History Of Cooking In Catalonia Essay

Catalonia is well-known in the whole world due to its outstanding cuisine. Barcelona is the symbol of rich gastronomic tradition of this country, formed on the basis of a number of diverse historical civilizations and cultures. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and at the same time it is the center of its cultural background, dating back at least 2.000 years of history. This is a  great anthropological background, which is related to the rise of the new chefs, making their individual contributions into development of Barcelona cuisine and leading the city towards the status of the first Gourmand City outside France in 2002. Nowadays Catalonia is known for being the top place with the highest concentration of the world’s top chefs. “Recently, the media have featured the likes of Ferran Adrià on the frontpage of The New York Times and Le Monde, and he has in fact been chosen one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Santi Santamaria, Fermí Puig, Carles Gaig, Carme Ruscalleda and Sergi Arola, to mention but a few, enjoy huge media attention for their professional careers.” (Palling, 2016, p. 3). Such results were possible first of all thanks to significant roots of Catalan cuisine, where the style of cooking was formed in the conditions of experiments and innovation, wiliness to make the things better and stand out of the rest. In 2015 Catalonia has officially obtained the title of European Region of Gastronomy.

Catalan cuisine has a long and rich historical background, which is till the moment influential for modern chefs and the citizens of the country, as cuisine has become an integral part of the cultural and national identity of the people, living there.

Barcelona is also known for its successful combination of Cuisine and Gastronomy. Declaring the Year of Food, Catalonians united cuisine and gastronomy for showing that they are able to see the new horizons and plan to continue the enrichment of their cuisine and culture. Barcelona is generally considered to be the symbol of Mediterranean cuisine. The capital of Catalonia has the position, which is suitable for its obtaining of the title of Capital of Mediterranean Cuisine. It is not only due to the great variety in the sphere of gastronomy, it also thanks to the availability of different ingredients, eating habits and overall lifestyle of people living there. One of the greatest values of the Mediterranean and Catalonia’s cuisine is the choice of ingredients. There are a lot of natural landscapes close to Barcelona, including the sea, gardens, mountains and dry lands and this fact is an additional advantage for its cuisine diversity. Agricultural products and farmers are also highly praised in Catalonia and thus farmers continue to develop their work there. “For example, gastronomy brings added value to quality wines, and this has been the catalyst for the rise of Catalonia’s wine business over the last few years. There are many other cases that show the value of products from Mother Earth, which are factors of territorial rebalance. Those foodstuffs that can be found in the markets are also in specialized shops in Barcelona, and this adds to the attractiveness of the city.” (Catalonia – European Region of Gastronomy, 2016, p. 7).

The food consumed by people, has direct impact upon the state of their health. Catalan cuisine is not simply attractive and delicious, but it is praised for its health qualities and is considered to be a great source of good health. Generally the cuisine is considered to be the reflection of the culture of the country and the way of living, accepted by the citizens of this concrete country. The basic wisdom of Catalan culture is the principle of equilibrium “not too much of anything” and it is also applied for cuisine. A lot of modern societies suffer from poor eating habits and people start often to forget about the meaning of gastronomy and its quality for human health. The traditional foods of Catalonia are praised by dieticians and nutritionists.

People in Catalonia pay a lot of attention to their eating times, speaking about personal and social senses. Their culture of good eating is related closely to the southern lifestyles, which is beneficial for the public health records in Catalonia. Barcelona is famous for its culture and architecture in the whole world. They are made up of a variety of integral parts, including shopping, shows, historic patrimony, street life and food. The food business is one of the most important economic sectors in Catalonia, which has revealed a significant growth in recent years. A lot of aesthetic meaning is put not only into the food and dishes, but also into the design and architecture of the restaurants there. The chefs are of great value in Catalonia. Cooking in Catalonia occupies equal positions with music or theatre, chefs are real artists, contributing their talents and creativity into their work, securing the highest aesthetic experience. “The added value of a clever interpretation cannot be written down on a piece of paper, and precisely now, high quality the world can share with this city the success Catalonia is enjoying at this time and its gastronomy high quality.”(Palling, 2016, p. 8).

The restaurant business is considered to be an important economic engine in Catalonia, as gastronomy brings great leverage to the economy of the country. Similar approaches were also applied in France and Italy. However, in Catalonia the direct and indirect impact of the restaurant businesses goes even further. Eating out is accepted by people in Catalonia as the best leisure activity. If one takes a walk in the city streets of Barcelone, he would realize how many establishments are organized there. Catalan cuisine is represented in the restaurants and there is a great variety of them. This is the reason, why restaurant business is one of the basic sources of wealth in Barcelona. The restaurants attract not only local people, but also a lot of tourists annually. In addition the cuisine, which is aimed at groups, continues to grow. There are canteens in colleges, at work places, at hospitals and homes for elderly people. Gastronomic research is still in the process and there are a lot of new perspectives for the agricultural food transformation and its impacts upon the Catalan economy.

Gastronomy was already mentioned to have the potential of the tourism hook. This is the reason for more and more tourists to choose exactly this destination for their holidays. Internal tourism also plays a great role for rebalancing territories and is also related to food’s attractiveness. “The creation of the Catalonia’s Club of Gastronomy, which is an offshoot from the Departament de Turisme of the Generalitat, aims to develop this line of work. As well, the Consortium Turisme de Barcelona has been aware of the importance of gastronomy for a while now, and that is why they often use this cuisine element in their campaigns here and abroad and support, for example, the present event on gastronomy.” (Catalonia – European Region of Gastronomy, 2016, p. 9). Dishes, which are cooked for tourists, have their distributive effect upon the local economy, irrespective of the fact that most of the establishments are concentrated exactly in the tourist areas. According to general statistical data around one million meals are served in the capital of Catalonia on a daily basis.

Barcelona has a great cuisine culture. Around 600 years are celebrated of gastronomy culture in Catalonia since the moral intellectual and counselor to kings Francesc Eiximenis said: “Catalans eat with more grace, and better than other nations”. (Catalonia – European Region of Gastronomy, 2016, p. 9). At the beginning of the Middle Ages and during the period of the Renaissance the best and influential chefs in Europe were working in Catalonia. The first recipes in Latin-derived languages, which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, were written in Catalan. Most of the researchers agree that Catalan cuisine was worthy the international fame, which it finally achieved. One of the secrets of the Catalans’ success in cooking was related to their readiness to risk and mix sweet with sour, paring meat with fruit or seafood. They often used pine nuts as garnishes. Catalans call their dishes “barroc i saboros”, which is translated as baroque and tasty, because many of the dishes begin with fried garlic, onion and little tomato. “A picada – a garlic, parsley and almond or hazelnut paste – is often stirred in at the end of cooking to thicken stews and give another layer of flavour. A nutty sauce called romesco, made with garlic, tomatoes and sweet dried red peppers, accompanies all kinds of dishes.” (Roden, 2012, p. 2). Catalan chefs are used to mix olive oil with pork fat, sometimes goose fat. However, later this approach was reconsidered because of health concerns. Catalonia is famous for its extra-virgin olive oils, which are considered to be the best in Spain. They use green olives to produce the frutado oil, which has apple hints and bitter almond flavor. The olive trees of Catalonia are the oldest in Spain, some of them reach the age of 1,000 years.

The Mediterranean cooking is mostly concentrated in the coastal plain and the valley of the River Ebro, whereas in the high mountains of the country the so-called culture of Pyrenees was developed. People raise goats and cows here for obtaining the best kinds of butter and cheese, in addition there is widely developed pig farming, which provides meat for salamis and sausages. Even after the expansion of the industrialized food products, Catalans continued to appreciate their own rural production.

The name of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán is usually related to the history of Catalan cuisine. This talented writer and gastronome was the first one to put down the chronicling of the Catalonia’s gastronomic identity. He related the linguistic side of the culture with the cuisine, thus he claimed that it was important to save the language in order to support cuisine. He published his famous writing L’art del menjar a Catalunya (The Art of Eating in Catalonia) in 1977.

Nueva cocina presented a serious threat for Catalan cooking traditions, in addition most of the talented and experienced chefs wanted just to create terrines and mousses and become TV stars. With the aim to research the roots of the Catalan cooking and preserving of the most important and interesting recipes from professional chefs, a group of gastronomes, food historians and nutritionists gathered together in 1996. They did they best to make these recipes saved from disappearing. A lot of Catalan dishes could be found in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Mostly they were cooked and served by the court cuisine and Catalans’ source of wealth was trading. The chefs from Catalonia were highly regarding in the Europe and their recipes were famous even in the 14th and 15th centuries.

One more well-known medieval Catalan coockbook – the Llibre de Coch – was produced by Ruperto de Nola, who was the chief cook of Alfonso V, the count of Barcelona and King of Aragon. (Colman, 2006, p. 113). The dishes from this book are associated with the great cultural epoch of the empire of the old lands in Catalonia. The book included the collections of the recipes of Genoa, France and Lombardy. Also there were Arab recipes with unexpected mixes of sweet and sour tastes. The crema Catalana are also included into this book and till the moment the book is used by many chefs for developing of their own inspiration and new experiences.

Medieval cuisine is called the golden age for Catalan gastronomy. Teresa Vinioles in her book El El menjar a la Barcelona gòtica: necessitat primària i ritu social writes about the basis of Catalan cuisine as the combination of the classical and visisgoth heritage along with the fine impacts of Andalusian culture, creating a unique form of the Mediterranean culture with involvement of oriental treasures. (Catalonia – European Region of Gastronomy, 2016, p. 18). The Arabs brought a lot of new products to the Iberian Peninsula, and they occupy their place among Catalan foods till nowadays. Examples of these foods are egg plants, lemons, sugar, rice, pasta. The philosopher Ramon Llull wrote about the positive qualities of the greens and claimed that the garden fruits remained underappreciated by feudal masters. Fish and a lot of other products were introduced into the medieval Catalan cuisine. Along with this a lot of attention was paid to the creation of exquisite sauces, for example ginestrada – a cream made with saffron, rice and the milk of almonds or costum – made of cooking poultry in citric fruits, it was made usually for export. Also there were a lot of dishes scented with rose water and mixes of various spices. Ginger was known long before sushi and coriander – long before guacamole. “Catalonia shared this way of cooking with, firstly -and in a very special way- Occitània, as it did with serenading, the trobadors and an occasional heretic, and afterwards there were successful contacts with Sicily, Sardinia and the Italian Peninsula.” (Case study Catalonia: how the food economy drives sustainable tourism development, 2017, p. 3). At the moment of actual foundation of the Catalan cuisine, it revealed its basic characteristic feature: the unique ability to incorporate and integrate the best components and aspects of other culinary cultures, which it came to contact during some historical period. Anthropologists have already concluded that cuisine is the reflection of the societies and their culture. The Catalan cuisine was thus characterized by integration of other styles without rejecting them.

During the period, when ultramarine products started to arrive from America and were also incorporated into cuisine in Catalonia, it was difficult to imagine that the times would come, when Catalan cuisine would be impossible without them. Examples of these products are beans and sausages, egg plants with peppers, tomato and American bread, bread and chocolate for having a snack in the afternoon. The historian Massimo Montanari commented that “the history of food customs goes hand in glove with the vissitudes of power and politics.” (Colman, 2006, p. 255). Most of the recipes of those times were written in books and these books were kept in monasteries. This fact also had impact upon these recipes, as they were adhered to healthy meat restrictions of the monasteries.

When the first inns started to appear in Catalonia, changes were also brought to the sphere of cuisine. The word “fonda” (inn) was derived from the Arabic word alfondec – a kind of warehouse, where merchandise and the goods were stores and also the men, transporting them slept. Certainly they also ate there and thus inns looked like a version of western caravan harem. Barcelona was the place known for a great number of alfondec. The first owners of the first inn arrived from Italy in the 18th century. They placed a lot of advertisements on the special wooden boards, adding the pictures of falcons, avoiding using written messages, as most of people could not read. Nèstor Luján in his book Vint segles de cuina a Barcelona wrote that the owner of the most well-known inn was a Sardinian, who came to the city in 1788. “In 1815 he opened Beco del Racó, where you could eat rabbit casserole, potato stew, escudella, meatball soup, beef stew…;  a whole series of dishes that we recognize as traditional Catalan dishes and that we included in the majority of recipes when, with the Renaissance, cooking books reappeared.” (Case study Catalonia: how the food economy drives sustainable tourism development, 2017, p. 5). In the nineteenth century inns a person could eat for “sis quartos”, which was rather small sum of money, but the choice of the food for this money was great and thus they quickly became popular. Those individuals, who had more money and wanted to underline their status, attended restaurants of the French style. Most of them were opened in the period between the 19th and 20th centuries. They emerged along with the French revolution. Exquisite and bourgeois cuisine was highly appreciated in Catalonia, certainly it was available only to rich individuals. For the first time the information about this type of cuisine was spread by Great Rondissoni with the help of his magazine Menage.

The historical period of the Spanish Civil War was utterly difficult for the country, but there arrived a lot of people from other parts of the State and brought new cultural traditions and riches to Catalonia. Franco’s dictatorship brought the sense the cultural desert to Catalonia. “Those that resisted, risked it all; amongst them, the writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, who took on the urgent and necessary task of, that in his own words, «chronicling the signs of resistance of Catalonia’s gastronomic identity». If it was a priority to “to save the words”, as Espriu asked, it was also necessary to revitalize, while they still could, the culinary symbols of Catalonia that Francoism had tried to do away with. “It is all very well to be worried about the languages of nations without state, but what of cuisine without state? he wrote” (Case study Catalonia: how the food economy drives sustainable tourism development, 2017, p. 9). He published his reference book for students of the history of Catalan cuisine in 1977 under the name L’art de cuinar a Catalunya. The major aim of this book was formulated by the author as doing the political and cultural service of the country.

Gastronomy is currently accepted as an integral part of culture. Most of the researchers, including those in the sphere of anthropology, define cooking as one of the basic components of human nature and the first aspects of human cultural skills. This position is perfectly reflected with the words of Faustino Cordon “Cooking made mankind.” (Case study Catalonia: how the food economy drives sustainable tourism development, 2017, p. 9). Cooking does not remain static, it constantly changes under the impact of such factors as environment, geographical position, economic and social situations. This is the reason why cuisine is considered to be a real reflection of the individuals and the whole societies in connection with their historical roots, cooking has the potential to form an important part of the cultural structure of all humans and no wonder that the type of the consumed food is perceived as the indicator of a person. Agriculture and farming play vitally important roles for the country, as cuisine is an inseparable element from the actual landscape and the existing food chains in the country. Building strong links between food and landscape is a perfect strategy for any community, as this is a way towards creation of sustainable food strategy there. “In this sense the power of popular Catalan recipes has become public and noteworthy, a valuable patrimony that is worth saving and yet is in constant evolution. As well, showing what is our own way of cooking, brings us to another function of gastronomy; the value of traditional cooking as part of a necessary integrating strategy for immigration.” (Case study Catalonia: how the food economy drives sustainable tourism development, 2017, p. 16).

Cooking is often the best means for getting to know more about a different culture. In the modern world cooking is the reflection of the globalization impacts and creation of multicultural societies. At the same time cooking is the sphere, which is dependant upon the professionalism of the chefs. The more important representatives among them are recorded in the history of the country, making its culture more profound. Excellent work of Catalan chefs attracted attention of people from all over the world and made their creative approach to cuisine in Catalonia an outstanding benchmark, related to the culinary evolution in modern restaurants. Nowadays, the greatest part of the new trends in cooking is borrowed exactly from Catalonia and spread in the whole world.

Today Spanish agriculture has managed to turn into a competitive and rapidly developing sphere. Mostly this development is influential for the organic sector or organic farming. Agriculture in Catalonia is characterized by diversity, it is based upon different production types and farming models. Geographical factors are also meaningful for the end results of agricultural production. For example Andalusia is known for production of olives and mostly day laborers are working there. Such areas as Huelva and Almeria are suitable for both conventional and organic vegetables or fruit production. Crop production is usual for the region of Castilla y Leon. Catalonia is an important region in Europe, where livestock farming of all sizes could be found. This evolution in agricultural sphere could be explained by such processes as mechanization, modernization and specialization. These processes were related to the accession of Spain to the EEC in 1986. This was done first of all with the aim to ensure competitive balance of Spanish agriculture in the world and EU markets, instead of either food security or support for small-scale farming. Such policy caused the increase of food production and development of export. At the same time the farming products faced a serious decline and a lot of farmlands were lost. “Thus, while there were 2.8 million farms in 1962, there were only 0.9 million left in 2009. Remaining farms have become bigger, more specialised, more mechanised and very integrated into agrofood chains.” (Case study Catalonia: how the food economy drives sustainable tourism development, 2017, p. 22). It is important to point out the development of organic farming is one of the industrial sectors in Catalonia. By the year 2011 Spain had 1.8 million hectares if organic farming and thus became the first EU country in this relation. This sector remains integrated into industrial farming.

It was already mentioned that Catalan cuisine is rather diverse and includes a great number of basic ingredients. Mostly these ingredients are popular on the Mediterranean coast, they include vegetables, such as garlic, tomato, capsicum, olive oils, wines, mushrooms, various sorts of pork cheese and poultry, a great number of fish sorts and lamb. “The cuisine includes many preparations that mix sweet and savoury and stews with sauces based upon botifarra (pork sausage) and the characteristic picada (ground almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc. sometimes with garlic, herbs, biscuits)” (Colman, 2006, p. 287). In the period between 2013 and 2017 Catalonia has become the top food and drink destination in Spain. Catalonia is praised for the creativity and innovation in gastronomy and a lot of restaurants in Catalonia were awarded with Michelin stars, as they managed to maintain their traditions and add innovations.

Catalonia is famous for its food festivals. For example every year in Alforia by Tarragona there is a festival, dedicated to one of the important Catalan dishes – pataco. The program of this festival is rather rich, people organize concerts, speeches and parades. Pataco is the hearty mar and muntanya stew with tuna and zucchini and potatoes. This dish comes from mountain towns, as a lot of local people there had to purchase the cheap parts of the tuna from the coast. Then they added their local vegetables. Usually this dish is cooked in August, as it is the peak season for zucchini.  During the festival pataco is cooked in a huge kettle and chefs give out around 800 servings in special bowls, which also perform the role of the souvenirs of the event. One more important festival is Fira del Bolet de Vilada. In such towns as Vilada an important product is the mushroom or bolet, as it is called in Catalan. In October picking mushrooms is a very popular activity for people of various ages. Thus several festivals are held in Lilet and Solsona, which are devoted to these products. Guests of the festivals are able to visit exhibitions of ancient craft, for example glass blowing. A lot of men, dressed in samaras, dance in the streets of the cities. There is a mushroom-cooking competition organized.

Overall, Catalonia has a great cultural heritage and people, living there nowadays, do their best in order to promote the food products and gastronomy spheres there, they try to preserve their old traditions, adding modern innovative approaches and creating real cooking masterpieces. Catalan cuisine became a part of their national identity long time ago and till nowadays it continues to attract tourists from various places of the world.


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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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