Hola! Buenos dias! Como estas?
Do me a favour…. close your eyes for a moment and think of Spain. What comes to mind? Bull fighting for sure, flamenco dancing perhaps, beaches, sun and holiday resorts, most probably. But tapas and paella are no doubt up there too when you think of Spain. Along with the renowned, ever popular Spanish beverage, sangria.
But Spain has much, much more to offer the food connoisseur than just a piping hot platter of delicious seafood paella or even the humble but gastronomic variations of bite-sized tapas, delicious as they most definitely are.
Spanish cuisine is exceptional AND exceptionally varied! In part, because it has been influenced and enriched by so many different cultures over hundreds of years. Because of Spain’s complex history of invasions and conquests, followed by more conquests and invasions, traditions have been modified again and again with new ingredients being made available over the centuries. Influences by the Arabs, the Moors, the Jews, the French and of course the Italians have resulted in a very, very diverse cuisine.
Traditionally, Spanish cuisines depend on locally grown vegetables and fruits as well as poultry and meats such as jamon (a cured ham) and of course chorizo (a seasoned sausage). Seafood and fish are also very popular in the many coastal areas of Spain, and olive oil and garlic are, of course, in abundant supply. Did you know that more olive oil is produced in Spain than in any other country?
Along with the abundance of olive oil, many regions of Spain are also famous for their “speciality” dishes. Valencia, for example, a beautiful Spanish city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, is famous for it’s rice dishes, especially paella. It is said that there are as many versions of paella as there are cooks in Spain! Andalusia, in the south of Spain, is famous for it’s gazpacho (cold soup) and jamon. Seafood dishes are always impressive and vegetables such as tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, mushrooms and artichokes are in abundance in the Catalan districts such as Barcelona, on the coast. So, as you can see, there is plenty of variety in Spanish cooking.
Wining and dining in Spain is a big deal to put it bluntly. The art of shopping in the local markets for fresh produce, then creating a delicious and perhaps traditional menu, followed by the utter enjoyment of the wonderful results of your labour, shared with your family or friends and neighbours, is what it’s all about in Spain. Eating and enjoying food, is much, much more than just grabbing a bite to eat when you’re hungry in this part of the world. It’s a long-standing Spanish tradition, built on many years of family and community gatherings and festivals.
In Spain the midday meal is savoured, can last for hours, is often enjoyed communally and alfresco with copious amounts of vino, and includes a selection of colourful, flavoursome, fresh and spicy dishes to tempt every palate. Food in Spain is savoured and enjoyed. Never rushed! Usually followed, of course, by that other world famous Spanish tradition - the siesta. Have the Spaniards got it right, or what?
Over recent years, Spanish food and Spanish cooking, has become ever more popular throughout the rest of the world, with countries like Hong Kong, the UK and Australia jumping on the tapas bandwagon.