A few years ago I spent a month in Salamanca, Spain, as a camp counsellor for local children.  They would spend two weeks with us learning English from British teachers for a few hours each day, and the rest of the time we’d attempt to wear them out with dance/crafts/sports.  It was a varied experience, to say the least, but I remember it fondly and feel richer for having been through it.

One of the most interesting aspects of living in Spain was the pace of the day, which by necessity was determined by the timing of meals.  Breakfast (desayuno) was usually something small at around 9 am, usually a large bowl of a hot milky beverage and a biscuit.  Lunch (almuerzo) was at about 1 pm, and the largest meal of the day; even at our camp it was two courses.  This was a longstanding tradition as it marked the siesta, the time in the afternoon from about 1 to 4 pm when all the businesses would close and everyone would go home and rest during the hottest part of the day.  At 5 pm we would have an afternoon snack (merienda – 5 pm is still afternoon!  Who knew!?), which I usually really looked forward to, because it was something delicious or other sandwiched in a baguette: chorizo, or better yet, chocolate.  Then later in the evening around 7 or 8 would be dinner (cena), which was usually something light.

As we were outnumbered with rambunctious 12-14 year olds, we did not serve coffee in the morning.  I can’t remember exactly what the name of it was, but the hot milky beverage served was a Spanish variant of Milo, a malt-flavoured milk-based powder that you added to hot water or milk.  Think of hot chocolate, but less sweet.  Perhaps it was actually Milo.  Anyway, it was a comforting thing, as my mom always had Milo or Ovaltine (same but different) in the pantry.  It lulled us counsellors back into existence, bolstering us for the day ahead.

As the temperature drops in the fall I feel like I should be longing for the warmth of Spanish summer days.  Instead, I am happy to settle down with a bowl of steaming Milo.