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Because of my work with food it's important for me to get out and see what others are doing in the world of cooking. Given that Spain offers one of our best examples of Mediterranean cuisine, it seemed the perfect choice. While there I kept track of some of my observations about the cuisine here from the one end of the spectrum to the other. These comments were originally posted to my blog at LiveStrong.com.
There's been an expression in medicine called the "French Paradox" for some time now. This is based on the concept that the French eat many high fat, rich foods, yet have lower rates of heart disease. The same "paradox" can be extended to other Mediterranean countries, but I don't believe that there's any puzzle at all.
For instance, there's a pastry or bakery shop on almost every corner in Spain. These do have a lot of delicious and often very rich delicacies. A typical breakfast of espresso with milk (cafe con leche) and a croissant seems decadent. Yet the typical breakfast on the run in the U.S. - of a Starbucks 500+ calorie coffee drink and an oversized muffin or bagel - can easily be well over 500 more calories than that "rich" croissant and a coffee. (Interestingly, there are now a lot of Starbucks in Spain: 35 in Madrid.)
The typical croissant has 231 calories but a Dunkin Donuts bagel has 320 calories (with the cream cheese, about 420). A small light pastry made with high quality ingredients comes in at around half the calories as the bagel. This sort of breakfast even extends to the roadside diner.
I love to travel by car, but eating good food on the road in the U.S. can be a challenge. On the highways in Spain they have service areas much like in the U.S. (especially in the Northeast). The offerings for breakfast are much the same as the neighborhood pastry shop. Espresso, croissant or other pastries and small sandwiches.
Sandwiches, known as bocadillos, are small baguettes with a variety of fillings. Unlike American sandwiches they are not overstuffed. For instance, the ham (or jamon) is very high quality much like Italian prosciutto. Instead of being piled high with meat, there's a small amount, but because of the great quality there's so much flavor.
I believe that this is the explanation for the "paradox" and one that I have been basing Dr. Gourmet recipes on for years. Use the best quality, full flavor ingredients in small amounts. This is what the cuisine of Spain and other Mediterranean countries is based on and the way you can cook and eat to change your life.
Next Week: Portion Size