This is a Spanish cereal dish

This is a Spanish cereal dish

Staying with locals provides an entirely different experience from what I see as a tourist. While I’m out on my own I do basically the same things I would do in any city, namely walk around a ton and sample lots of local food and drink. But I learned some interesting things that I didn’t anticipate after 3 weeks of daily interactions with a family in Spain. (See my post on my GoCambio exchange)

For instance, I learned that there are no bowls in Spain. Well, that’s not exactly true. But there’s not really a Spanish word for bowl, and in fact Spanish people generally think of a bowl as a very large serving dish. Not something you use to eat soup or cereal.

This is a plato hondo

This is a plato hondo

I learned this while helping set the table for dinner at my host family’s house. I asked the older son where to find more bowls (we were having soup). He and his younger brother raced into the other room to grab some out of the cabinet. The 8-year-old pulled out some odd looking mug-like dishes and his brother told him to put those back and instead bring out the “platos hondos”. So I asked “how do you say bowl in Spanish?” And he said “bowl.” (Actually after looking up the translation I think he said “bol” but it sounds the same). I was pretty shocked that there was no Spanish word for bowl. So I asked my adult hosts about this. And they confirmed, the Spanish use “platos hondos”, deep plates, for soup.

Having witnessed their morning meals I said “oh and you use coffee cups for cereal.” This led to a lesson in appropriate drinking beverages. Those cereal mugs are not coffee cups! Coffee is served in a proper espresso cup, and tea in a British tea cup, leaving mugs with no particular purpose in the Spanish household, except for cereal.

From left to right: coffee, tea, cereal

From left to right: coffee, tea, cereal

Apparently even 20 years ago cereal was not a breakfast food in Spain. But more recently this American food has caught on, leaving the bowl-less Spanish to improvise with their previously useless mugs as serving dishes.

I confirmed all of this with my Spanish friend who teaches in a culinary school. And when I ask google translate for the word “bowl” in Spanish it comes up with Spanish words that mean basin, mug, cup and “el bol” which I guess is how they have arrived at transliterating the word bowl.

I didn’t ask why this family that doesn’t use mugs for drinks has such a large collection of mugs, but judging from the varying pictures, words and art on these mugs I think it’s just like my house where mugs are collected as souvenirs and gifts. After all, they need something to use for their morning cereal.