Guide to Catalan and Spanish food

I finally got round to posting Frances Barrett’s extremely entertaining writings on food.
Francis Barrett’s Deconstruction of Catalan and Spanish Food A Guide for Newcomers.

A couple extracts below:

  • Sitting in a scenic country spot with a glass of wine and watching Spanish family members preparing a paella over an open fire in a shallow pit is rather like attending a choreographed performance of gender roles; I suppose the same could be said about Americans or Australians or British or even Irish people at a barbecue.
  • Butter { mantequilla } is considered a strange thing to put on bread, but can also be bought with or without salt. Manteca means lard, which can be used for cooking but does not make a good spread. Margarine is sold in supermarkets, but I cannot imagine what sort of moron buys it. Mermelada means both marmalade and jam, and is commonly eaten at breakfast with croisans [croissants] (usually made with manteca rather than mantequilla , so not as nice as the French variety). If you want to see Spaniards go into total shock, give them some Marmite or Vegamite.
  • Â Cardes / cardos / thistles are not widely consumed in Catalunya, but are very popular in Navarra, where several of my friends come from. The stems have to be peeled and boiled for a very long time in salty water, but the result is very pleasant either on its own or in combination with peppered celery and / or broccoli. They have a high reputation as a heal-all, being supposed even to cure the plague. Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing contains the line: ‘Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus and lay it to your heart; it is the only thing for a qualm…. I mean plain Holy Thistle.’ This presumably refers to external application, but many older Spaniards regard thistle soup as medicinal in the same way as soup made from / ortigas / nettles and / dock leaves. Galicians also recommend Rubarbio / rhubarb for medicinal purposes but I’ve never heard anyone here enthuse about their granny’s rhubarb recipes, and Catalans seem to regard all these plants as only fit for donkeys