Top 10 tastes of Spain

spain
| | Comments (0)
Various people had told us the food wasn't good in Spain.  Even the Spanish food writer and historian Clara Maria Amezua, who we'd first met at a conference in Greece in May, lamented the decline of Spain's gastronomy.  She attributes this to Fernando and Isabella's (los Reyes Catolicos) expulsion of the Moors and Jews at the end of the 15th century.  With them went many sophisiticated and richly flavoured north African and Sephardic dishes.  But, as we found, traces of their culinary traditions are still to be found. 

And what's more, the ingredients in Spain are glorious.  Top quality fresh vegetables and seafood, in particular, are widely available. Here are ten our favourite taste memories of our journey through Spain, from Catalunya to Andalucia, via the Basque Country, Galicia and Castille.  Often the most delicious things we found were the simplest; those showcasing just one wonderful ingredient...

Smmerceduck0001.JPG1.  Duck across the border: Confit de canard
When I think of southwest France I think of duck.  Unctuous legs of confit de canard, perhaps nestled in some cassoulet.  Yum.  Having only spent one night in southern France on our way down to Spain, and sampled just one very third rate cassoulet, we thought we'd missed our chance to gorge ourselves on confit de canard.  How wrong we were.  Read more...


smsnailtoothpick0001.JPG2.  Slow food: Caracoles
Catalunyans seem to be good at slow food.  There are lots of rich savoury stews, traditionally cooked in wide, shallow earthenware 'cazuelas' over a low flame, slowly.  And people know how to take their time over a good meal together.  Read more...


3.  Fish forever:  Bacalao and mojama
With our tummies full of ducks and snails, we moved on to Barcelona, where Pedro and Arantxa took us to what must Smmojama0001.jpgbe one of the city's best neighbourhood restaurants - Cal Boter, in Gràcia - luckily unknown to the hordes of tourists down by the seafront.  Here we sampled more Catalunyan specialities, including one of their classic 'surf 'n' turf' dishes - this time wild mushrooms with prawns.  And we had bacalao - salted and dried cod - about which I suspect you could write a thesis as it appears in all sorts of countries, is used in all sorts of ways, and reflects all sorts of interesting historical connections.  Read more... 


smtapasmenu0001.jpg4.  Tapas, but not as we know it
I have to say that we did have some pretty awful tapas in Spain: Dry jamón on dry bread, soggy patatas bravas, bland tortilla wedges, shrimps with supermarket mayo and so on.  But this was our fault for eating in the wrong places (not that anywhere should really be serving up such atrocities).  When the spot was right, we found divine jamón iberico, moreish pimientos de Padrón (there's always one....), tasty tortillas and more.  But the best spot of all, for a very different concept of tapas, was A Fuego Negro in San Sebastian.  Read more...


Smcaldogallego0001.jpg5.  It's tops in Galicia:  Turnip greens
It really is.  We loved Galicia so much we nearly bought an abandoned farmhouse set in the most stunning location amid steep vineyard-covered valleys, looking down over a bright blue gorge and out to a mountainscape not dissimilar to Scotland (with more sun).  Here, in the tiny little stone villages clinging to the mountains people are making excellent wines, cheeses and cured pork products.  And they're growing turnips.  Read more...


Smpulpogallego0001.JPG6.  Octopus on board:  Pulpo gallego
Rivalling caldo gallego for our favourite Galician dish was pulpo gallego, another local classic, this time found mainly in the towns and villages round the miles and miles of wrinkly coastline.  What makes this dish Galician is the way the octopus is cooked and served.  Read more... 


Smcremat0001.JPG7.  Burnt spirits:  Queimada and cremat
With all that Galician octopus and turnip tops inside you, you need a good digestif to finish the meal.  And Galicia has one of the best you can find - queimada - a sweet and firey conconction which you brew at the table in a special three-legged earthenware bowl, huddled like witches round a cauldron.  Read more...   


Smcroquetas0001.JPG8.  ¡Croquetas!
They're hot, crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside and small enough to pop in the mouth again and again.  Who doesn't like croquetas!?  Soon realising croquetas were going to be our favourite Spanish snack - perfect any time of day with a nice glass of beer or table wine - we set about seeking out the best versions everywhere we went.  Culinary research can be tough.  Read more... 


Smtomatobread0001.JPG9. Sweet, sour and red all over:  Tomatoes
Down the pub, fancy a nibble with your pint... what do you get?  Presumably a packet of crisps or a packet of peanuts.  Maybe pork scratchings if you like that kind of thing.  Chances are it'll be very fatty and salty, devoid of vitamins, and not terribly good for your heart.  Not so in Spain.  Read more... 


Smjamoniberico0001.JPG10.  Acorn to bacon:  Jamón Iberico de bellota
We knew the jamón in Spain can be fantastic, and we wanted to make sure we got to try the best.  So after asking around we found ourselves in Jabugo, surrounded by miles of 'dehesa' countryside and little white-washed villages on hilltops, with the sweet, sweet smell of curing jamón wafting through the air everywhere we went.  Read more... 

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Top 10 tastes of Spain.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.culinaryanthropologist.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/232

Leave a comment

Archives

Culinary Anthropologist