We must recognize that the Iberian geography is simply phenomenal when we think about the diversity of products that land on our plates. The large peninsular plains provide cereals and legumes in quantities. The rice fields of Doñana, La Albufera and Ebro provide the country with a round rice that absorbs flavours like no other. The kitchen gardens offer an impressive variety of vegetables both in summer and winter. The peninsula is necessarily a land exposed to the sea and all its resources. Let’s not forget the orchads, olive groves, almond, citrus and other tropical varieties that provide fruit throughout the year, especially in the Andalusian Mediterranean coast. Livestock is abundant, especially in the less favoured regions (bad soils, mountains, wind, etc.), and where the trilogy of sheep, goats and cattle provides an abundance of quality meat, dairy products and endless gastronomy. Iberian pigs are known worlwide. Finally, take into account the omnipresence of the vine throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Spain has the largest vineyard in the world and is the third largest producer of wine worldwide.
If we add to so many raw materials, the historical contribution of the people who lived in the Peninsula and the peculiarities of their different regions, it is not surprising that Spanish cuisine offers us an incredible palette of Mediterranean, Oriental, Atlantic and New World flavours.
Of course the culture of haute cuisine exists throughout the territory and is especially present in the north, with the Basque Country at the head and Catalonia, where the futuristic “molecular cuisine” emerged. In Andalusia, tourism is the engine of a restoration that satisfies all demands and prices, and has favoured the installation of classy restaurants.
That said, many of the most recognized and original dishes come from the ingenuity of the popular classes, even poor, who have managed to prepare a meal every day, incorporating the remains or less noble parts. Thus, the paella is simply a rice mixed with the available daily ingredients, the salmorejo and the crumbs are dishes of seasoned dry bread, the gazpacho a vegetable juice to quench the thirst, and so on. “Popular dishes” rhymes with nutritious meals and satiety … ideal combination to enjoy the benefits of the table and a good company.