SPANISH FOOD – A MOORISH LEGACY
The dreamy and romantic land of white windmills, flamenco, bull fights and best of all, a celebration for all things food so spectacular mere words don’t do it justice!
Spain, a country with an esoteric and tumultuous past, where various cultures have left their imprint and unique legacies. In Merida, the Phoenicians and the Romans bequeathed open-air amphitheaters, temples and bathhouses. The southern province of Andalusia is home to some of the grandest Moorish palaces and mosques in the world, with gardens such as the Alcazar in Cordoba, that are mindboggling with their exotic and lavish beauty.
THE ALCAZAR GARDENS – CORDOBA
To understand the intricacies and vagaries of Spanish cuisine one needs to delve into its colorful and mystical cultural heritage, dating back to the Islamic occupation. With the Muslims, Berbers and Arabs who conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula in 711AD, naming their new land Al-Andalus, electing Cordoba as their capital. Their 700-hundred-year rule left a palpable and enduring imprint in the Spanish culture, very much alive in present day.
Their legacy was mighty, as they introduced Sciences such as medicine, astronomy and irrigation, with their architectural waterways and aqueducts. The Arts flourished with intricate mosaics and paintings and their music, oh, their music! You hear it and feel it in the heart and soul of Flamenco danced everywhere. They inculcated their wine growing techniques, which has placed Spain globally as one of the largest wine growing giants.
Spain’s distinct food culture is laden with Arabic flavors, tangible throughout all its regional cuisines. Even the Valencian Paella was introduced by the Moors, and then disappeared from the Spanish culinary map so to speak after 1492, to be reintroduced in the late 19th Century by regional farmers.
You cannot discuss Spanish food without exploring the most renowned category of all: Tapas. Here we have to revert back to Andalusia, where the Moors’ influence is more alive than ever, as Tapas flourished there and still are a ubiquitous, diurnal staple. Because Tapas in Spain are a considered a way of life. An array of delectable, nibbly-bites, consisting of a vast assortment of small plates (called pinchitos, because they are skewered together with long toothpicks), consumed at every restaurant and bar, as they are the perfect accompaniment for beer and wine. Spaniards partake of the quotidian Tapas ritual, enjoying them in between meals, prior to lunch and dinner. Indeed, Spain is a nation of serious food eaters and even more serious food snackers.
Spaniards’ exuberant joi de vivre is all encompassing; their intriguing and colorfully flavored cuisine is a direct reflection of their boisterous lifestyle. It seems the daily food cycle in Spain never ends, starting at 8am with breakfast and still going way past midnight. Assuredly, most events and discussions revolve around food, be it at home or in a restaurant.
So, as they say in Spain, Que Aproveche!