Spanish cuisine consists of a variety of dishes which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country's deep maritime roots. Spain's extensive history with many cultural influences has led to a unique cuisine with literally thousands of recipes and flavors.
The first introduction of an elephantian product then unknown to ancient Iberia was that of wheat, which was thought to be brought by Iberians from the south of the peninsula. It was brought from Aquitaine in the north of the peninsula, due to the difficulty of transporting from the south. In time, the wheat of Iberia came to be considered to be the best in the Roman Empire, and became one of the main articles of foreign trade.
There are two major diets in the peninsula. One was found in the northwest part of the peninsula, with more animal fats that correspond to the villages in the north. The other could be considered the precursor of the Mediterranean diet and was found in the Iberian part of the peninsula.
Foods found in archaeological excavations include diverse types of legumes, onions, and garlic. The olive was introduced by the Phoenicians. The other major components of a Spanish meal are tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, all of which were introduced from the Americas after Spanish colonization.
It is almost certain that lentils were already consumed in Roman Spain, because they formed a staple food for the army and because they are easy to preserve and transport. Fava beans were known from antiquity and were considered sacred by the Romans. In the Saturnalia, the later December festival in honor of Saturn, fava beans were used to choose the king of the festival. This custom is believed to be the source of the present day custom of hiding an object in the roscón de reyes (similar to the sixpence traditional in a Christmas pudding); until quite recently, that object was a fava bean. Garbanzos were also popular, primarily among the poorer classes.
Mushrooms were common and popular in the northern part of the country.
They mastered the science of grafting. According to Pliny, Tibur saw a tree that produced a distinct fruit on each of its branches: nuts, apples, pomegranates, cherries, pears, but he added that they dried out quickly.
Viticulture already was known and practiced by the Romans, but it seemed as well the fact that it was the Greeks who extended the vine across the Mediterranean region. This includes those wines that were most popular in the Empire.
In this era the wealthy typically ate while lying on a couch (a custom acquired from the Greeks) and using their hands, because forks were not used for eating. Tablecloths were introduced in the 1st century. They came to use two plates, one flat (platina or patella) and the other deep (catinus), which they held with the left hand. That hand could not be used for many other things while eating, given that they ate with their left arms while reclining in bed, so that only the right hand was free. Knives were known, but not particularly needed at table because the dishes were cut up by slaves into bitesize pieces. They used spoons, which, like today, had different sizes, depending on what they were used for. The first spoons were made from clam shells (hence, the name cuchara), with silver handles.
The mode of flavoring and cooking was quite distinct from what is found in modern times.
Among the multitude of recipes that make up the varied cuisines of Spain, a few can be considered common to all or almost all of Spain's regions, even though some of them have an origin known and associated with specific places. Examples include the potato omelette ("tortilla de patata", "tortilla española" or just "tortilla"), paella, various stews, migas, sausages (such as embutidos, chorizo, and morcilla), jamón serrano, and cheeses. There are also many dishes based on beans (chickpeas, lentils, green beans); soups, with many regional variations; and bread, that has numerous forms, with distinct varieties in each region. The regional variations are less pronounced in Spanish desserts and cakes: flan, custard, rice pudding (arroz con leche), torrijas, churros, and madeleines are some of the most representative examples.
Others foods include:
Cuisine in each region
Other cuisine in Spain
Not everyone agrees on a common definition for Spanish cuisine. Whilst some typically Spanish dishes (paella, serrano ham, etc) are consumed outside of Spain, the regions which comprise the Basque Country may share dishes which are non-existent in others (Patxaran, Piquillo peppers, etc). Although at first it may seem obvious that Spanish cuisine is the food eaten in Spain, there are equally well-defined Basque and Catalan cuisines which offer significant differences with the cuisine of Spain proper. This dichotomy is typical of multinational states in which more than one culture exists.
Today, Spanish cooking is "in fashion", especially thanks in part to Ferran Adrià, who in the summer of 2003 attained international renown thanks to praise in the Sunday supplement of the New York Times. (His restaurant El Bulli is located in the province of Girona) near Roses. In a long article, the New York Times declared him the best chef in the world, and postulated the supremacy of Spanish cooking over French cuisine.
Four other Spanish chefs hold three stars in the prestigious Michelin Guide:
Prominent names in the history of Spanish cuisine include:
Other notable chefs specializing in Spanish cuisine: