How did that happen? While travelling in Spain, I visited my friend Anna and her family in Manlleu, a small town easily accessed by train from Barcelona. Thanks to Anna’s family, I got to sample some authentic Catalan hospitality and traditional home cooked fare.
To start, we enjoyed fresh lamb and sausages cooked over open fire contained in a special pit that is built into the home. This lamb was delicious as it did not have that gamey taste typical of lamb eaten in Canada. Little seasoning needed to be added as the meat was obtained fresh from a local butcher and the open fire captured all the natural flavours. This can be difficult to do on the stove top or traditional BBQ.
The highlight of the meal was jamón, a dry cured ham popular throughout Spain. It is similar to a prosciutto, but has a more intense flavour as it is cured longer. Our host purchased the jamón from a butcher who knew exactly which farm the pig came from as he personally knows the farmer. He told us that good jamón always has a black hoof, as he proudly sliced off pieces of meat. A visit to Barcelona is not complete without trying jamón!
Cava is a sparkling wine immensely popular in Catalonia; we each enjoyed a glass of cava after dinner. Anna recommends the brand that shares her name, Anna de Codorniu Brut. I found it to be fuller bodied than most other cavas, which is why I enjoyed it. A very limited supply can be purchased at the LCBO for $17.95 – about twice as much as what you would pay in Spain.
While on the road, always ask the locals for recommendations on what beverages are popular in the region. We were introduced to Estrella Damm, a pilsner lager brewed in Barcelona. Light and refreshing, we felt like locals sipping our Estrella in the July sun. We also sampled Ratafia Bosch Reserve, a traditional, locally made liquor distilled from nuts that is easily found in the shops.
After our feast, Anna took us to Rupit, a local treasure located fairly close to Manlleu. It offers great hiking and site seeing opportunities such as medieval architecture, a hanging bridge, cliffs, green space, and plenty of hiking trails; a perfect remedy to our full bellies. Popular with European tourists, we visited on a Monday when it was less busy and we had the place to ourselves.
The moral of this sumptuous story? Sometimes the most enriching travel experience is sharing a meal in the home of locals. This way, you get to see how people actually live in the place that you are visiting. Why not plan your next travel destination visiting a friend who lives abroad?
If you don’t have any friends or relations abroad, don’t despair. You can sign up for EatWith — a trusted global community that invites people to dine in homes around the world. Guests can connect with amazing hosts, share stories and unforgettable experiences, and enjoy delicious homemade cuisine. Before you know it, you’ll have a new set of friends to visit (and dine with) from around the world!