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FOOD AND DRINK

‘We’re going to hell’: Supermarket’s readymade fried eggs offend Spaniards

Spain's most popular supermarket Mercadona has shocked shoppers by selling pre-cooked fried eggs in plastic packaging, sparking a huge uproar among environmentalists and food lovers.

fried eggs mercadona spain
Food shoppers at Mercadona will have to shell out (pun intended) €1.80 for two readymade eggs that need to go in the microwave for 45 seconds. Photo: Mercadona

In a country where food is sacrosanct, gastronomic scandals that blow up on social media are not rare (we’re looking at you Jaime Oliver, and your chorizo paella).

Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona has written the latest chapter in Spain’s long list of food faux pas by selling two vacuum sealed fried eggs for €1.80.

That’s around the same price as buying a dozen uncooked eggs in Spain, but it’s not the price which has upset most Spaniards, rather the fact that something as simple and quick as cooking a couple of huevos in the frying pan is deemed too laborious and time consuming for some shoppers, according to Mercadona at least. 

The label on the packaging states “put in the microwave for 45 seconds”.

One tweet that has gone viral typifies the response of many Spaniards to this bizarre supermarket offering. “We are going to hell”, wrote Dr Elena Casado Pineda along with a photo of the packaged eggs.

Another user who posted a video of himself petrified under his bed covers, said “Mercadona selling fried eggs is the beginning of the end”’.

Several others have taken to TikTok to review Mercadona’s divisive eggs. “It tastes like an egg, even though one made at home is much better, obviously,” concluded one young influencer.

Eggs are after all a staple food product in the Spanish diet and essential for classic dishes such as the tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) and revueltos (scrambled eggs with other food mixed in).

Numerous Spanish media outlets have also covered ‘egg-gate’. La Sexta TV interviewed a nutritionist to get an expert opinion on Mercadona’s fried eggs and evaluate their pros and cons.

Others have highlighted the repulsion of a large part of the Spanish population, some stressing that Mercadona aren’t the first to engage in such lazy and wasteful food offerings as Carrefour sells pre-peeled and dissected tangerines.

In the case of public broadcaster RTVE, the focus was primarily on what it represented in terms of plastic waste and the country’s new laws to reduce it.

“An average person in Spain throws away 34 kilos of single-use plastic packaging a year,” Blanca Rubial of environmentalist group Amigos de la Tierra told RTVE.

Spain’s new plastic waste law will ban plastic packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables if they weigh under 1.5kg, something that won’t affect pre-cooked food such as the controversial eggs.

Others have also pointed out that for people with reduced mobility (of their hands in particular) as well as blind people, having access to pre-cooked eggs can be useful, although previous attempts to market these products to such groups haven’t proven very successful.

Mercadona has responded by saying that their packaged fried eggs are only being sold in some of its supermarkets during a trial period.

Food delivery services have increased by 80 percent in Spain over the last three years, and takeaways by 68 percent between 2019 and 2021, with the pandemic no doubt largely influencing this.

It’s a booming business and whether Spaniards would like to admit it or not, their increasingly frenetic rhythm of life means that having time to cook isn’t always their top priority, even though they are by and large food lovers and proud of their gastronomy.

That said, who can’t spare the three minutes it takes to fry an egg?

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ANDALUSIA

Ten things you should never say to an Andalusian

From calling them lazy to poking fun at their accent and mocking their Semana Santa celebrations, there are quite a few sure-fire ways to annoy an Andalusian which you should avoid.

Ten things you should never say to an Andalusian

‘Anywhere south of Madrid is Africa’ is perhaps the most extreme cliché which caters to the notion that there’s a huge North-South divide in Spain. 

Andalusians, (from Spain’s southernmost region) are therefore often mocked by those who see the Spanish capital and northern half of Spain as more serious, affluent and productive.

Southerners are loud, idle, ill-spoken and all in all inferior, the stereotypes claim.

According to historians, Andalusians started to gain this reputation as more unrefined and untrustworthy than their ‘Castilian’ counterparts as far back as the 16th century, when Seville had become the ‘New Rome’ of Europe due to its trade links with the New World, leading to a heady mix of races and cultures living together in a raucous metropolis of ‘debauchery’. 

The Andalusian government has an article on their website in which it explains how this reputation for party over productivity came about.

Even famed 19th century writers such Gautier, Mérimée and Byron contributed to this image, despite being big admirers of Andalusia.

The stereotypes persist to this day, much to the annoyance of many Andalusians who do not want to pigeonholed. That’s not to say that Andalusians aren’t proud of their culture, language, cities and more – many will fervently defend Andalusia.

With this in mind, here are some comments you should avoid making to Andalusian people, unless you want to potentially find yourself in very hot water. 

Call them lazy

The stereotype that Spaniards are lazy is widespread overseas, but within Spain it’s the Andalusians who are classified as work-shy. It’s true that many andaluces have a more relaxed attitude to life and work, meaning that it can take a longer to complete certain processes or responsibilities, and the insufferable summer heat doesn’t help either. The unemployment rate is also one of the highest in Spain. 

However, there’s plenty of big business booming in Andalusia. Málaga has now become one of the continent’s biggest tech hubs. In 2021, Google announced that it would establish a hub in Málaga, giving rise to the moniker – the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe. Other international companies soon began to follow in the internet giant’s footsteps, planning their own Málaga bases, brands such as Vodafone, Citigroup, Banco Santander, GP Bullhound and EY.

READ ALSO: Why Spain’s Málaga is becoming a victim of its own success


Criticise their accent or tell them they have a lisp

Andalusians are known throughout Spain for having one of hardest-to-understand Spanish accents, so you can imagine how tough it is for foreign Spanish language learners with untrained ears. It’s certainly not ‘newsreader Spanish’, they do often swallow the ends of words and use a lot of slang, but it isn’t a worse or more incorrect version of Spanish than that spoken in Madrid or northern Spain. If anything, it’s a perfect example of the varied richness of castellano spoken across Spain’s 17 regions.

A condescending attitude towards el acento andaluz will therefore not win you any friends. In fact, a study by the Centre of Andalusian Studies found that four out of ten people in the region will get angry if you mock their accent.

Nor is it a good idea to say that Andalusians have a lisp. There is not one Andalusian accent but many, and the ceceo (pronouncing s, c and z all with a th sound), the seseo (pronouncing s, c and z all with a s sound) or making a distinction between c/z and s like in northern Spain all depends on the area of Andalusia. It’s not a speech impediment or lisp, they are linguistic idiosyncrasies.

READ ALSO: A handy guide to understanding Spain’s regional accents

Andalusians are made of fun often because of their accents. Photo: sgrunden / Pixabay
 
 
Tell them they’re overdressed

Most Andalusians love to dress up, particularly when going out for dinner, to bars or even just out for an evening stroll. It’s not uncommon to see whole families dressed up to the nines in suits, cocktail-style dresses and children with frilly skirts/smart shirts and perfectly polished leather shoes.

It’s totally the opposite to many other places in Spain, particularly in Catalonia where anything goes and no one would look twice at you if you decided to go to a bar in jogging bottoms, a t-shirt and flip-flops. But don’t poke fun at their love of looking good, maybe take a leaf out of their book and join them.

READ ALSO: What are the regional stereotypes across Spain?

Assume they’re all party animals

Andaluces are known to be the most outgoing, fun-loving, and gregarious Spaniards in the country with a love of going out and partying. One of the best times to see this is at one of their ferias, which are often held in spring or summer. While it’s true that the streets here are still buzzing after midnight, bars often spill out onto the streets and clubs are wild, it doesn’t mean that all Andalusians like this lifestyle. Many might prefer a relaxing glass of wine in a quiet bar or even to stay at home with a tasty cooked meal instead.

Not all Andalusians want to party all the time. Photo: Alexandru Cojanu / Pexels
 
 
Say that Andalusia is economically maintained by the rest of Spain

Be very careful if you’re making statements like this to an Andalusian. It’s true that Andalusia and Extremadura, along with the autonomous city of Melilla, are the Spanish regions that consistently have the lowest GDP per capita in Spain. Not being home to big cities and relying mainly on tourism and agriculture rather than business and industry means means they far lesser economic clout that the richer north.

However, Andalusia does support the country as a whole in pivotal ways. For example, around 80 percent of Spain’s olive oil is produced in Andalusia and it also grows the majority of Spain’s fruits and vegetables, many of which are exported all over Europe.

READ ALSO: Why are the Basque Country and Catalonia so rich compared to the rest of Spain?

Make fun of their Semana Santa

Semana Santa or Holy Week around Easter is a big deal in Andalusia. Cities go all out with elaborate parades, over-the-top costumes and huge intricate floats. Some parades last all day, while others go on in the middle of the night. The fact is that Andalusia’s Semana Santa celebrations can seem very sombre and serious when compared with festivals in other parts of the country, particularly Catalonia and Valencia’s fiery, crazy antics.

Many people make fun of this fact and Catalan TV station TV3 once put their foot in it by mocking Holy Week and dressing up an actor as the Virgin, which provoked a backlash of criticism on social media and outraged Andalusians. Many andaluces are still Catholic (practicing or culturally religious), so they take their Easter parades very seriously, from the music to the emotional saeta songs and even the right way to hold their candles. It’s a sacred tradition that shouldn’t be laughed at.

Seville is one of the best cities in Spain to spend Semana Santa. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP
 
 
Tell them that Costa Blanca beaches are better

Andalusia’s Costa del Sol is one of the most favoured areas in the country when it comes to holidaying on the coast. The region has in fact around 1,000 km of coastline and contains everything from long swathes of caramel-coloured sand to dramatic cliffs, buzzing resorts and quiet fishing villages. Andaluces are rightly proud of their fantastic beaches but there is somewhat of a rivalry with Valencia’s Costa Blanca, another region which is very popular with tourists looking for the ultimate beach holiday. Every Andalusian has their favourite local beach and telling them that the ones along the eastern coastline are better is sure to rub some up the wrong way.

Argue that Andalusian culture is just flamenco

It’s all very easy to just say that Andalusian culture is all flamenco and bullfighting. Yes, Andalusia is the birthplace of the art form, the place where you can see some of the best performances and the region that still holds the most bullfights, but there is so much more to the region’s heritage.

For example, its culture is also influenced by its climate and history, much of which has to do with the Moors who ruled parts of this region for around 800 years. It also has a strong culinary culture with some of the best tapas found throughout the country, as well as varied musical styles and connections with the seafaring trade. You could spend months in the region and see so much culture, before even seeing one flamenco show.

There is so much more to Andalusian culture than just flamenco. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP
 

Ruin their siesta

While it’s common abroad to assume that siestas are common practice all over Spain, it’s not really true. Nevertheless, they are much more common and taken much more seriously in Andalusia than in other regions as it’s one of the hottest areas in Spain with summer temperatures regularly hitting high 30s and even 40C and above. Therefore, an afternoon rest is necessary to hide away from the searing heat of the day.

Many shops, attractions, museums and even bars, and restaurants have particular afternoon closing times, particularly in summer. If you disturb an andaluz during this time, they’re not likely to be very amenable when they awake.

Assuming all Andalusians like to tell jokes

Another Andalusian stereotype is that they are all very funny and love to tell jokes. You may inadvertently annoy someone off by putting them on the spot and asking them to tell you a joke, just because they’re from the region.

This stereotype stems from the fact that they’re known for their friendliness and open nature, but also because people from Cádiz in particular are said to be more humorous and funny than the rest of Spaniards. This is partly down to Cádiz’s famous carnival celebrations which have humour at their centre, often with satirical songs, hilarious costumes and amusing wit.  

Cádiz is famed for its humorous carnival. Photo: Ben Kerckx / Pixabay
 
 
Article by Esme Fox and Alex Dunham
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