Discover more from The 4:20 Habit
It's a small meal eaten between main meals. In our house, it happens between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.
In grade school, we called it recess — a 15-to-20-minute break between the first class and lunch time. When we got home from school, we ate merienda before starting with homework.
In the office, the mid-morning meal and mid-afternoon meal were both called merienda. I used to say that morning merienda was to recharge after the long and traffic-infested drive from home to work, and afternoon merienda was to brace for the long and traffic-infested drive from work to home.
What is merienda?
Merienda is a culture that Spain introduced to its former colonies including the Philippines. Morning merienda is taken between breakfast and lunch; afternoon merienda is eaten between lunch and dinner.
But the practice of having a light mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal is not exclusively a Spanish (or former Spanish colony) thing.
Merienda is known by various names
In Cantonese culture, there’s yum cha — the practice of having tea with dim sum dishes. Morning tea is zou cha and afternoon tea is ha ng cha.
Elevenses is a light meal eaten at around 11:00 a.m. It’s called “morning tea” in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand; la once (pronounced on-se, it means eleven in Spanish) in Chile; elvakaffe in Sweden; tienuurtje in Belgium; Tíz-órai in Hungary; arukhat eser in Israel and Das-Baja in India.
Among English speakers, afternoon tea — or simply tea — is perhaps the best-known name of the mid-afternoon meal.
In the Philippines, it’s spelled meryenda
Between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. is merienda time in our house. No morning merienda because we don’t get up early enough to have two meals before lunch.
Yes, we call it merienda. It’s been 125 years since the Treaty of Paris when Spain sold the Philippines and its other colonies to the United States, and despite the Filipinos not having been converted into native Spanish speakers, countless Spanish words and their local adaptations remain deeply entrenched in the Filipinos’ vocabulary.
The local spelling is meryenda but the pronunciation is almost the same — the only marked difference is that the i and e are pronounced separately in Spanish while, in meryenda, the i and e become ye which is spoken as a single syllable.
What’s merienda like in our house?
There’s coffee, tea or tisane served hot or iced. Sometimes, it’s chocolate. To go with the drink, there’s bread, cake or pastries. Store-bought or home baked. Or quick-assemble sandwiches — take cold meat from the fridge, slap between slices of bread, and presto! Even faster and easier — a small portion of what’s left over from lunch, if there’s any.