spain-paellaSpanish cuisine consists of a great variety of dishes which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country’s Mediterranean roots. The paella, a mix of rice, meats, fish and shellfish is ubiquitious and a must while in Spain.  Spain’s extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique cuisine with literally thousands of recipes and flavors.  The essential ingredient for real Spanish cooking is olive oil; Spain accounts for 44% of the global production of olives.  Even today, daily meals are still very often made traditionally by hand, from fresh ingredients bought daily from the local market. This practice is more common in the rural areas and less common in the large urban areas, where supermarkets are beginning to displace the open air markets. However, even in Barcelona, food can be bought from the local shops, bread from the panadería, meat from the carnicería, etc.  One popular custom when going out is to be served tapas which are esentially snacks or apetizers that can be combined to form a meal.  Tapas are a nice and cheap way to enjoy tastings of various Spanish delights.  Add a glass of wine and you have dinner!