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Spanish cuisine offers incredible insight into Spanish history, culture and society. Even the simplest Spanish dishes can tell the story of how land and sea, warriors and farmers, travelers and settlers have all influenced the way an entire nation of people eat today.
Prior to the formation of the Roman Empire, Spanish territories housed the Celts in the North. Many of them were fisherman, which explains why seafood is still popular in the area today. The Iberians dwelled in the Center East of Spain, and were hunters. It's no surprise that Iberian ham is currently considered some of the finest in the world. The Tartessos lived in the South. They were known for being traders, which is also why their fare became fused with that from Africa and Greece.
Signature Spanish recipes have incredible tales to tell. Take popular Spanish appetizers, or tapas, such as Tortilla de Patata and Pan Con Tomate — both potatoes and tomatoes made the voyage back to Spain, after the discovery of the Americas. Chocolate was another revelation from that migration, and in fact, the Spanish were the very first to combine it with sugar. So thank the country for your candy bars, cakes, cookies, ice cream and of course, decadent hot chocolate, which is frequently enjoyed for breakfast in Espana, teamed with the thin, sugary donuts known as churros. And how did churros come to be? One theory is that they were invented by Spanish shepherds, because the dough could be fried over open fires in the mountains.
Whoever came up with them, churros are certainly a sweet and substantial way to start one’s day. And in Spain, it’s important to fortify oneself in the morning, as lunch isn’t generally enjoyed until 2pm. That said, it’s well worth waiting for, since the multi-course meal can sprawl on for hours — a far cry from the sad salad or sandwich many of us consume while hunched over our desks! Depending on what part of the country you’re in, traditional Spanish foods served during this time could include Gazpacho, a cold vegetable soup beloved in Andalusia, the red pepper and almond sauce known as Romesco, commonly found in Catalonia, Paella, the meat, vegetable and seafood-studded rice credited to Valencia, and bunuelos (sugar-dusted fritters) for dessert in Madrid.
It’s no wonder dinner doesn’t take place until 8:30-10pm! But no matter when hunger strikes, it’s never too early or late for Spanish food recipes like Chorizo with Sundried Tomatoes, the salted cod stew called Bacalao, Smoked Paprika Pork Tenderloin, or the cake roll known as Brazo Gitano (Gypsy’s Arm), accompanied by a cold, fruity pitcher of Sangria (Spanish for “Blood”).