Wednesday, April 29, 2009

3000 Years of Spanish Cooking

When I was in Spain last Christmas, my dear friends Horacio and Alicia, who know my fondness for cooking and historical food research, gave me a delightful book, 3000 Años de Cocina Española. It’s a very unusual cookbook by two women, Rosa Tovar and Monique Fuller. It was originally intended for an English-speaking readership, but it was clear that the book would be of interest to Spaniards, too, so the women collaborated on the work, which was published by Espasa in 2006.

Because of its geographical location, Spain has probably had more diverse culinary influences than most European countries. The cookbook is structured to cover “recipes” from each of these periods, although obviously, in some cases the recipes are purely speculative. We probably don’t know what the Celts ate, or even who the elusive Iberos were, let alone what they ate. But the authors have gathered recipes from old Spanish sources, such as Rupert de Nola, or even from the very earliest European recipe collections that appear among the Romans, such as Apicius’ De re coquinaria. They have grouped them historically and in an entertaining fashion; for example, there are meal suggestions for offering a dinner for a (medieval ) bishop. In case you’re interested, they think he’d like chicken soup flavored with roses and saffron, followed up by a tasty turbot in a bitter orange sauce.

3000 Years of Spanish Cooking

The book has a preface by the famous chef Ferran Adrià, and features a very lovely font and layout and some pleasing chapter art. It also has a great bibliography, for folks who are interested in food history.

And best of all, the recipes work! Many of the recipes are simply traditional regional recipes that have been modernized in terms of their quantities and techniques, and they have been carefully tested and are explained clearly. I have found that sometimes artistic, literary or historical cookbooks look great and may be entertaining to read, but the recipes are disastrous. 3000 Años de Cocina Española, however, is a successful cookbook and you will be able to whip up some historical delight from it that you will actually recognize as the thing that you had in that wonderful restaurant in … well, you’ve probably forgotten the name of the town anyway.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Holy Week and León de las Indias

Just before Easter, searching the Internet for Spanish Holy Week processions and art, I came across a great blog, El León de las Indias. The author is a young journalist named Raúl Ramírez who lives in Sevilla. Visit his blog to see some truly spectacular photos of Holy Week processions in Sevilla. Particularly beautiful are the Palm Sunday photos taken in Jerez. Raúl Ramírez is a magnificent photographer. In addition, his blog has some interesting links on the sidebars.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Felices Pascuas

I was in Charleston for Easter. This blurry photo – snatched hastily, since I was there to go to the Easter Vigil and not to take pictures! – shows the new bishop of Charleston, Bishop Robert Guglielmone, lighting the New Fire on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina.  Happy Easter!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Camino de la Cruz

Trying to straighten up my office, cluttered by the remains of translations and other projects, I came across something that was perfect for this week, Holy Week.

Chapel at albergue in Ponferrada.
Last summer, I spent a few high-stress weeks as an hospitalera, basically, a guest-house attendant, in an albergue, or pilgrim hostal, on the Camino de Santiago where it passes through Ponferrada in the province of León on the edge of Galicia.  The albergue, San Nicolás de Flue, has its own chapel, a beautifully restored little stone chapel whose construction dates to the 17th century. 

Interior of Ponferrada chapel.
At evening prayers, I often found myself looking a painting on a side wall of the chapel that depicted the priest and congregation, coming back from the procession they have every year for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who is the patroness of the chapel.  It was a very striking painting; this photo doesn’t do it justice, I’m afraid.

Painting by Gomez Domingo in chapel.
Don Antolín, the priest responsible for the chapel, told me that the painting was by an artist named Luis Gómez Domingo, who was originally from Teruel but had been living in Ponferrada for many years, teaching at the university.  Don Antolín also gave me a little booklet of a truly beautiful Camino de la Cruz (Way of the Cross) painted by Gómez Domingo in 2007 for the traveling religious art exhibit, Las Edades del Hombre.  Camino de la Cruz depicts the traditional 14 episodes in Jesus’ path to the Crucifixion, which are known to English speaking Catholics as the Stations of the Cross.


I am not sure of the size of the original paintings or even where they were exhibited. Las Edades del Hombre is an annual exhibit that is sponsored by the bishops of the dioceses of Castilla y León, and is set up in different cathedrals in that territory.  The diocese or deanery in which the exhibit is located brings out rarely seen works of art from the local churches or the diocesan treasuries, and sometimes new works, such as this one, are created.  The website of Las Edades del Hombre is quite beautiful and worth visiting.  This year’s exhibit will be in Soria from May to December.


But now let us contemplate a section of this beautiful Way of the Cross by Gómez Domingo.