No kids menu
Spain offers one big, fun, happy life. It’s a culture that works for everyone there, and for all who visit every year.
For the most part, everyone in Spain is very happy, kids behave well in public and have fun, the young spend copious time with friends and family, and the old partake of the same life as everyone else.
This life Is lived out in the open, sitting outside in places that are restaurants, coffee shops and bars all rolled into one, where people enjoy themselves in the company of friends or colleagues, where they spend time with family and neighbors; where the young and the old eat and drink together.
The drinking is anything but water and the food is delicious everywhere.
You have wine, tinto de verano, vermouth, and beer. the kids have a couple of juice options and the one popular sports drink called Aquarius which comes in two flavors.
You have about 20 dishes of various seafood, pork and beef, and a little chicken here and there.
If you know how to order in one place, you know how to order everywhere. And everywhere it will be delicious, and in many places, very affordable.
You can walk miles from affordable neighborhoods into posh parts of town and the “plan” will be the same; seating outside at these restaurants+coffee shops + bars to people watch, drink and talk. Maybe some places are a bit fancier than others and certainly, people’s clothing and watches change a bit, but the food, drink and the activity itself remain the same.
There is one big culture, one big and effective way to be happy and have fun. This life is truly amazing; Spaniards love it, and visitors love participating in it.
Side note: of course, I am aware Spain has different provinces with different sub-cultures. Each area has its grapes for its wines; some have the best cheeses and some the best ham and some have different languages and at times some even harbor desires of secession. So by one big culture, I only mean this way of leading a life with others in public spaces. That seems to be shared across all these different provinces and their cultures and serves as a common thread across Spain. A bit of data to back this up: Spain has the most bars and restaurants per capita in the world. My brother-in-law shared an article that claims there are more bars than hospital beds in Spain.
The U.S on the other hand is a factory of cultures. What is American food? I am not sure there is a definitive answer but I am sure it includes Italian pizza, French fries, hotdogs, Tex-mex, and American Chinese food.
It’s also: carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, organic, free range, synthetic almost plastic stuff like breakfasts cereals, fermented and sprouted foods, and who knows what else. We make these food cultures and on their back, we build the businesses that profit from it. And behind all the cultures, sects, and silos, there are genuine people who love some of these and abhor others. In the U.S, there is something for everyone, and something new each new day.
Spaniards engage with these American inventions at a safe distance.
It reminds me of a philosophy professor who taught Wittgenstein and when asked if he believed in his ideas he replied that he did not believe but rather was no more than “a user of Wittgenstein”. Spaniards don’t seem to fully buy into these American cultural products, but they certainly use them.
Even the most parochial restaurant+coffee shop+bar play 90s MTV on the TV. American music plays everywhere and everywhere there are Nikes and Vans and whatever else that screams Americana is somehow part of the day-to-day life of Spaniards.
There are Spaniard hipsters too and they seem to love Brooklyn and Native Americans themed tattoos as much if not more than their U.S counterpart.
Yet these hipsters are spending little to no time in bespoke coffee shops buying 12 euro dripped coffee; they too enjoy these restaurants+coffee shop+bars with friends and neighbors and colleagues and their grandmas and little kids. They use one of the many American Cultures ™, but they are not Americans.
This great, fun, life-affirming culture works for most, but not all. Imagine the shock of my picky eating son when he noticed these dining places don’t have kid menus.
The kid culture that has been growing in America where we have all these parallels product offerings for the little ones does not exist in Spain. Either this invention has not hit Spain yet, or it was not accepted, because it is a bit of an attack on their one big culture.
Spain It’s one big culture and kids are a part of it. I honestly don’t know if picky eaters exist in Spain, I need to find that out. But for my picky eater, this is mind-blowing.
It’s also very healthy for him. Because he does need to eat he has been finding a way to partake in these meals. Acuario is ok, so that’s good. Meatballs at actually delicious so the rare meatball extravaganza back home, became the day-to-day meal here. And some non-nugget chicken seems to have percolated unto his diet as well. That’s a big deal for our family, but the most normal thing in Spain, because again, maybe picky eaters are a U.S invention after all.
In Spain, there is little hanging out inside. To keep their beautiful buildings and their beautiful streets, their beautiful apartments have remained small. As a result, much hanging out with other people happens outside. It’s easy to be outside because it’s easy to know what to do; to be in Spain is to know how to fit everywhere here.
In contrast, a lot of daily life in the U.S is lived in private places, at people’s homes. To be in public in the U.S means encountering a ton of strangers doing all sorts of different things, following all sorts of cool, innovative unique ways of eating, socializing, working, and living.
One intimate aspect tidbit where this private/public difference showed up: In the U.S, a good host wants to know what you need and want. In Spain, good hosts welcome you into their world; their friends their restaurant+coffee shop+bars their families, and their summer family towns.
In Spain, everyone shares one main culture so everyone is closer. It’s a very high-trust society. During the first week in Europe, our kids were shaken, hugged, and kissed by so many adult strangers that they could not tell if they needed to call the police or dismiss everything they had learned at home and school regarding strangers. Once, I lost track of the kids for a second in a perfume store only to find some store clerks holding the kids by the neck to put some perfume on them. That image I think is an impossibility in the U.S.
Spaniards and Europeans at large seem to have a love/hate relationship with the U.S and U.S culture. I certainly heard a lot of shitting on the US on this trip.
My snarky comeback was always this: Spain is a wonderful place as long as you have the US to give you the vaccines you need to don’t die in a pandemic. That usually does it.
And there is some truth to that; the U.S generative culture, the respect for individuals, their ideas and wants, and needs, is a factory for surprises and exceptions which often make the world better.
Europeans often think of the US as a mix of a torture chamber and some sort of greedy place, but in reality, U.S good fortune is the result of letting people be all that they can be, damn social norms, history, location, or anything else. Our public lives as a result are often fragmented, and difficult to navigate, but also as a result, we create new worlds, technologies, ideas, and products that the entire globe gets to use and enjoy. I guess there is a tradeoff for everything, the proverbial there is no free lunch maxim.
I do think Spain has reached the minimum material conditions that allow them to lead this life: with enough prosperity to provide universal healthcare, education, solid public transportation, amazing public spaces, and pensions upon retirement, maybe Spaniards do have enough and are ready to enjoy it.
They will let the colonization of Mars to the Americans, and hitch a ride when they can find a good use for it.