History of Spanish Food
History of Spanish Food: Geographical and Climatic Factors
Spanish Cuisines are profoundly influenced by geographical location: reflecting climatic factors.
The Iberian Peninsula has 3,313 km of coastlines:, 1,660 kms on Mediterranean side and 1,653 kms on the Atlantic and Bay of Biscay coasts.
Fish, in the History of Spanish Food: the Abundance and Variety of Spanish Cuisines are represented by fresh fish caught by net or by line, aquaculture or marineculture - such as Caviar production from Rio Frio in Granada. There is an excellent choice of game, sheep and goat.
Echoes of past civilizations
Are in the ingredients, aromas and flavours
which now belong to Spanish soils - and compound in creating essentially Spanish cuisine.
History of Spanish Food: Fresh Food
Freshness" is the prime accent in Spanish Gastronomy. Refrigeration didn't exist for centuries, however, hot weather was a serious reality-factor. Spanish people cultivated the habit of purchasing their needs on a daily routine. Everything, thus, was fresh. Garum and salt were the only way the Phoencians and Romans could conserve certain items.
The conquistadores radically changed Spanish and European diet, transporting back, foreign produce to Spanish soils.
- Northern Spain, known for heart-warming food
- San Sebastian is best known for its wide variety of fresh fish and shellfish
- In Levante you find the Valencian region, it is the heart of Spanish rice-growing lands: Paella
- Southern Spain, torrid Andalucian summers produced refeshingly, chilled soups: Gazpacho, Ajo Blanco, Porra and Salmorejo
- Spanish bodegas are situated on specific soils
- Spain specializes in Holm Oak-fed Iberian pig: Pata Negra
- Numerous sheep flocks graze the dehesa inland flats, producing excellent cheeses such as Manchego cheese or, famed Spanish wood-fire lamb roasts or stews
Vieiras and their Association in the History of Spanish food
is a scallop shellfish. The scallop shell has long represented fertility and is directly associated with the Patron Saint of Spain.
St. James the Great was an Apostle. He became the patron Saint of Spain. His body had been buried in Compostela 7 or 8 hundred years ago...
One particular day - according to myth - it was divine assistance that led to his tomb being rediscovered. After endless defeats against the Moors the Spaniards' balance of luck - miraculously shifted. From the day Santiago's tomb was found: the Spaniards began to win their battles aginst the Moors. Santiago symbolized the justification of the Reconquista: Spaniards would charge at the Moors with the battlecry of: "Santiago y Cierra España": St.James and strike for Spain.
A scallop shell was the insignia of St James. Santiago de Compostela pilgims wear a scallop shell as they may have to depend on charity for sustenance. Their requirements were small: kind people on their route would fill their scallop shell with food. Coquilles Saint Jacques is a French recipe. Influence of this Saint crossed frontiers - even the French hommaged him, incorporating his name into this dish.
Background: History of Spanish Food
The history of spanish food began when wheat crops were first cultivated on the Iberian Peninsula, in 5,000BC.
The Romans were the first unite the Iberian Peninsula under the various Hispania provinces of Roman Spain. Providing food for the soldiers and the population was a matter of prime importance. Roman soldiers ate frugally in comparison to the Roman elite.
However, the Hispaniae provinces had exactly the right conditions to provide ample sustanance for Rome and Hispania.
What Were Those Basic Requirements: Wheat
, olive oil
Identifying Countries "Excelling" in Certain Produce
The introduction of Roman ovens to the Iberian Peninsula (Pompeii ovens look similar to the wood-burning Pizza ovens of today), revolutionized the cooking of bread and many articles.
You might say: but Spain is famous for many gastronomic items... Yes and that is correct, however, bread - historically speaking - is what Spain excelled at after the Romans.
In the history of Spanish food: Where there were good ovens...
...cochinillo asado: oven-roasted suckling pig and cordero asado: roast lamb were specialities. Both these became a pièce de résistance in Spanish cuisine especially in Castilla y Léon and Castilla la Mancha with the Spanish capital Madrid where the Spanish court eventually settled - thus refined Spanish cuisine evolved.
History of Spanish food: Empanadas
Empanadas were (and remain) an important and ancient staple recipe. Emapanadas could be "bite-sized" or larger depending on requirements. These savoury pies were easy to transport, providing sustenance to field-workers.
Empanadas are finely rolled-out yeast-free dough, wrapping-over a tasty fish and vegetable preparation or a delicious meat and vegetable preparation. Small empanadas are fried while the large size are baked in the oven.
Empanada: bread-dough wrapped
In the History of Spanish Food: How Many People Brought New Foodstuffs to the Iberian Peninsula?
- The Phoenicians 770 - 550 BC: Wheat, oats, barley, beans. They introduced olive and almond trees, and brought some very useful domesticated animals: the donkey, hen and sheep. They planted grape vines and taught wine-making alongside pottery technques using the potter's wheel
- The Basques: Bacalao Salado: from the 11th century AD Basque whalers excelled in preserving and drying salted Cod, caught in Canadian Newfoundland
- The Romans 197 BC - 410 AD: Innovative irrigation techniques, grape vines, olive trees, wheat
- Moorish Spain 711 - 1492 AD: Most importantly the Moors introduced sugar-cane and cotton.
Followed by Artichokes, aubergines, asparagus, spinach, bananas, strawberries, cherries, oranges, lemons, limes, coconuts, pomegranates, melons, the Donegal fig, (old world grasses serving for artisanal-weaving), nutmeg, saffron, cloves, cumin, mustard and ginger
- The History of Spanish Coffee
Immigrant Turks brought Arabian coffee beans to Spain taken illegally out of Arabia - (the Arabs were trying to monopolize coffee production). Coffee was not grown in Spain, however, important Spanish coffee plantations began in Cuba after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. The Spaniards excelled in roasting coffee beans
- Spanish Coffee houses became popular - Spanish culture reigns as the lifeblood of Spanish coffee houses. El Café Gijon in Madrid is THE establishment, where literary figures, artists and politicians gathered for tertulias: informal discussions of art, politics and history - the cafe became dubbed as the greatest cafe in the History of Spain. Café Central in Malaga, is Malaga's cultural cafe
- Portuguese Vasco de Gamma : sailed around the cape of Good Hope and reached the Indies in 1498. Spices from Asia i.e.: Pepper, cardamon
- Christopher Colon 12th October 1492 AD: The turkey, Tabacco, potato, the pinapple fruit, tomato, pimientos, manioc and cacao beans
History of Spanish Food: Regional SpecialitiesPaís Vasco - San Sebastian
: Seafood and French-styled foïe gras, Salted cod, bacalao al pil-pil
Cataluña: Sausage, beans, chickpeas: Garbanzos, chicken-liver pâtes, crema catalana,
Valencia: Paella, this region is Spain's main rice-growing area, oranges,
Islas Baleares:Ensaimadas, Sobrasada
Islas Canarias: Gofio and bananas
Madrid: Cocido Madrileño, Callos al la Madrileño, tender suckling pig, so tender, plates are used to cut cochinillo portions, Merino sheep, Manchego cheese
Castilla y Léon: is the Ribera del Duero wine region, Lechazo: roast lamb, cocido, Cecina de Léon: smoked, dried cured beef.
Extremadura: smoked and unsmoked dried and ground Pimenton: Paprika, Extremeñian cheeses
Galicia: Pulpo al la Gallega, Percebes (Goose barnacles)
Asturias: Fabada Asturiana, Cidra
Picos de Europa: Blue cheeses, Cabrales, Picon
Navarra: Salmon, Trout, Pimientos del Piquillo,
Logroño: Rioja wines
Andalucia: fried fish, oil, water and garlic pounded with bread (the Roman origins of) Gazpacho (before tomatoes arrived) Salmorejo, calamares, the Sherry Triangle, Brandy, sweet Malaga wines, Caviar from Rio Fro in Granada, jumbo prawns from San Lucar de Barrameda in Huelva, pata negra hams and chacineria, strawberries, wheat and olive oil
History of Spanish Food: Tapas
Spanish windersurfing paradise, par excellence, is found in Cadiz, especially in Tarifa
. King Alfonso XIII, on a royal visit to Cadiz, passing by the Gaditan Ventorilla del Chato (historically famous inn - which to this day exists - nicknamed: the Snub-Nosed Tavern), decided to stop from refreshment.
The King was served, a fierce gust of wind rained sand around the guests. Swiftly, the innkeeper cut some slices of Jamon serrano and placed them on top of the king's glass.
Surpized the King asked why?
The innkeeper explained: ham slices acted as a "cover" thus protecting the King's wine from the sand. The King liked the idea; when he reordered he requested another tapa: cover. The accompanying court re-ordered, immitating his request.
Spanish Tapas were thus invented.
History of Spanish Food: The Tapas Royal Decree
Alfonso X (the wise one) made it a Royal Decree that no Castillean innkeeper was to serve wine or alcohol UNLESS a Tapas was served simultaneously. Tapas absorbed some the negative effects of alcohol. Travellers and field-workers often were famished by mid-morning. This tente en pie
, kept patrons going until lunchtime.
Today Tapas are mainstream Spanish cuisine and culture. Simple but filling: the Tortilla Español, cuts of Jamon Serrano or Jamon Iberico with their varied chacina cuts: chorizo, salami, morcilla etc. Olives, nuts, or small portions of albondigas or stews. Slices of regional cheeses, Ensaladilla rusa or stuffed eggs, croquettas, escabeches... each tapas is served on a small plate accompanied with small cuts of bread.
Paradors offer tapas on their menu as an hors d'oeuvre speciality. Waitresses arrive with over 20 varieties of regional tapas. Small plates cover your whole table!
Tapeando is an excellent way to taste Spanish cuisine in small portions: intrinsic to the "History of Spanish food."
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