Some expats who moved to Spain have, for a variety of reasons, moved back to their native countries.
I recently surveyed a handful of them to find out what they miss about Spain – especially when it comes to Spanish food.
It’s two years since I waved goodbye to my friend Tim. The professional photographer lived in Spain for eight years but has moved back to the grey skies of the UK, something that has meant a change in the type of photos he takes.
I asked Tim about the culinary side of Spain and what he missed most.
His reply surprised me.
Tim said: “I miss a good Spanish breakfast. Especially the Spanish coffee and a nice tostada on the side.”
I confess to being taken back by his answer. Especially the tostada argument. I am afraid that, in too many instances, I have been served toasted French bread so hard that I became convinced my Spanish dentist was in league with the local café owner. Too rarely has a tostada I have tasted been soft enough to bite into. Though I have found them useful when misplacing my hammer!
Tim says: “I know, some tostadas can be overdone. I know some cafes use stale bread. But I always managed to find three cafes that served nice ones. Sometimes I would have just oil and tomato on them. On other occasions I also had some Serrano ham on top. They were lovely.
“And I so miss Spanish coffee. A manchada in winter was always warming. I know that is more milk than coffee, but I like them. And I can take a strong cup of café solo. Then there was the wonderful option of a café con leche with some cognac in it.
“The first time I walked back into an English coffee shop I asked for a white coffee with some brandy in it. I was on the receiving end of a strange look and was told that there was a pub just down the road!”
But, as with so many aspects of eating out in Spain, it wasn’t just the food Tim missed, but the whole experience of life in a Spanish café or restaurant.
Tim actually made a short film about the making of a Spanish cup of coffee. That film is on You Tube. For the uninitiated, or for those like Tim who miss the whole coffee experience, it is worth a watch.
Tim tells me that, a bit like Indiana Jones, he is on a mission to uncover a lost gem. He says: “I am not living in a major city so my search for an authentic Spanish café serving a nice cup of coffee and a tostada in southern England, goes on. The day will come when I am able to get my fix of that very special and unique experience of a leisurely Spanish breakfast.”
Ironically the next expat I interview is a man from Holland who, when I first met him, had brought enough dutch coffee with him to last a year. It’s not Spanish coffee he misses now.
It’s something hotter. All will be revealed soon.