by Marina Diez
It’s common for Spanish workers to take a lunch break in the middle of their working day. The usual thing is to go out to a restaurant and have a menú del día, menu of the day. This set lunch consists of a starter, a second course, and a dessert, with several options for each, at a fair price — from 9 euros depending on the restaurant. The price also includes bread and a drink — water, soft drinks, wine or beer. You’ll find menus del día in a good portion of Spanish restaurants from Monday to Friday at lunch time — between about 1 pm and 3.30 pm. Check near the door of the restaurant or on a board outside for options for that particular day.
There are several dishes which are likely to be found in a menú del día on a particular day. For example, on Thursday paella is usually one of the options, and in Madrid, Tuesday is the day to have cocido (hearty chickpea and meat stew).
There are several urban legends as to why Thursdays are the official paella day. One is that Franco used to go hunting on Thursdays, and when he did, he liked to eat paella. As his hunting destination was always unknown, every restaurant in the country had to be prepared in case he appeared and demanded his favourite food. Others say that since maids used to have Thursdays off, they would leave the first step of the paella recipe, el sofrito (everything but the rice!), cooked on Wednesday night, ready for the lady of the house to add the rice in time for Thursday lunch.
So, venture out into the city and let us know what your favorite menú is! Here are some of our favorites to get you started.