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A merienda is any snack food eaten before a heavy meal. It is a light meal that originated from Spain and a customary meal eaten in other countries such as the Philippines, Argentina, and Croatia. The term merienda came from the Spanish merendar, which means “to eat snack.” It is usually eaten to relieve hunger when it is not yet lunchtime or dinnertime. When eaten after breakfast and before lunchtime, it is called brunch; in the Philippines, however, this term may also mean a meal eaten by a person who has skipped eating breakfast and takes an early lunch.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the three types of meals that people usually eat every day, although people in other countries also eat a fourth type called merienda or snack. Merienda is taken a few hours after breakfast and before lunch, or a few hours after lunch and before dinner. For instance, the Spaniards usually eat tapas in the mid-morning and bread in the mid-afternoon. In Spanish cuisine, tapas are finger foods with strong flavors and are usually served in local restaurants. For the Spaniards, eating snack can replenish energy, and it is considered an important meal, especially for children.
Filipinos acquired the habit of eating merienda from the Spaniards, as the Philippines once became a Spanish colony. Some popular Filipino snack foods include pandesal and the so-called kakanin such as palitaw and suman. Although eating snack is not an original Filipino custom, snack has become a standard meal that can even be taken in place of a heavy meal, particularly dinner. This is called merienda cena, which some dieters take in order to skip dinner. Merienda cena, however, can also be taken before eating dinner.
It is typical for the people in Argentina to eat a snack before lunchtime. One of the most popular snack foods there is the pan de miga, the equivalent of the ham-and-cheese sandwich, although other fillings may also be added such as tomatoes, lettuce, and olives. Another common Argentinean snack food is the tostada or fried tortilla, which is commonly eaten with sweet bread spreads such as dulce de leche and jam. The empanada, a classic beef-filled snack food in Argentina, can also be stuffed with other ingredients such as poultry and cheese. It is commonly served as a finger food in parties.
The Croatians spend their break time eating merienda foods like sandwiches. Marenda, as how it is called in Croatia, typically consists of bread and cheese. Traditional marenda recipes, however, include fish and meat. Cheese, as well as other dairy products, is a staple snack in Croatia. Croatian snacks may also include fruits and salad.