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Chapter 2 – Spain & Portugal
By the end of this chapter, the student should be able to:
- Identify differences and similarities in the regional cuisines of Spain and Portugal
- Explain how the topography and climate influence the cuisines found on the Iberian
- Know what food products are prevalent in various regions of Spain and Portugal Prepare several Iberian dishes
Chapter Outline and Points of Emphasis
Around 200 BC, the Romans introduced grapes, wine, garlic, wheat, and olives to Spain.
In the eighth century, the Moors, who were Arabs from North Africa, brought all sorts of food items to the southeastern portion of Spain. They came with many types of fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, watermelon, pomegranates, grapes, artichokes, spinach, eggplants, dates, and almonds; herbs and spices like nutmeg, saffron, and pepper; and marzipan. In addition, they introduced marinating, frying, combining sweet with savory, and the use of honey.
Another major influence on the Iberian cuisines came in the late 1400s when Christopher
Columbus and other explorers returned from the New World. Along with their triumphs of discovering new lands and claiming them for Spain or Portugal, these explorers returned to their homeland with tomatoes, corn, potatoes, sweet peppers, and chocolate from the New World.
At the end of the fifteenth century, Spain began to build its own empire. The Spaniards gained control of lands in South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. They ruled their empire for about one hundred years.
Spanish Inquisition Inquisition
Due to religious differences, Jews, Protestants and Muslim were purged from the country.
Lying in southeastern Europe, the Iberian Peninsula contains the countries of Spain and Portugal.
Spain makes up five-sixths of Iberia and Portugal is the remaining one-sixth.
The Atlantic Ocean borders Spain on the northwest. France borders Spain on the northeast; Portugal joins on the west. Only eight miles of water separates Africa from the south of Spain. The Mediterranean Sea lies east of Spain.
Mountains prevail in the northwest creating difficult terrain and isolation. The Pyrenees Mountains lie in the northeast forming the border with France. Essentially, these rugged mountains isolated Spain and Portugal from the rest of Europe. The large central expanse of Spain contains poor soil, plateaus, and wind-swept land. This area provides land for grazing cattle and sheep.
Hot, sunny summers and cold winters dominate Spain’s climate; however, the southern areas near the Mediterranean Sea enjoy a warmer climate, and the mountainous regions are colder. Portugal’s climate is milder because the ocean breezes temper the climate.
Ingredients and foods commonly used throughout the cuisine
Seafood, pork, lamb, Serrano ham, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, dried beans, olive oil, olives, garlic, saffron, Spanish paprika, parsley, citrus fruits such as Seville oranges and lemons, honey and almonds.
From the Middle Ages when shepherds and nomads roamed the countryside, cooking any available ingredients in one pot over a fire prevailed. Primarily herding sheep, braising became the cooking method of choice for these early inhabitants.
The Moors introduced the Spanish to grilling and frying. Olive oil was the fat most often used.
The various regions of Spain and Portugal exhibit huge diversity in topography, climate, and influences from the many invaders throughout history. Differences in the foods that grow, the selection of herbs and spices, and the cultural aspects of each area cause vast variations in the regional cuisines found in these two countries. Although many of the same dishes are prepared in most of the regions of Spain and Portugal, the recipes vary significantly from area to area creating regional adaptations.
The rugged, mountainous terrain found in the north caused difficult travel and isolation.
This isolation greatly affected the cuisine. Sharing a border with France, the effects of the French cuisine appear in this area with the use of sauces. Some say the finest food in Spain comes from this region.
Lush land describes the northwest, and this region yields ample crops. Lying in the northwest, the cookery of Galicia features simple food, fine produce, and lots of fish and seafood. This region is known for the empanada, a meat pie or turnover with a soft, flaky crust that appears as a first course or entrée throughout Spain and Latin America. Hearty food compliments the harsh climate found in Galicia.
The central area contains poor soil yielding meager crops and much grazing land for livestock. Dominating central Spain, La Mancha has a sparse population and large, open expanse of land where sheep thrive. Olla podrida, a casserole containing almost anything that can be stewed, originated in this region.
The south and southeast of Spain enjoy a Mediterranean climate, and crops that flourish in that warm environment grow well. Valencia lies on the eastern coast bordering the
Mediterranean Sea. Rice, oranges and other citrus fruits, olives, and grapes thrive here. Cooks in Valencia prepare many rice-based dishes. The most well known Spanish dish, paella probably originated in this region. Named for the pot in which it is cooked, paella is a casserole of saffronflavoured rice with a variety of meats, chicken, seafood, and vegetables.
Andalusia lies in southern Spain. Residents of this region like fried foods. Gazpacho, the famous cold tomato vegetable soup comes from Andalusia. Often-used cloves, cumin, cinnamon, and other spices exhibit Moorish influence.
Situated in the west, Extremadura consists primarily of farmland where pigs thrive. Pork dishes, sausages, and cured meats like serrano ham are popular here.
The ocean breezes create a milder climate in Portugal, and that affects the foods that grow. Many crops, including potatoes, tomatoes, and corn flourish. Grapes for wine and port thrive in the river valleys. Ocean borders Portugal’s west and south yielding abundant fish and seafood.
The cuisines of Spain and Portugal place a strong emphasis on the use of fresh ingredients and simple preparations. As a result, the flavors of the foods stand out within each dish. Fresh parsley, garlic, and saffron appear in many dishes. Harvested from the crocus flower, Spain produces and exports lots of saffron. This yellow spice ranks as the most expensive spice by weight.
Lamb, mutton, goat, and pork prevail in the interior regions. Cured ham, serrano flavors many dishes throughout Iberia. With miles and miles of coastline, fish and seafood forms the basis of the diet in all of the coastal areas. While cod, sardines, and tuna are popular in Portugal, fresh or salted cod is particularly prized in Portugal. Anchovies, cod, squid, and many types of shellfish are among the plentiful seafood available in Spain.
Many high-quality cheeses are made in Spain from cow, sheep, and goat milk, or a combination of all three. Different regions specialize in making certain types of cheeses. The Spanish government regulates the production of some of the cheeses. There are currently twelve Designation of Origin (DO) cheeses in Spain.
The Portuguese utilize more herbs and spices than the Spanish. Fresh cilantro appears in many recipes. The addition of cream and butter makes Portuguese cooking richer than the cookery found in its neighbor, Spain.
Throughout Spain and Portugal, breakfast usually is eaten at a coffee shop rather than at home. For breakfast, people often buy churros, choux pastry dough deep-fried in olive oil and coffee or hot chocolate. Spain is known for tapas, small snacks or appetizers served in bars in the late morning (as a snack between breakfast and the main meal) and in the late afternoon. The main meal, comida, is eaten midday. It consists of soup or salad, a fish or tortilla course, some type of meat, followed by dessert that usually consists of fruit. In the early evening, around six or seven, people go to a tapas bar for sherry and tapas. After nine in the evening, the Spanish consume a light supper, cena.
Portugal produces excellent port, and Spain is known for sherry. Both sherry and port are fortified wines. In addition, Spain and Portugal produce lots of wine, with each region specializing in its own varieties.
Answers to Review Questions in Textbook
- What ingredients were brought to Spain and Portugal from the explorers who returned from the New World?
tomatoes, corn, potatoes, sweet peppers, and chocolate
- What is paella, and in which region did this dish originate?
Named for the pot in which it is cooked, paella is a casserole of saffron rice with a variety of meats, chicken, seafood, and vegetables. Countless variations flourish throughout Spain, but the constant ingredients include saffron, rice, peas, and a variety of seafood, sausage, and chicken.
The dish originated in Valencia.
- Give examples of the Moorish influence on the cuisine of Spain.
The Moors introduced oranges, lemons, almonds, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and a variety of spices including nutmeg, saffron, and pepper. The Spanish adopted combining sweet with savory foods as well as the use of honey from the Moors. Also, the Spanish learned cooking techniques such as marinating and frying foods in olive oil from them.
- What are tapas? Give at least three examples.
Small snacks or appetizers Endless varieties of tapas exist – seafood in various sauces, olives in all sorts of herbs and brines, fillings wrapped in pastry dough, and on and on. Many tapas are simply small portions of popular Iberian dishes. For example, small turnovers become the tapas version of empanadas. Another popular tapas is a slice of tortilla, the popular egg dish that resembles an unfolded omelet.
- How do the weather and topography influence the cuisines of Spain and Portugal? The weather and topography varies greatly in Spain and Portugal yielding a wide variety of crops and growing conditions. The interior of Spain contains dry, poor soil used mainly for grazing cattle and sheep. The eastern and southern regions lie along the Mediterranean and enjoy a Mediterranean climate yielding many crops. The regions lying in the mountainous northeast and northwest experience harsh weather and isolation. Portugal has a milder climate than Spain because of the ocean breezes. The south of Portugal is warmer and drier than the northern portion.
- Name at least four regions in Spain and tell what types of foods are most common in each region.
Galicia – home of hearty foods and the empanada, traditionally a meat pie or turnover with a soft, flaky crust
Basque – strong influence from its neighbor, France; known for their use of many sauces, prepare lots of game and a variety of mushrooms
Valencia – profusion of rice based dishes including paella
Andalusia – known for fried foods and the home of gazpacho, the famous cold tomato vegetable soup
Extremadura – produce myriad pork dishes and a profusion of sausages and cured meats
- Discuss differences and similarities between the cuisines of Spain and Portugal.
The Portuguese utilize more herbs and spices than the Spanish. Fresh cilantro appears in many recipes. The addition of cream and butter makes Portuguese cooking richer than the cuisine of its neighbor, Spain.
Topics for Discussion
- Discuss the influence of the Moors on Spain’s cuisine.
- Discuss the differences in the topography and climate in the various regions of Spain.
How did/does this affect the cuisine?
- Discuss similarities and differences in the cuisines of Spain and Portugal.
- Explain D.O. products including what this means, examples of products, the purpose of this designation, and how it works.
- Divide the class into groups. Have each group prepare a meal from a specific region of Spain or Portugal. Follow that with an oral presentation of the characteristics of that particular region.
- Prepare a “blind” tasting of olive oils of different grades. Discuss differences in the flavors or have the students write their rating of the different olive oils. Be sure to include the flavor characteristics as well as the student’s personal preferences.
Chapter 3 – France
By the end of this chapter, the student should be able to:
- Explain the origins of classical French cookery
- Understand and explain differences in classical and regional French cookery
- Name dishes from various regions of France and explain why they originated there
- Name countries and cultures that influenced the French cuisine and describe how their impact affected the cuisine of France
- Name food items that flourish in various areas of France
- Prepare a variety of regional and classical French dishes
Chapter Outline and Points of Emphasis
Because of its geographic location, France endured invasions on all sides by many different groups of people throughout history. The Romans ruled from 125 BC until the late 400s. After they lost control, the Germans invaded on the east. Alsace Lorraine, a piece of land lying between France and Germany, has changed leadership between these two countries repeatedly throughout history. The Celtics invaded from Britain, and the Vikings came from Scandinavia. Each group left culinary influences behind.
Catherine de’ Medici
In 1533, Catherine de’ Medici of Italy came to France to marry the future king, Henry II. She brought fine Italian chefs with her, introducing the French aristocracy to the Italian splendor in table setting and numerous new foods including broccoli, peas, artichokes, sauces, and fine pastries. She changed the course of dining in France forever. The period of time from Catherine de’ Medici until the French Revolution was one of great opulence and wealth for the aristocracy and extreme poverty for the lower class.
The French Revolution
The aristocracy remained in control until the French Revolution in 1789. The French Revolution brought an important culinary change to France and to the world—the proliferation of the restaurant.
In the 1900s, Fernand Point began a change in the French culinary world called nouvelle cuisine. This transformed classic French dishes into healthier ones. In general, this lighter cooking used less butter, fat, and cream.
Two mountain ranges lie in France. On the east and southeast, the Alps form the border with
Switzerland and Italy. Situated in the southwest, the Pyrenees divide France and Spain.
Two large bodies of water, the Mediterranean Sea on the south and the Atlantic Ocean on the west and northwest, create significant impact on the climate. Of course, the climate affects which crops and animals flourish. Hot, dry summers and mild winters characterize the
Mediterranean climate. Olives, grapes, and a myriad of fruits and vegetables thrive in this