Spanish Food history

Published: 18th April 2012
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The roots of Spanish food and its history is colorful and littered with the many periods of history and communication between countries. Influenced by several different cultures that ruled and lived in the country. The excellent geographical location of Spain increased the amount of trading partners. Spanish food has quite a few attributes that are directly related to French cuisine, its border neighbor. It is not completely clear if the Romans or Greeks were the first to introduce olive oil and olives to Spain, both ingredients were embraced by the Spanish and feature undoubtedly in daily meals and eating. Spain is now the worlds largest producer of Olive oil.

Spain's neighbors from the south, the Moors arrived to rule many parts of Spain for nearly 700 years. Leaving a lasting influence on the cuisine of Spain with many ingredients and spices coming straight from the Moors such as rice which is used in many Spanish dishes including paella. Fruits, nuts and new spices such as nutmeg, saffron and cinnamon were also brought to Spain by the Moors.

During a period of the Moors rule, Christians, Jews and Moors existed together and added to the diversity of the cuisine, combining spices and ingredients from all cultures to create different meals. A very popular dish in Spain is pinchos/pintxos, small grilled kebabs, made from marinating pork or chicken with spices before grilling the meat. Since Jews and Muslims don't eat pork, it was Christians who first mixed pork with spices from the moors, creating pinchos/pintxos. Some of the most famous hams also come from from Spain and was first made by Christians too.

Spanish food history changed and was inundated with new ingredients after Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492. As word came back to Spain that land had been found, many more Spanish explorers ventured west and brought back curious new ingredients such tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes, paprika and beans.

The Spanish took these new ingredients to heart and invented some of the most popular dishes still in Spain including Spanish potato omelet (tortilla de patatas) and Churros with hot chocolate. Hot chocolate was given to the King of Spain and quickly became very popular with the upper class before spreading throughout Europe as gifts or dowries from the Spanish royal family.

Paprika, also brought from the Americas is commonly used in many regional dishes. The spice was added to pork meat to produce the distinctive color and flavor of one Spain's most famous sausages, chorizo.

Obviously the climate of a country has a deep impact on its traditions and cuisine. The warm climate made it very difficult for everyone to keep food fresh for long. Prior to refrigeration being commonplace, fresh produce for meals were purchased daily to ensure only fresh produce was eaten. This practice still exists in Spain with every town having many small fruit and vegetable shops (fruterias), bakers, butchers and daily food markets, usually organized by the local government hall.
With tourism booming in Spain from the late 1960's, many foreign visitors have also arrived hoping to eat Spanish traditional food, resulting in traditional diet being recognized for their quality, an attribute of Spanish culture that the people of Spain are proud of.

Visitors coming to Spain are also amazed at the number of small village food festivals celebrating the harvest or production of local specialties such as cheeses, wines, olives, meats, fruit, nuts and seafood dishes. There are many opportunities to sample local and regional dishes and taste a part of Spanish food history. Spain is a passionate country with a wide diversity of cuisine and traditions. To find out more about Spain and Spanish traditional food, read our guide to the best regional food in Spain.

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