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The delicious and varied Spanish gastronomy

The history of Spain

When we talk about Spain, we can talk about a country with a great cultural wealth. This cultural wealth is noticeable in the influence of different cultures. Without a doubt, the culture that most influenced Spain is the Arab culture. Arab culture is reflected in art, customs, and even in the language. Throughout the country, we can find several architectural monuments of Arab influence, butthe vast majority are in Andalusia. In Andalusia above all stand out  the Alhambra in Granada, La Giralda in Seville, and the Mosque of Cordoba. Also, in the musical sphere, the influence of the Arab culture is very clear. Through the Arab culture melodies appeared that gave way to flamenco. Of course, also in Spanish gastronomy, the Arab influence was very important. The Arab influence introduced some fruits, some nuts and various spices. Another important Arab-influenced food is rice.

Spanish gastronomy, besides being very varied, is one of the best in the world and is fashionable in many countries. We cannot speak of national gastronomy, since each region has its dishes. Some dishes are so well known that they can be found in any part of the country. Spanish cuisine is based on excellent quality products, among which onion, garlic, pepper, tomato, and olive oil are the most used.

Spanish gastronomy - Gambas & calamares
Gambas & Calamares

Four groups of Spanish gastronomy

As with the geographical theme, also with the theme of gastronomy, the dishes from one region to another can vary completely. We could divide Spanish gastronomy into four groups: Mediterranean cuisine, Andalusian cuisine, northern cuisine, and central cuisine.

When we talk about Mediterranean cuisine, we refer to healthy products from the garden. Other common ingredients in this cuisine are pasta, rice, fruit, cheese, fish and shellfish, meat, eggs, ham, wine, olive oil, etc. This healthy cuisine can be found especially in the regions of Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands.

Andalusian cuisine is also very varied and is a fusion of all the cultures that passed through these lands in the past, from the Greeks to the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Visigoths, and Arabs. The most used ingredients in Andalusian cuisine are olive oil, fish, meat, olives, nuts, sausages, etc.

When we talk about the cuisine of the north, we refer especially to the regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and the Basque Country. This cuisine is based on high-quality products extracted from the sea and the land of each of these regions. Such is the quality that the cold waters of the Cantabrian Sea are probably the best habitat for quality fish, many of which are exported to other countries. The principal ingredients of this type of cuisine are fish, shellfish, meat, and wine. Each of these regions has one or several highly appreciated dishes. These dishes can be found in various restaurants in different areas of Spain.

Because of climatic reasons and the mountainous terrain, the central cuisine is the least light cuisine of the four. It is a tasty cuisine with a little more fat than Mediterranean cuisine, where meats, lentils, beans, sausages and nutritious soups (cocidos) are the bases of this gastronomy.

Tortilla
Tortilla

Tapas

In Spain, gastronomy is also linked to social topics. Through the famous words “ir de tapas” whose meaning is to go out with friends to visit several bars having a drink accompanied by a small portion of food. In Spain there are many bars where you can go for “tapas”, however, there are places in the Spanish territory, where the tapa is completely free with the purchase of a beer or a glass of wine. Surely you will find the free “tapa” somewhere else in Spain. However, the famous places for their free tapas are the Andalusian cities of Granada, Almería and Jaen, the regions of Castilla León and Castilla La Mancha, and in some cities of the region of Galicia such as Santiago de Compostela and Lugo.

In some bars in these towns, the bar chooses the free tapa.  In other bars it is the customer who chooses his tapa. Normally the free “tapa” is a small portion.  However in some bars, the free tapa can be very large and with only two glasses of wine/beers, one already dines. The most common tapas are usually a portion of cheese, ham, olives, fried squid, potato omelette (Tortilla de patatas), croquettes, etc. As tapas is something characteristic of Spain, it deserves its recognition both inside and outside the country. That is why World Tapas Day is celebrated on September 29.

In Spanish gastronomy, it is very difficult to choose which are the most important dishes. Some of the most famous dishes of Spanish cuisine, apart from the potato omelette, are Paella, Gazpacho, Fabada, Escalivada, Madrilenian stew (Cocido Madrileño) and Cochinillo.

Paella - Spanish gastronomy
Paella - Photo by CA Luis

Wine, Sangria and Cider

As for drinks, a lot of national beer is consumed in Spain, although we cannot compare them with the quality of beers from other brewing countries such as Belgium or Germany. However, Spain is very famous for the quality of its wine. Together with Italy and France, Spain is the largest producer of wine. If we talk about Spanish wines, the best known are undoubtedly the wines from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Jerez. These are world famous wines.

To finish with the subject of drinks, it is also worth mentioning Cider (Sidra) and Sangria. Cider is an alcoholic beverage with around 5% made from the production of apple juice and following a traditional process. The Asturias region produces cider and it can be of two varieties, natural and sparkling. Sangria is an alcoholic drink, red like blood, based on red wine and various fruits, especially citrus fruit. It is served with a jug of ice. There is also the non-alcoholic version, although it is not as famous as the other.

As for Spanish desserts and sweets, nougat (turrón) is probably the most important delicacy in Spain. It is a product that was previously made only at Christmas time. Now tourists consume the product throughout the year.  Surely one of the most consumed desserts in Spain is Catalan cream. It is a typical and traditional dessert of Catalan cuisine.

Spanish gastronomy - Patatas bravas
Patatas bravas - Photo by CA Luis

Conclusion of the Spanish gastronomy

Finally, and for the most demanding palates, we must say that Spanish gourmet cuisine is a benchmark in the world. Many chefs innovate dishes so that people can enjoy a mixture of aromas with delicious flavors.This type of high-quality gastronomy is expanding more and more, especially at the tourist level. Many people travel to a destination simply to taste a new type of food.

In short, if you want to know more about any other culture of he world, look at our Blog.

Author: Marco Geri (bontryp).

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