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IBERIAN PENINSULA: SPAIN

and the festive meal, especially on Sundays. Tradition- ally it was possible for working husbands and school- children to eat in their own homes every day, and only manual laborers were obliged to eat at work. Housewives created a varied menu by distributing dishes representa- tive of each day of the week—for example, Monday mac- aroni, Tuesday lentils, Wednesday stew, Thursday broiled fish, Friday porridge, Saturday salads, and Sun- day paella. Depending on the economic means of the family, beef could be a choice, especially for Sundays. This custom continues in the “dish of the day” on restau- rant menus.

The Seasonal Cycle

In spite of the geographical diversity of Spain, a shared seasonal climatic variation is common to all parts of the country. Thus, except for the colder regions, summer tends to be hot throughout Spain, which defines the char- acter of summer meals. The foods of the warm season favor easy preparation and light, refreshing ingredients, such as salads and gazpachos. The basic ingredients of a typical salad are lettuce and tomatoes, and the simple salad dressing—olive oil, wine vinegar, and salt—is pre- pared at the beginning of the meal by the guests them- selves. This custom has continued in public restaurants. When the server places the cruet stand on the table, it is a sign that one of the dishes will include lettuce.

The “king” of all the first course dishes is gazpacho, one of the great contributions of Spanish cooking to hot weather cuisine. It is similar to a cold tomato soup, but in gazpacho all the ingredients, ripe tomatoes, cucum- bers, green sweet peppers, garlic, olive oil, salt, and vine- gar, are raw and are liquefied. Cold water is added to thin the soup. At restaurants it is served with garnishes, con- sisting of the same ingredients cut into small pieces, and small bits of bread.

In Spain the cold season is associated with the con- sumption of legumes. Lentils are part of a tasty reper- toire of everyday meals, but when Spaniards want to feel satisfied, they think of garbanzo stew. When they want to feel extremely full, they think of the fabada asturiana. The fabada is a thick stew of white beans and pork prod- ucts from the region of Asturias on the coast of north- ern Spain.

The Festive Cycle

The celebrations that have influenced Spanish gastron- omy the most are the religious feasts, notably Christmas, a time when major excess prevails. The traditional feast days are Christmas Eve dinner on 24 December, Christ- mas Day dinner on 25 December, New Year’s supper on 1 January, Three Kings supper (Epiphany Eve) on 5 Jan- uary, Epiphany breakfast on 6 January, and Epiphany dinner on 6 January.

During the Middle Ages, Christmas Eve dinner fol- lowed a vigil, and from this period a light dish called sopa

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FOOD AND CULTURE

de almendras (almond soup) survived as a nostalgic relic. Only after midnight mass, or misa de gallo, could the great gastronomic excesses begin. Eventually this became the preeminent family dinner. The traditional dishes have continued, although they have evolved over time. Earlier the meal consisted of savoy or red cabbage and fish, usu- ally red porgy, but grilled leg of lamb has become the porgy’s competitor.

Certain Spanish confections, such as turrones, marza-

pán, and polvorones, convey a nostalgic dimension to Christmas, since they are only consumed at this time. The Christmas meal is family oriented, and turkey is the main dish. New Year’s festivities tend to lose their fam- ily orientation, since New Year’s Eve is a supper prelude to a party outside the home. Consequently it is light and easy to prepare, generally a cold meal of various seafoods, especially prawns. The cheapest and most common prawns are baptized with plenty of Catalan Cava (Span- ish champagne).

Three Kings’ supper on Epiphany Eve is a magical night for children, since they wait for gifts from the Three Kings of the East. The breakfast on Epiphany morning would not be of major importance were it not for the fact that the Magi have brought a roscón, a large, round, braided bread flavored with orange-flower water and decorated with crystal sugar, chopped almonds, and dried fruits. Spaniards give each other roscones de Reyes until every house has a great accumulation of them.

Lent is a period of recovery, forty days of penitence preceding the celebrations of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The traditional vigils and fasts during these forty days have developed many variations over time, yet the vigil dishes and the dishes of nourishment for days of fast- ing are a form of nostalgia or remembrance. The repre- sentative dish of a vigil is a potaje consisting mainly of garbanzos, dried codfish, spinach or cabbage, hard-boiled eggs, and a touch of cumin. During Lenten fasting one characteristic sweet, called torrija, is consumed. It is made with sliced bread soaked in milk and sugar, dipped in an egg batter, fried in olive oil, and drowned in wine, or- ange juice, or honey.

In addition to these great religious observances, each region of Spain has its own patron saint, who is cele- brated with some characteristic meal. The confections made in the saint’s honor add a special note to the ex- traordinary fare of the celebration and have given rise to numerous types of rosquillas, panecillos, and bollos orna- mented with saintly symbols. Remarkably bakers invent new recipes for modern festivities, so many traditional observances are revitalized on a daily basis.

The Regional Cookeries of Spain

Because Spain has varied regional identities and diverse agricultural districts, regional cooking has acquired a spe- cial meaning. Besides the different languages and dialects, regionalism is thoroughly manifested in highly varied

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