Let’s Talk Food–La Cocina Española…

This Wednesday, me and about half the members of our group here took a little mini-course on Spanish cuisine…We went to a local restaurant, where we got to cook a little (and by cook, I mean help Antonio [the main chef] prepare the tortillas) and then partake in three typically Spanish dishes: the aforementioned tortilla española; gazpacho; and, of course, paella

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This is the tortilla española (or tortilla de patatas), which I’ve mentioned in an earlier post…It’s not really a tortilla as much as it is an omelette…There are countless varieties of the tortilla, but the tortilla española consists solely of eggs, potatoes, olive oil, and (though some would argue no), onions…When prepared right, it is something truly delicious, and it can be served hot or cold…

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Gazpacho is a cold soup that originated in Andalucía–an autonomous region in southern Spain whose climate is notoriously hot…It consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, really hard bread, garlic, bell peppers, olive oil, onions, and salt…At first I didn’t think that I was going to like it (I don’t really like tomatoes), but I was pleasantly surprised–it was really quite good…

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And of course, what is arguably the most famous Spanish dish, paella…Originating in the autonomous region of Valencia, paella did not originally contain shellfish–it consisted chicken, snails, and other edible creatures of the land…Note that not all places that sell paella (which is everywhere in Spain) actually sell legit paella–Real paella, as pictured above (it was so good) of course has rice, poultry and/or shellfish, and tomato paste–but most importantly, it has azafrán (saffron), an extremely expensive spice that gives it it’s distinctive yellow color and taste…If there’s no azafrán, it’s not paella

One has to note the hallmark of Spanish cuisine: it’s simplicity…It’s amazing how simply by combining some ordinary, common ingredients, you end up with something extraordinary…But as a Mediterranean diet, there are some integral ingredients found in la cocina española, like…

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A lot of fresh fruits and veggies–most commonly tomatoes, garlic, onions, olives, spinach, potatoes, apples, oranges, and grapes…I swear, I’ve eaten fruit for desert more often that pastries…

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Bread (or anything with of whole grain), which I seem to eat every day here…

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Olive oil, which is used to cook everything…It’s the healthiest kind of cooking oil–you can use it more than once without spoiling it…

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Like all Mediterranean diets, people don’t eat as much dairy as in the U.S.–but cheese and yogurt are fairly popular…

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Fresh seafood–obviously, since Spain is on a peninsula…

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¡¡Vino!!…At first I didn’t like it, but I’ve slowly gotten accustomed to the taste…

But, I cannot forget perhaps the most integral, distinct aspect of la dieta española

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Jamón (ham), in all it’s various forms–I’ve never eaten so much pork in my life…

And now, I’ll shut up and let you enjoy the rest of my photos from my cooking experience…

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…Antonio, showing us how it’s done…

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…Sorry I’m not sorry, Mr. Prawn, but you were delicious…

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