sábado, 11 de febrero de 2017

Brenan´s favourite food: "Everyone agrees about the excellence of Spanish bread"

Brenan said in his book, South from Granada (1963), his favourite food in Spain. In the village, few people used to eat meat except on feast days, but they could  fish from the coast (sardines, anchovies, horse mackerels, mackerels and octopus or cuttlefish), except in summer. There was a popular adage: In the months that have no R in them keep off fish. The explanation was that in summer fish are thought to be unwholesome because of the temperature. Although this habit seems more typical of Churriana (located near the coast) than Yegen. 

The most characteristic of Spanish food for Brenan was salt cod (bacalao): "This is the fish that when cooked gives out a smell like the lion-house in the zoo, but when well-cooked and of good quality is as delicious as it is nutritive and sustaining."

He discovered two new dishes, the first one was gachas, a porridge of wheat flour simmered in water. The second one was migas, which is also a sort of porridge, but fried in olive oil, garlic and water. It could be made either of wheat or maize flour or of breadcrumbs: "The poor eat it with the invariable sardines, the cheapest and dullest of the Mediterranean fishes and often the only one to reach the village, while the rich like to pour hot chocolate over it."

But his first favourite dish was la cazuela de arroz, the name is from the pot in which it was cooked. It was a stew of rice, potatoes, and green vegetables with either fish or meat and seasoned with tomatoes, pimentos, onions, garlic, powdered almonds, and saffron. The method of preparing it was to begin by frying the ingredients in olive oil and when it had acquired a golden tinge, to add rice. After some minutes you cover with water and put the potatoes. The result should be after twenty minutes’ simmering to be eaten with a spoon because it should have some liquid. 

The second one was la paella: "shellfish, chicken, pimento, and rice are the principal ingredients, and there are no potatoes. It is cooked in a very large, flat frying-pan till all the water has been absorbed, and is then eaten elegantly with a fork." Several stages lower in the list: olla gitana, ropa vieja, puchero, lentils and bean pottages, string beans with eggs, omelettes, etc.

Brenan could have salads almost all the year and other variations of vegetables as the Andalusian Gazpacho in summer or  Gazpachuelo in winter, a poached egg floating on a mixture of water, vinegar, and olive oil among small pieces of bread:

Almost everyone agrees about the excellence of Spanish bread. The loaf is very close textured, but it has a taste and sweetness like no other bread in the world. This may be because the grain is entirely ripe before being harvested. The poor, and sometimes the rich too, ate maize bread, and in the mountain farms they ate black bread made of rye. For shepherds it had the advantage of not going stale (Brenan, 1963). 

Bibliographic source


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