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La Comida

Food was one of my main points of stress before coming on this trip. As a vegetarian, I was scared that my host family would not know what to feed me, there would be cross contamination, or that I wouldn’t like the food options. Food is so important, not only because it nourishes our bodies and provides the necessary energy for our adventures abroad, but also because it adds enjoyment. Food is life. Literally, yes, food is needed to live, but good food equals a happy life. I am happy here, in Spain, but the food is not contributing to my happy life. The gelato breaks makes up for some missed enjoyment at meal times, but the stress of meals returns three times a day.

I have lived on my own since I was eighteen years old. It has been about nine and a half years that I have responsible for making my own daily meal choices- though the choices have greatly evolved over the years. The lack of independence on the food front has caused a slow shock within my fight against being homesick. Culture shock has been more real with this trip than it ever has in my life before and the cause is food. I think that living in another person’s care greatly emphasizes the effects of my culture shock. We are not placed in the most traditional family setting within the Spanish culture, but we are not permitted independence. We do not eat with our family, but they also do not eat together. Each member of the family is currently within the exam portion of school and has differing schedules. They bring us food and I eat meals with my roommate.

At home, in Georgia, I consume mostly fruits and vegetables along with vegetarian meat substitutes for protein. My daily menu would consist of a veggie egg muffin and vegan sausage for breakfast. Sometimes I will substitute a protein waffle and fruit for breakfast depending on timing. I drink coffee and have some fruit or some chips and salsa as a snack at work. I usually eat a salad for lunch after work or I’ll make a microwaved vegetarian meal if I am tired. Dinner usually consists of some sautéed veggies, vegetarian meat substitutes, and maybe quinoa. I also gave an immense sweet tooth. I will happily snack on cherries and oranges at every hour throughout the day if I am working from home. BUT I always crave something sweet after meals. You can usually find dark chocolate or cookies in my pantry. I do not buy bread at home because if I do I would eat it all. Literally, all of the bread would be in my tummy.

While here, my host family is very caring, but they are also very different from me. We are given bread in the morning for breakfast. There is also yogurt available if we want it. Our other meals have consisted of spinach, potatoes, carrots, potatoes, salad, potatoes, fruit, bread and potatoes. Unfortunately for my roommate, our meals have been vegetarian friendly each day. This has been a blessing, but the foods are immensely different from what I would eat if given the option to cook, myself. I have supplemented the provided meals by grocery shopping on my own. I have bought hummus and tomatoes, dark chocolate and vegetarian protein options. The lack of protein has been my largest concern throughout this experience, and it is also the largest difference between my meals in Spain and my meals at home. I actually asked my host mom, tonight, if we could please have more protein within our meals.

Food choices play a huge roll within a family dynamic. I heard once that the foods you eat within the first seven years of your life impact your food choices for the rest of your life. I never liked meat, and I always liked sweets. I guess that stuck. True or not, one’s experiences with meal times can influence their relationship with food. I have vivid memories of eating pb&j’s with my best friend when I was little- a very sweet food choice that we deem normal in America. I remember making cookie casseroles with my mom- another sugary treat. I also remember eating out frequently as a child with my mom and sister. I always chose a kid’s veggie plate. I actually wrote my name for the first time on the back of a kid’s menu. Food is laced deep within my roots as a person, but the sweet foods are what bring me the most joy.

Food can bring together people without anything else in common- it’s a universal language. I am a vegetarian, but this does not define me; it only adds to my individual dynamic. I love foreign foods, but I will only eat them if I am sure they are vegetarian. Traveling can make this difficult, but most large cities accommodate a vegetarian diet. Yet, this can single me out at meals times. Relying on a stranger to provide my meals has proved difficult, especially because I do not want my personal decisions to work against my roommate’s wishes. Bread and sweets are normally a safe vegetarian option and end up being staples in my diet while traveling. This has never been a problem before, but this will be my longest trip abroad. We only brought so many clothes. I need the same clothes to fit when I leave. I cannot gorge on sweets, bread, and potatoes.

I would not say that these concerns have changed my identity while abroad, but this awareness does make me more alert of others’ food choices and cravings, as well as my own. The amount of walking required within Seville will call for a higher calorie intake or consumption of carbs for energy, but my concept of food still remains the same from home. I desire more fruits and salads because of the heat. Much like Georgia, it’s really hot outside. Unlike at home, I am spending the majority of each day in the heat. I feel too heavy after eating potatoes and bread, but I still want chocolate- all of the time.

Y'all, I think I'm just picky.

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