We have all experienced it. With the dawn of a new academic year upon us, cries of students across the land can be heard uttering empty promises of self improvement and renewed motivation for academia. Nevertheless, much like sham that is ‘New Year’s resolutions,’ within a matter of weeks, the majority of the student populus is back to ordering out, spending money unnecessarily and cramming a terms worth of work into one caffeine coma.
Sat here writing this, I have not yet entered this phase of denial. The sun is beaming and I’m surrounded by luscious palm trees and colourful canopies. Unfortunately however, I’m not on a private island or caribbean beach but sat on plastic grass working at a convention in Barcelona. Judging by the familiar expanse of stone and steel, the grey hangar space could well be anywhere else in the world, yet despite my limited free time, the more I hear and learn about Spanish culture, the more I feel we could benefit from acknowledging it ourselves.
On describing Britons and their relationship with food, a Spanish colleague of mine used the term ‘sandwich culture,’ given that in Britain, one could easily mistake food for fuel. We eat meals on the go, whilst working, or even blended! Anything to grab those precious extra minutes. In Spain however, food is a ritual learnt from childhood both at home and school. At mealtimes all work ceases and you eat something freshly cooked. Then, after the meal I am informed is the best time for a siesta, a short nap in your own clothes preferably in a chair. This concept of both savouring your food and then giving your body some time to digest seems worlds away from our convenience culture, despite the obvious benefits to personal well being and productivity.
As I considered this concept further, I realised that ‘sandwich culture’ could be applied to so many areas of University culture due to the nature of student life. After all, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to suggest that British student life lends itself to deprivation! More traditionally, deprivation of sleep, money and food alongside abuse of substances such as caffeine and alcohol. However, it is also important to recognise the growth of a generation actively depriving themselves of basic food groups, with the latest fad ‘clean’ eating resulting in the demonisation of primarily dairy, gluten and meat. Whereas eating more vegetables, less stodge and reducing your sugar intake will obviously benefit your diet, anyone who tries to tell it’s a cheap lifestyle choice can go bury themselves in a mountain of chia seeds and blend themselves into an avocado smoothie! the Insta- worthy image one may desire undeniably requires a large chunk of money to be spent on products like coconut oil, dates and cacao, unlikely to suit the average student budget. Therefore, despite the sustainable logo, when it comes to your bank balance, sustainable I think not! Furthermore, surely there is no reason why, when eaten in moderation and ethically sourced, these so called ‘evil’ food groups can’t be consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle. After all, they have been for many centuries!
With so many students likely to start the new term aiming to eat ‘cleaner,’ before breaking the bank stocking up on expensive powders and potions, why not give eating like a Spaniard a try. With plentiful markets in Spain, it isn’t surprising how easy fresh produce is to stumbleupon. Nevertheless, despite being a little more elusive in Britain, a little research should quickly point you towards some local hidden gems. Locally sourced, seasonal fruit and vegetables will always be cheaper given the surplus around the harvest. By being aware of this and speaking to vendors about their produce, you will discover a great deal of interesting, budget friendly recipes using fresh food. This would not only be environmentally cleaner due to reduced air miles and packaging but would also be supporting local commerce.
When it comes to alcohol, British culture tends to promote boozing with the goal of self-annihilation. This attitude could well be responsible for why so many millennials are now opting for teetotalism. As an alternative, why not spend the money you would otherwise spend on two or three cheap drinks on one good quality drink, fully appreciating the taste and craft that has gone into making it. Personally, I had not truly experienced this until a native Spaniard took me to her favourite bodega. We were served vermouth from a barrel, house wine cheaper than anything of similar quality in Britain and traditional tapas. For Spaniards, socialising over great quality food and drink is a religious experience centred around the appreciation of their produce. So why not skip the hangover and save your booze budget for some of the good stuff. Maybe even if you are feeling super inspired, sniff out some our own British wine. The Vineyards may be few and far between but they do exist!
Last but not least, every now and again cut yourself some slack, make some food and take a siesta! Living away from home can be difficult and with so much going on, taking some time for yourself may just give you that much needed productivity boost!
Hasta luego chicos!