Cultural Authenticity: Don't Eat at the Spanish Restaurants in Spain

My friend Meredith just emailed me and said, "Don’t eat at the Spanish restaurants in Spain…The Italian and French places there are much better."

I must admit: I felt somewhat guilty after eating at a Chinese restaurant in Spain my first night here. Aren’t I missing out on the authentic Spanish experience?

If someone overseas visited the United States and wanted to "experience America" from a culinary perspective, perhaps he would eat lots of hamburgers, pancakes, and bagels. Yes, Americans eat all these things, but when when they/we go to restaurants, isn’t it usually to ethnic cuisine? Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, etc. In San Francisco at least, there aren’t nearly as many places offering "True American Cuisine" as there are ethnic variety from around the world.

This again highlights the paradox of diversity when talking about cultural globalization: for tourists, it’s harder to find differences between your own culture and the one you’re visiting and harder to experience authenticity (whatever that means). On the other hand, for residents, it’s fantastic: more options, higher quality, and the opportunity to be as cosmopolitan as you want.

5 comments on “Cultural Authenticity: Don't Eat at the Spanish Restaurants in Spain
  • heh–my first night in Spain (Vitoria) we ate at a Chinese restaurant.

    Then, we moved to kebabs. I think we were sticking to places with pictures, so we could point.

  • Well, in any country, people love to go to ‘ethnic’ restaurants, while the ‘home food’ variety lays by the wayside.

    It takes some time and knowledge to find a good restaurant with in-country cuisine, so take someone who lives in the country.

    Case in point:
    Finding a good German restaurant in Germany.


  • Ben,

    Your friend wrote: “Don’t eat at the Spanish restaurants in Spain”.

    I disagree. Having traveled on business and/or as a tourist to: England, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico and Taiwan, her comment is nonsense.

    The best food in France (check your Michelin Guide Rouge) is French. And outside of large cities, “foreign” cuisine is difficult to find.

    Many food experts believe that Spanish chefs are now surpassing the French. San Sebastian, in particular, is a hotbed of exciting Spanish (or Basque) cuisine.

    Hong Kong has very few non-Cantonese restaurants and they are very expensive.

    You would be insane not to eat Portuguese food in Portugal.

    The essential difference between the US (and Singapore) and the other countries is homogeneity. The US is not and the others are. Americans love food from other cultures. Yes, we Americanize it (no chicken bones on our Chinese food), byt we love it. The French do not. French cuisine is perfect and one should eat French (most of the time).

    On you next trip to Spain, eat Spanish food. You’ll be glad you did.


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *