In spain, lunch, or comida, is the biggest meal of the day. It's late compared to american standards; we eat around 2:30. Generally everyone eats two or three plates full of food. This weekend my host mom went to a family gathering and left me a few plates to microwave for myself, which meant that I had a chance to take some pictures before I devoured everything. I thought that since I didn't have to wait for it to be lunchtime that I would eat earlier. Instead, I ended up eating around 3.
The first plate is starchy; normally there are potatoes, some sort of grain soup, or a mushy vegetable. This is usually my favorite of the plates. Unless it was cooked with spices (like this was) the contents of the plate are augmented with oil and vinegar
Then, we all get a plate full of meat. I think this is the hardest thing for me to get used to, food wise. I usually end up eating the whole plate full of meat, (somehow it all fits in my stomach) but I feel strage about it. At home that's how much meat I would eat in a whole day, and we eat more meat with dinner. Don't get me wrong, it's delicious. There's just a lot of it.
After the meat is gone, or sometimes during, the salad comes out. Normally there's one large bowl that everyone eats out of. By eats out of, I mean just that. We don't put the salad on to our own plates first, we just dig in to the communal bowl. The salad is always lettuce, olive oil, and vinegar and sometimes tomato.
With all of the plates is the bread. We go through a loaf of bread every two days or so. The loaf is placed in the center of the table without a plate, and everyone uses their hands to rip off a hunk of bread when they want it. After every meal the tablecloth is taken outside, and the bread crumbs are shaken in to the street. This hunk of bread is used to sop up any remaining sauce from vegetables or soup, or from the meat, or any left over vinegar and oil from the salad. The bread might be my other favorite thing about lunch every day.
Then, if you can imagine eating more food, my host mom brings out the bowl of fruit, and we eat an orange before leaving the table. My host mom and her daughter usually have tea or coffee and watch tv after lunch, while I roll off to my room to work on homework or nap while I digest. Delicious.