Dinner at eight is lovely. It’s also been tradition in my family; sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 pm is when we have gathered at the table for dinner for as long as I can remember. I guess it’s a carryover from our Italian culture. Inevitably we would take our time eating and talking around the table and by the time all was said and the last piece of fruit had been eaten at least two hours had easily flown by. After I left home I ate on a more “American” schedule–dining hall hours at University, drinks and dinner after work, etc. But whenever I was left to my own devices for dinner, I would inevitably dine on the far side of eight.
It seems, however, that my parents have taken the continental dining tradition beyond our Italian ways and have shifted to a habit more readily accepted on the Iberian peninsula. This to the point where dining in their home has become known among our intimates as “dining in Barcelona.” It’s not unusual for seating to begin at 10:00 pm or even later. On the one hand it extends the evening pre-dinner activities and allows for a very full day; on the other, it does make for a very late night, with dinner ending near, or sometimes past midnight . . .
Now I’ve heard dozens of times how unhealthy it is to eat and then go to sleep, but basically all of southern/Mediterranean Europe does this every day, taking a siesta after their midday meal. And of course those in Barcelona eat at this very late hour on a regular basis and I’ve yet to hear of any epidemic that’s befallen them; so I’m thinking it’s mainly hype. I will agree that sometimes eating the wrong things before heading to bed might make for a restless or uncomfortable sleep.
So what to eat then when dining in Barcelona? Well, before suggesting what to eat, I’d like to make some recommendations as to how to how to eat. Eating in moderation is always a good idea, but I think it’s especially important to remember this when having a late supper. One can really eat anything they like, at any time, if it’s eaten in moderation. It is indeed possible to have too much of a good thing. Another guideline I would follow is to eat variety; make sure to have a “four food groups” meal, or as close to one as you can–look for lots of color on your plate. When it comes to food, monochromatic color schemes are highly discouraged as they lack the nutritional variety we need, not to mention the variety in flavor we all enjoy.
Lastly, and most importantly for me: have a salad and eat it after rather than before your entree. We (my family) have always done this, as is the tradition in Europe, so I prefer this order. It is served last so that the fresh and crisp flavor of the salad will cleanse one’s palate in preparation for desert and fruit courses to follow. Let’s not forget though that leafy greens are roughage and will also–most important for the midnight meal–aid in digestion.
So after all that preparation, what does one eat for a 10:30 pm dinner? Well, really . . . whatever you like. Just make sure you have wine, good crusty bread, salad, and good company!