WHEN Kellogg's first marketed corn flakes in Spain more than 30 years ago, I thought the venture would flop because Spaniards were simply not into eating cereals for breakfast. But I had forgotten that a strong advertising campaign can work wonders. Spaniards were soon eating corn flakes and they became so popular that there are now at least a dozen brands in supermarkets and shops.

In more recent times, I read that Britons were buying more and more takeaway food and that housewives were simply not into cooking at home. I thought that would never happen in Spain because home cooking and the family meal were institutions that would never disappear.

But I had forgotten that people are pretty much the same all over the world and are attracted by the same things. So Spanish housewives were soon making use of takeaway pizzas, hamburgers and Chinese meals. Even so, I was a little surprised to hear this week that just over 50 per cent of food eaten in Spanish homes is pre-prepared.

ON the other hand, it's not so surprising, because prepared dishes are now available everywhere. In Palma, dozens of little shops have opened up offering a takeaway selection of favourite Spanish dishes. La Romanita in Calle Blanquerna started off specialising in fresh pasta and later added a few prepared dishes such as cannelloni, lasagne and spit-roasted chicken. But their customers' demand for prepared food became so great that La Romanita now sells more ready-to-eat dishes than fresh pasta.

The supermarkets of El Corte Inglés have a superb selection of prepared dishes that cover all tastes. Customers can even order dishes that will be cooked for them. An enormous outlet called La Fornarina (next to the Plaza Olivar market) offers dozens of dishes every day of the year and sells out by 2pm.

Several butcher stalls at the Olivar market are now selling dishes that just need finishing off in the oven, saucepan or frying pan.
These include an extensive range of meats coated with breadcrumbs, as well as stuffed chicken thighs and that old Majorcan favourite, lomo con col.
However, customers at La Romanita are more interested in dishes that are already cooked. They want croquettes that have been fried, not those that have to be finished off in the frying pan.

And next time you are in a checkout queue at the supermarket, take a look at what's in the other trolleys. You'll find they contain a great deal of...prepared food.