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Landscape, terroir and food cultures in Empordà...


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Dear all,

I write for some advice, please... I'm a British academic visiting Empordà province of Catalunya shortly to work on a small research project about the region's landscapes and regional identity. As part of this, I'm keen to explore the traditional cuisine and artisinal food production of Empordà and how this is marketed and celebrated as connected to, and representative of, the regional landscape. I'm interested in how producers, local and regional development agencies, restaurants and others use ideas of a rooted, traditional cuisine to mark their regional food cultures as distinctive and high-quality.

I'm very impressed by the quality of your debates about Catalunyan cuisine and restaurants on this forum; I've learnt much already. I'll be looking out for the rustic Mar i muntanya emphasis, the snails, and the various traditional sauces you've noted (Aill i oli, Picada etc), but further advice on other typical produce would be much appreciated.

I will also be exploring whether the local food sector talks about terroir and how far distinctive elements of the local soils, landscapes, geographical contexts and historical cultures are said to contribute to its food cultures. The Celler de Can Roca website, for example, talks of 'landscapes, memory and cuisine' - is this unusual, or does it reflect more common understandings in the region?

I'm in the hands of two Catalonian colleagues so can't go ahead booking some of the restaurants I've learnt about (although I'm strongly tempted to return to do so...). I've noticed, however, that Restaurant Bonay (Peratallada) sells itself as embodying Empordan cuisine - are there other places that I should know about also?

I've read the Spain & Portugal threads that seem relevant, and searched the system - but my apologies in advance if I've missed anything. I don't think I've ever written on this subforum, but have contributed to the British and Italian fora over a few years. If you have time and interest, any information and advice you can provide for me is appreciated; the beauty of a board like this, of course, is that the information is then preserved for others!

With thanks in advance, David

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Josep Pla's "el que hem menjat" (what we have eaten) would be a great literary/gastronomic starting point, i don't know if it is available in english. Then "El Cuaderno Gris" (the grey notebook) the signature book from the same author should be a compulsory read to understand the people, landscape and leaving from this area.

IMHO La Xicra in Palafrugell would be the best terroir restaurant in the area and Pere Bahí, it's owner and cook, has a book "sabor ampurdanes" that would be the milestone cookbook for the region products and technicques. Els Tinars, also would be another fine spot.

Edited by Rogelio (log)
Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"
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Very many thanks for this, Rogelio. I'd been reading about Pla recently, but didn't know he wrote on the region's food cultures as well. I can't find trace of el que hem menjat or El Cuaderno Gris in English yet, but there's time to go - and I could understand the basics in Spanish. Thanks too for the recommendations in Palafrugell and Girona. We're staying in Figueres, but I'll lobby for a trip further South...

And thanks again for your help.

Edited by Kropotkin (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Kropotkin, very interesting topic of study! I am actually researching something that is quite different yet has a slight overlap: a new trend in gastronomy that has been coined neonaturalismo. The return to nature, to one's terroir. The main names associated with this trend are Rene Redzepi of Noma (Denmark), Albert Adria, formerly of El Bulli, and Andoni Aduriz, but several other "tecnoemotional"chefs play with the idea and go very far in researching their terroirs, in an almost philosophical sense.

To answer one of your questions above, YES, the 2 Roca brothers Joan and Jordi do indeed toy with memory and landscapes in their cuisine. The most obvious example is their unique technique of distilling earth. Yes, earth from their own garden. Google it and you'll see what I mean.

other than that, you are in good hands in this forum. Rogelio, Pedro and other Spanish egulleters are quite the pros.


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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