Let me share with you my typical Sunday in Spain. Every time we don´t hit the road on weekends, our Sundays are filled with the unmissable attributes of the Spanish countryside, including making the traditional Valencian paella, picking fruits straight from the trees, slowing down for a while, and spending some quality time with a family.
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Sunday in Spain
Sunday in Spain is traditionally a big deal.
Spaniards might have different Sunday plans depending on the region of the country and the type of their family. But one thing remains constant no matter what – Sundays are meant for relaxing and catching up with family & friends.
While it seems like an easy Spanish habit to adopt, in my case, it honestly took me a while to get used to Sundays in Spain, when you just can´t go on with your own routine even if you try.
My Spanish Family
After years of expat life in Spain, the Spanish Sunday with my husband’s family has become a part of me. We still do travel on Sundays every now and then, but mostly it’s about family, the countryside, and the traditional paella.
By the way, a typical Sunday in Valencia is always about sharing a paella (and an almuerzo, of course) – you can´t escape it even if you try. Sometimes this means gathering with your loved ones in a nice restaurant. Although, most of the time Sunday in Spain (especially for the senior locals) simply serves as an excuse to gather the whole family around the same table (ideally somewhere at the countryside house, called maset) and cook the traditional paella (ideally the old way, using a wood-fired oven).
Traditional vs modern
Asking a Spaniard about the Sunday plans might give you more information about the person than any other question. For instance, my husband comes from a very traditional Spanish family. Gathering the whole family on Sundays in the countryside house and sharing a paella – it´s a sort of an unspoken rule.
Also, my mother-in-law (Rosamari) has 4 siblings, and my father-in-law (Vicente) has 5 (unfortunately only one left). So, getting together on Sundays has always been their best way to show appreciation, love, and support toward the family. Especially while having numerous siblings, as it´s hard to stay in touch with everyone on a daily basis.
You know that I can´t get enough of Spanish landmarks and road trips, so setting travels on the pause button for most of my Sundays felt strange in the beginning. For me, Sunday always felt like the best day to go hiking, explore medieval villages, and try local foods. In a certain way, it is still about slowing down because you don´t go to Barcelona or Madrid.
But with time I got to understand that the older generations can´t follow the same rhythm. Slowing down for most of the seniors in Spain – means staying close to their origins, the land they grew up in, and preparing the traditional dishes they used to share with their families.
I also suspect that this tradition of gathering and sharing meals could be rooted back in the complicated Spanish past, involving the Civil War and eventual famine. Therefore, gathering and sharing a meal together every Sunday obviously has a profound meaning for the oldest generations in Spain.
The modern lifestyle of the Spanish cities might bring changes to this tradition of Spanish Sundays for some. But the truth is that in my circle, even the younger generations of Spaniards try to be a part of these family-oriented Sundays.
Paella Every Sunday
Another challenge of Spanish Sunday for me was having paella all the time. It´s especially typical in the region of Valencia, but I know lots of families across Spain choosing it as a main weekend dish.
Also read: Artichoke Tasting Menu in Benicarlo, Spain
Don´t get me wrong – I loved paella the first hundred times. Yet the more repetitive it all got, the less excitement it used to bring into my life. I mean, according to my mother-in-law she was constantly diversifying the meal by preparing either meat paella, or fish paella, or paella with mushrooms. But that´s simply not my perception of a diverse meal. Especially, if thinking of all the numerous unique dishes in the Spanish cuisine and local Gastronomic weeks. I guess, back then I was just not getting the mentality, background, and origins of my husband´s family.
Nevertheless, over the years somehow eating paella on Sundays has become my personal habit too. As they say when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and then suddenly something that used to feel strange becomes a part of you.
The Spanish Countryside
Let me put this clear – it´s now that I´m sharing with you my cute reading corner with plants and gardening ideas for Spain. For all of my life, I used to be a person who could not keep alive a simple cactus.
Also read: The Most Beautiful Gardens in Spain
The countryside felt strange to me for a long while.
Nevertheless, this vision has started to shift slowly after having kids (or it´s simply me getting older with all these granny´s hobbies, who knows?!). Anyway, seeing how much they enjoyed this contact with the rural side of Spain – chasing chickens, playing with mud, picking fruits, planting trees – all this made me understand how important the traditional Spanish countryside was for their own evolution. Together we started to enjoy the Spanish Sundays as a family.
I began seeing all the things I originally considered boring through their eyes. Suddenly, all that used to irritate me before started to feel relaxing and even enjoyable.
One might be born in the most cosmopolitan city of the world like New York, Hamburg, or Kuala Lumpur. But in the countryside, there´s definitely this long-gone connection to how our ancestors lived. I initially never thought of it, but over the years I learned it from my in-laws.
Probably, this fact (as well as the city burnout, that we all suffer from more than ever) makes rural tourism so popular these days. Spain is no exception with its casas rurales.
My Sunday in Spain
This tiny countryside house (called maset in Valencian), where we usually spend our Spanish Sundays, has been in my husband´s family for several generations.
The olive trees around it are almost approaching the millenary olive trees we recently marveled at while hiking in Castellon. This place used to be my father-in-law´s biggest hobby even before his retirement.
A huge bonus for the rest of us has always been the eco groceries he brought home – especially, eggs, seasonal fruits, and olive oil.
In my post about Spanish food souvenirs I´ve already shared with you that homemade olive oil is one of my top kitchen must-haves.
Top seasonal fruits ( that we usually overeat because they are so good) are nisperos (e.g loquats), figs, oranges, mandarines, pears, apples, prunes, apricots, peaches, pomegranates, persimmons, and madroños.
Cooking a Traditional Valencian Paella
As my parents-in-law say – “a Sunday without paella does not feel like Spanish Sunday at all”.
So, as I have previously mentioned – paella on Sundays is not optional in our family. Would you like to discover our traditional recipe for Paella?
First of all, my mother-in-law insists on making it the old way – using rainwater and cooking over wood-burning fire. According to her, it´s one of the key factors determining the taste.
The rest is all a matter of ingredients and proportions. These are the main steps:
- place a paella pan with a bit of olive oil over the fire
- once hot, add chicken thighs, panceta (pork belly), and conejo (rabbit) until golden brown on all sides (around 5-10 min)
- add red peppers, garlic, green and white beans, bottled tomatoes (already grilled), and artichokes (approx. 3 min)
- after frying a bit, we take out green beans and artichokes and return them when everything else is ready (otherwise these might end up overcooked and lose the original form)
- at this stage, we usually add snails (Valencians adore them) or calamari – cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes; in our family, we never use mussels or peeled shrimp, but sometimes decorate paella with fresh grilled shrimps in the end
- later, we add 5-6 cups of rice Arroz Bomba (see the picture) and 10-12 of broth and bring it to a boil (this cup is my mother-in-law’s personal measurement)
- afterward, we place a paella pan on the table and cover it with towels (putting two large spatulas crossing each other so that the towel would not touch the rice); we never use aluminum foil
- in 20 minutes the rice gets tender and the paella is ready
- you need to mix it all well before serving by scratching the bottom (the crunchy fried rice at the bottom is called socorrat)
More traditional foods
Another typical dish in our family is pan con alioli, bread with Spanish garlic mayonnaise, made the traditional way. You can see the process of making it on my IG highlight Countryside. After the aioli sauce is done, it´s put on the slice of bread and toasted over the wood-burning fire for a few seconds.
Depending on the season, my mother-in-law often prepares coca de codony (a traditional quince pastry) or simply buys pastissets de cabello de angel (pastries with pumpkin pulp jam).
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