Castanas Asadas - Done in the Traditional Way

I recently wrote about the amazing experiences of food in Spain. By touching on breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the post revealed more about the people, culture, and their lifestyle. My way of summing it up? Life and food are savored and timing is relaxed…everything is pushed back to a later time, giving the impression that one does not need to worry about time. And if you know anyone who is Latin (and I mean Spaniard, Caribbean, Hispanic in general), then you know that we’re naturally late to almost everything.

There is more to a culture’s food than the meals though. Let’s not forget snacks. As one travels from town to beautiful small village, one can experience some of the best traditions. For example, Extremadura is known for castanas asadas (roasted chestnuts), which are popular in the fall and enjoyed freshly roasted in town centers and busy metropolitan cities such as Madrid, Seville, and others. I enjoyed them for the first time this past Christmas when my mother and I ventured to a nearby village in Extremadura. One could smell the delicious aroma of the roasting chestnuts. Then as you followed your noise, the roaster came into view with his open fire and large pan. As a result, your snack of castanas asadas are fresh and piping hot as you try to not burn your fingers while peeling off the outer shell.

Don't forget to peel off the outer shell!

And let’s not leave out olives. Well-known throughout this Mediterranean region of the world, olives are a popular snack served in the afternoons. They’re great with papas fritas (french fries) and a cold cerveza (beer). Or for that matter, with castanas asadas. Or all the above! These are not just your average canned olives. Take into account that throughout the surrounding landscape (pretty much everywhere I went), olive trees grew wild. At one friend’s home, we were served olives that they had marinated themselves and from their own olive trees in the yard. Using red wine, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs from their garden, and any number of secret ingredients (depending on the family making them), these olives had a freshness to them that now has me spoiled when it comes to enjoying great olives.

Freshly Marinated Olives, Castanas Asadas, with Wine and Beer

When I think back on it, what stands out the most to me about the snacks I enjoyed in Spain is the freshness and simplicity of them. On another beautiful afternoon exploring a nearby village in Andalucia, I thoroughly enjoyed almost an entire plate of sliced fresh tomatoes drenched in olive oil, salt and pepper, and deliciously strong fresh garlic. I can’t remember the last time I ate so much fresh garlic and am sure that I smelled of into the next day. If you find yourself craving something delightfully starchy and carby, make sure to order some croquetas de jamon (fried potato balls with small bits of ham and cheese inside). They remind me of how fried foods can be so delicious.

Fresh Tomatoes and Papas Fritas...mmmmm...

With all the wonderful snacks that are freshly available in Spain, it’s no wonder that tapas are so popular (small plates). One can never have that much of an appetite when you get to graze throughout the day on snacks deliciosa. Have you experienced the snacks and foods in Spain? What are your favorites?

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