Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Kitchen Mouse’s Spanish Menu - Appetizers and Cold Soups

Originally published July 5, 1984

A holiday in Spain is called “fiesta”, and just as we associate certain foods with certain holidays, so do the Spanish. Christmas with its fruitcake and plum pudding has its counterpart in Navidad with its Roscon, a sweet type of bread baked in a ring, and turron, a candy made with almonds. No holiday could be complete without these interesting accompaniments. New Year’s Eve (noche vieja) when everybody must eat 12 grapes, one on each strike of midnight, and drink champagne; New Years Day (Ano Nuevo) with pavo (turkey) and a wide variety of traditional food, which varies from region to region.

But “fiesta” also means a party, and we usually think of them as gay occasions with colorful costumes, dancing and singing in the streets - and of course eating and drinking. This type of celebration is found in the local fiestas rather than in the nationwide holidays. Every Spanish town or village, large or small, has its own local fiesta, sometimes more than one, to celebrate its patron saint’s day or to commemorate some historical happening. These fiestas always have two phases - the solemn, religious and official ceremonies in which everyone takes part, then the merrymaking with processions, folk-dancing and music. At this time, the traditional costumes are worn. There is feasting, with emphasis on eating some traditional dish associated with the fiesta, and in general as the Spanish say “tiran la casa por la ventana” - they throw the house out the window.

The recipes in this column are all completely authentic, and have been especially selected to give a true sample of Old World Spanish cooking in all its splendor and variety. Again, the Kitchen Mouse has selected recipes which will not require hard-to-find ingredients.

Buen provecho, amigos - good appetite, friends.

Gazpacho - Cold Soup
When the Roman soldiers gave Christ upon the cross a sponge wet with vinegar and water, they were offering him the “canteen” of the Roman army (a sponge) and the normal soldier’s field drink, posca - water and vinegar. Each soldier was issued a sponge - placed moist inside his helmet, it helped overcome the heat and absorbed the shock of blows on the head. It also held the liquid with which he refreshed himself when thirsty. The vinegar added to the water to make posca purified the water. Soldiers used this beverage during years of campaigning and continued to use it after retirement. Spain was largely settled by retired soldiers.

The first known recipe for gazpacho was simply made with water, vinegar, garlic, bread and onion. Another dish, gazpachillo, was eggs poached in water and vinegar. In the modern Spanish cuisine there are at least 40 different recipes for gazpacho. The imagination of the cook has led to many experiments that have resulted in many successful combinations. Tomato, for example, one of the modern recipe’s basic ingredients, was added after the discovery of America.

No comments:

Post a Comment