity for new eating adventures: exciting new markets and shops to forage in, streets upon streets of lovely restaurants and cafes to try and maybe even the fun and challenge of cooking away from your own kitchen.

The healthy habits I brought home
Pa amb tomaquet
The best discovery! The Catalans have bread with absolutely everything, but rather than smothering it with butter, it comes rubbed with fresh, juicy tomato and a drizzle of heart-healthy olive oil. I have been obsessively making this every since I got back and with all kinds of bread: baguette, granary, rye, you name it. Ximena over at Lobstersquad wrote a post about this recently (even though she is, in her own words, from enemy territory in Madrid) and can give you the skinny on the correct way in which to add the tomato, oil and salt to the bread.

Bowls of fruit
The apartment we rented was a five minute stroll away from the Santa Caterina market and for once we had the luxury of an empty fridge to fill. A constant therefore was a huge bowl of washed, ripe fruit which we brought out at every mealtime. It was partly having plenty of fruit in that made the difference, but also having it all cleaned up and ready to eat, there to tuck into the moment it takes your fancy.

Smaller measures
Many of the bars we went to served much smaller measures of wine than are customarily served in England – around about the 70cl mark. After feeling a bit short-changed at first I kinda got to like this. It slowed me down a little bit and made sure that the white wine was always fresh and cool (plus you had the ample opportunity to try something different if the first one isn’t to your liking!).

Slower eating
Even breakfast became a leisurely two course affair, with Pa amb tomaquet and little bit of lean meat or a pastry, followed by fruit or a yogurt. Back at home this has translated into finding little ways to extend meals without piling on the calories, for example a few chopped vegetables with a spoonful of dip or some veggies in olive oil before dinner (Nigella Lawson suggests a bowl of miso soup but the weather has been too hot for this). A little bit of fruit after dinner has made a healthy pudding on several occcasions, sometimes with a dollop of yogurt or a sliver of cheese on the side.

The habits I left behind
Spanish tea is unbelievably awful – it looks (and tastes) like dish water. I haven’t managed to pin the culprit down to the teabags, the milk or the not very hot water but it’s probably a bit of all of these. For the first time in my life I was driven to drinking coffee on a daily basis. I’m not the kind of nutritionist that strives to ban all sources of caffeine but the only coffee that I found drinkable was super-caffeinated and had two sugars in it.

Alternative sources of fruit
Raspberry and blackberry patissserie and italian ice-cream with huge chunks of nectarine. Bliss, but not the best way to reach five-a-day now that I’m back at work sat on my bum all day (shame about that).

An excess of the fried food group
Maybe I just picked the wrong things from the menu but a great many dishes seemed to be heavily dependent on fat and oil: pan fried, roasted, battered or deep fried. Particularly unfriendly for the waistline was the patatas bravas, especially when it arrived with a big dollop of mayonnaise. If I decide that I still have a craving for patatas bravas then I think I will try out this healthy take on it from Fatfree vegan kitchen.

I’m not sure about the small glasses of wine but the fruit and pa amb tomaquet seem to be sticking around. I’d love to hear if anybody else has bought any good healthy ideas home from their holidays?


Wendy August 12, 2007 at 22:45

This morning D and I sat down to a lazy Sunday Scandinavian brunch complete with rye bread (my freezer is STUFFED with it now), Finnish cheese, hams and lots of friut and veg. We took a long long time over the meal which was wonderful as breakfast is usually undoubtably the dullest meal of my day.
What I WON’T be taking home with me though is the 9am strawberry punch, the 10am champagne and the noon cocktails. Once a year only!!!!!

Lucy August 13, 2007 at 05:11

Wih a trip to Spain in two months, I’m so pleased to hear now just how bad the tea is. Good to be prepared. We were in Italy 2 years ago and the tea there is woeful – I saw them making it one morning with hot tap water. Nice.
The wine sizing is fantastic – something we could all learn from no doubt!

Trig August 13, 2007 at 17:27

I also discovered pa amb tomaquet on a recent trip to Catalunya, and I’ve made it at home a few times since. But at the risk of cultural faux pas, I have to admit that I made it quite differently to your friend Ximena.
I had some tomato pulp and seeds left from when I’d used the flesh and skin for something else. I heated up the olive oil in a pan, threw in the pulp, seeds and salt, and pounded everything in the pan with a mortar as it cooked. After a few mins of cooking and mashing, I was left with an intense tomato paste, because the majority of the water content had evaporated, leaving a far more concentrated tomato flavour. I know it’s not authentic at all, but it was damn good!!

sophie August 18, 2007 at 17:27

Wendy – thanks for chippping in, that’s exactly what I was getting at! Some habits are good to bring home, others are better just a couple of times a year
Lucy – I’m sure you will have a great trip but definitely take some teabags with you! I did write down the names of lots of nice restaurants and food shops so I must get round to writing up
Trig – I like the sound of your version of the bread, even if it isn’t authentic :-) I think cooking makes the lycopene in tomatoes more available to your body to be absorbed so you may even have managed to make a healthier version

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