Living Like a Local in Andalusia, Escaping the Tourists
If you are coming to Andalusia for more than it's weather, beaches and nightlife and want to get a real taste of how the Andalusian's live then I suggest you find small villages and inland towns which take you away from tourists and high prices. Learn to live like a local in Andalusia.
Learn how to cook a Paella
The Paella originated from Valencia and over time has become a national dish and eaten throughout Spain. A dish that everyone connects to Spain, it is rich with sea food, meat and rice. The rice fields, farming, local grown produce and coastal areas gives you everything necessary to make a paella, be it a meat, vegetable or seafood paella. Some parts add a bit of everything into the dish and the outcome is a big colorful plate which is really tasty. This recipe I am going to give you is from a 60 year old local woman living in Las Alpujarras and was the first paella I ate after been a vegetarian for 14 years. It is traditionally cooked over a open barbecue to give it a smoky flavor.
To make a Paella for 4 people you will need:
1 onion (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 roasted red pepper (chopped)
3 tomatoes chopped and de-seeded (can use tomate frito, carton bought fried tomatoes)
Handful of peas
200g pork ribs
200g dog fish
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of saffron
4 cups of Spanish rice
10 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by adding your ribs and chicken and gently fry it off till it starts to brown, add your onions and green pepper until they are soft. Add your paprika and let it fry for 1 min to let the flavors release. Then add in your tomatoes and gentle let it all cook for a further 5 mins. Add your chicken stock, roasted red pepper, peas, saffron and nutmeg stirring it all in.
Add your rice, prawns and the dog fish and keep stirring making sure the rice does not stick. Once you see the rice starting to expand, usually after 15-20 mins, add in the muscles (muscles take around 5 mins to open). Important, a high fire should be kept throughout cooking and consent stirring making sure the rice does not stick. The finished dish should be sticky and not too liquidly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Shopping locally and buying fresh
Generally throughout Andalusia, the local people prefer to buy meat, fish and vegetables from local markets and shops. The supermarkets serve there purpose but buying from a local village market will give you local grown produce that not only tastes great but also helps out the local economy.
Bread is bought fresh on a daily basis and every town has a bakery or two for you to go and buy fresh bread. Every morning the bread shop is packed with women buying for the whole family. Andalusian's are big bread eaters and it is not uncommon for you to get bread with every meal.
Olive oil is famously known throughout Andalusia and instead of spreading your bread and toast with butter they always use olive oil. Much healthier and actually tastes really nice. Try and start breakfast with a Tostada con Tomate (toast and tomato), they toast half a baguette, add a little olive oil and then plaster it with grated tomato. Some also like a bit of garlic added to the mix or a few slices of Serrano ham on top.
Find time to relax and have a siesta
The siesta is still widely used, especially throughout Andalusia during the summer months. The hours between 2pm-5pm are respected as siesta time. Everything will close and people will go home to escape the heat of summer and some even have a power nap to recharge the batteries before opening businesses again at 5pm. Shops then reopen at 5pm and usually stay open until around 9pm.
Drinking like a local
Like most places in the World cerveza (beer) is widely drank, the Spanish are no different except instead of ordering pints of beer you order tubos (tall tumbler glasses). Tinto de Verano (summer wine) is a popular choice among Chicas (women), a mix of red wine, martini and lemonade. Sangria is really refreshing in the hot heat of summer with a good mix of fruits and wine giving you a refreshing drink just when you need it!
Tapas bars are everywhere and some bars in Andalusia still offer tapas free with every beer or wine purchased. Tapas can be pretty much anything and is a good way to keep eating whilst drinking. Tapas is and has long been a tradition.
If you think you can handle it, try a glass or two of Vino Costa, a local brewed wine that has a bit of a kick. Before you know it you are seeing double so important to only have two glasses at most. The Spanish are big on having a night cap, and that is when a Sol y Sombra comes into play. Sol y Sombra means "Sun and shade" Consisting of a mix half brandy and half Anise, you cannot come to Spain and not at least try one.
Learn the lingo and try
If you want to get into all the action and be seen as a local you MUST at least try learn the language. You may get laughed at and the mickey taken out of you a bit but that is all part of the fun. The Spanish will appreciate that you at least gave it a go. Try order your shopping, food and drinks without pointing to what you want. Go into bars and chat to others in there, take on Spanish lessons and do not be afraid to try.
Know how to party till all hours
Spain is well known for it's party scene and the amazing fiestas held in every town throughout the country. Every single day there is a fiesta somewhere in Spain. Andalusia has some amazing fiestas that give you the chance to join in with the locals and get to meet some new friends. Fiestas are a time for family, friends and lots of partying. Some are colorful, some really noisy and other fiestas are a bit wacky. The Spanish stay out till all hours and some can go on till 8-9am in the morning. Most people will not go out until 10-11pm which is when the party is just getting started.
Be it coastal, mountain or city areas you visit, keeping an open mind and wanting to integrate and get to know it's people, culture and ways of life. The rewards of seeing an Andalusia from Andalusian eyes is like no other, you get to really see and feel what this place is all about. You will be living like a local before you know it.