Spanish Regional Cookery

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Until recent years foreign observers rarely spoke well of Spain’s cuisines. Echoing earlier travellers’ criticisms, Gerald Brenan described the villages’ ‘ruthless cuisine’, with its ‘potato omelettes, dried cod and unrefined olive oil’. Richard Ford, the 19th-century diarist, complained of garlic abuse, as did many others. Alexander Dumas was more appreciative: after a whistle-stop tour in 1846 he concluded, ‘he who eats badly does so because he does not know how to eat well’.

In the last thirty years, observers such as Jean-François Revel and Raymond Carr have shifted the emphasis to the wealth of Spain’s regional cooking. Carr attributes this to the relative isolation of rural areas, which slowed the growth of a cash-based food culture, the years of poverty and hunger following the Spanish Civil War (1936–9), and the search for regional identity.