Table manners in Spain can be a minefield for the uninitiated. Imagine, you are on a language program, sit down for the first meal with your host family, and wonder why they are doing those weird things with their bread…
Well, here are 5 quick rules to start with, perhaps you can add more in the comments:
1. Dipping your bread in the soup. Don’t you dare! Big faux pas (excuse my French, how do you say that in Spanish?) But…
2. Do use your bread as another piece of cutlery. Strange this one. Spanish people will often hold a fork in their right hand, and a small piece of bread in the left, which is then used to help push food gently onto the fork. Not really acceptable behavior in restaurants, but no problem en familia, and actually pretty handy – saves chasing those last few peas around the plate.
3. Get your elbows off the table! But put those hands where I can see them! Either side of your plate, muy bien. Hands left in laps are no friends to the Spanish dining table (and bad for your eyesight, or something).
4. Big spoons are for soups, lentils, beans etc (platos de cuchara), desert is to be eaten with something the size of a teaspoon. Very frustrating at times! Don’t be surprised to receive a small knife and fork with your croissant/morning tostada either – strange I know, but saves washing sticky hands afterwards.
5. Don’t stop talking for too long! Noise is key to any good family meal in Spain. Try to talk to the person diagonally opposite you, and shout if you have to make yourself heard, which is quite likely as everyone else in the room is also talking to the person diagonally opposite them as well. So rare is silence at a the Spanish table that they have an expression for such occasions based on an equally improbable event: “Ha pasado un angel!” – An angel has just flown over the table!