Far more than just Paella – The wonderful diversity of Spanish food
As the potato is said to typify the culinary predilections of the Irish, roast beef symbolises Olde England, and the frog’s leg the dainty dining of France, so the paella is dismissed as the catch-all cuisine of Spain. But just as our European neighbours have a heritage of culinary diversity, the history of Spain and the marked geographical and cultural differences which separate the extremes of the country provide a cuisine more complex and regionally individual than any other European community. From the rich, heavy stews of Celtic Galicia and Asturias to the fragrant gazpacho of Moorish Andalucía; the abundant seafood taken from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, to the wild boar, deer and hare hunted in the mountains of the interior, the flavours of Spain reflect centuries of occupation combined with distinctive regional cultivation.
Where once Spain’s wines were known a something basic to add blend with other wines of lesser volume to give them strength, or as the cheap ‘plonk’ of student parties, for the last two decades the regional wines have been coming into their own and building a big following world wide. Each wine region has its Denominación de Origen, (D.O., the equivalent of the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) a set of controls that each producer must work to if they are to secure the coveted mark of quality, but it isn’t only wines that have can gain a, D.O. Fabas from Asturia, cherries from the Val de Jerte, the famous Almagro aubergine, and many more, each rigorously controlled in its growth and production.
I hope these articles will give you an insight into the world of Spanish food an wine and help you to realise just how diverse the gastronomy of Spain is. But don’t forget to sample paella, especially if you are in Valencia, the city in which it was ‘born’ and which still boasts the best paella restaurants in Spain.