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Living Heritage


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<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1123728243/gallery_29805_1195_1801.jpg">In the second installment of our three-part interview with Santi Santamaria of Can Fabes restaurant in Sant Celoni, Spain, Pedro Espinosa talks to the three-Michelin star chef about the impact of the guides on his business, the current state of Catalan cooking, the role of the media, and cooking as living heritage. Click here to read the first part of this fascinating interview. Watch for part three in the Daily Gullet soon.

by Pedro Espinosa

Pedro: Do dining and travel guides help?

Santi: Yes, they do. In my case, guides helped me to publicize my restaurant. That said, I know of many establishments in the world, with great ratings in the guides, and with terrific media impact, that have ended up closing.

Pedro: Guides give you the opportunity, but aren’t a guarantee of success?

Santi: Exactly. You have to get something of a following; you have to persuade the public everyday. And when you’ve been in the business for twenty-three years, it’s wonderfully satisfying to see the restaurant fully booked. To me this is very important. To see that people come back, you see them once a year or maybe four due to the change of seasons. I don’t like to lose that contact.

Pedro: You change your menu about four times a year?

Santi: It’s not that I change the menu abruptly. I add something to it, I modify it. If you come, for instance, next Tuesday, you’ll find some rice, some tuna that I don’t have yet in the menu. As you’re living a cuisine, you’re adding dishes, modifying others, and there’s always, of course, seasonality.

Pedro: This year you’re celebrating ten years with three Michelin stars.

Santi: I hope we maintain them for some years more. I believe that stars last while thrill lasts. They last while you have the creative strength, you have a culinary discourse and you reach the aficionado. Then you maintain the stars. The stars are a judgment on a human work, temporary and immediate. When you’re at the top, you have to try to stay there as long as possible. But, undoubtedly, we all know that our work as cooks will eventually have a period of decline. Unless I have young cooks here to help me and they surpass me within my restaurant. Then the restaurant remains. But you’re not anymore the one who’s leading it, the others are.

Pedro: Do you have anyone in the family to continue cooking?

Santi: No, not my children. Well, you never know. I started at twenty-four. My son is twenty-one and my daughter eighteen. You never can tell. We’ll see. I hope they’ll do what they want, but do it happily. A restaurant is a difficult heritage, and cooking even more so. It’s a labor so personal that they have to choose it; you can’t impose it on them.

Pedro: How do you see Catalonia’s cooking today? Are you interested in it?

Santi: Of course I’m interested; how could I not be? (long pause) If we speak based on what’s reflected in the media, this is a complete dream world. If we’re self-critical and we truly analyze the restaurants, well, let’s say that we’ve covered a lot of ground, but the situation is far from being ideal. I believe in establishments that are extremely well-structured, with good teams, with good methods, which perform very consistently and with their own personalities in the kitchen. Finding people with personality -- cooks with personality -- is not easy. Very young people are giving all their enthusiasm. This has merit because they are working very hard, but they are cooking what they see, more than what they feel, as I said before.

Catalonia doesn’t have great classic restaurants. In this country, restaurants die in the second generation, whereas in France you find the third and fourth generation in some restaurants. It’s very hard here; the industry is very young, which has a sociological explanation.

There’s also an excess of Americanization in Spain’s society, particularly in the cities. Who would have imagined, for instance, that the La Brecha market in San Sebastian would have as its more emblematic establishment, when you enter, a McDonald’s? When today, it’s still one of the markets where you find the best fish, the best vegetables. But it has to share the entrance with McDonald’s signage, in San Sebastian! This has to make all us think long and hard.

Pedro: Do you think that, in the media, there’s a certain degree of polarization about the vision of Spain’s cooking?

Santi : It could be that a certain polarization exists in the media, but not among the public. I believe that the public is extremely intelligent and knows how to choose. It knows when an establishment has quality standards, where there’s cooking with character; and when people feel like having a given cooking style they go for it, and when they don’t, they look to other places.

The attention given to chefs in the media is sometimes due more to a relative shrillness in what is done and said in the kitchen. It looks as if the most extreme is what sells the most, not only in food but in many other fields. That doesn’t mean that’s what the majority likes. Each year I serve sixteen thousand meals in Sant Celoni and a bit fewer than fifteen thousand in Madrid. That means there are around thirty thousand people that have the possibility of enjoying my cooking. I think that’s a dream for a cook.

Pedro: You’ve recently promoted a manifesto.

Santi: That’s correct. We’ve promoted a manifesto coinciding with Fórum 2004. It’s not that I want to become the Bouvet of culinary antiglobalization. I understand and respect changes in habits, that there’s a rather shocking transformation of industrial society, and that food is feeling the consequences of this impact.

But today more than ever, we’ve been warned so much about the dangers of a bad diet. This week, I’ve seen reports which are devastating. Things that, if reported five years ago, would have qualified as crazy. Everybody accepts this as reality: people don’t cook at home; the kitchen would be removed from houses if it were allowed; incoming products are manufactured; at the supermarket, people buy more finished products than fresh products; the Mediterranean diet is a fantasy that doesn’t reflect reality at all. That is, we have some kind of problem with food and, evidently, the restaurant is not oblivious to it.

This phenomenon has developed over twenty- or twenty-five years and, today, people like me have been taken by surprise. It shakes us up. Emotionally, it affects deeply us when we see these things happening.

Pedro: You mentioned in one of your books the likelihood of restaurants becoming museums.

Santi: This is the opposite direction. I believe that cooking is a living heritage, culturally alive. Since the very moment that you can’t have specific dishes that you’ve known and enjoy from popular cooking, either you cook them yourself, but you have to know how, or you go somewhere to taste them. I’m sure that local cuisines are going to be reborn. There would be those who will want to dig into them. I’m convinced.

Because a time will come when people will get tired. I remember, years ago, when people who didn’t watch art cinema were treated as culturally ignorant. In the end, you went to the movies and watched absolutely boring films. Today, we see the same with cooking: there are people who are capable of going to a restaurant, paying 150€, not to enjoy what they’re eating, but because they feel compelled to say that they do enjoy it. Because socially, if they say they haven’t enjoyed that cooking, they will be labeled as ignorant. We’re not in that league.

How do we, people who truly love traditional cooking, who believe in working with a cuisine of good products, that think modernity is not shrillness but an evolution in tastes and techniques -- how do we position ourselves in a market that it can be said punishes the formal, the correct, the well done? It’s not easy. The public doesn’t penalize us. To the contrary. But in the media there are things that are difficult to understand. There are cycles.

We found examples of this in music: we have people like Jordi Savall, who is recovering music from the Renaissance and older, great prestige around the world. Nobody doubts his talent and creative capability. Today, if someone cooks a dish from the 13th century, or from the Sent Soví [the first Catalan cookbook and one of the oldest in Europe, circa 1324], he’s going to be treated as archaeologist -- as someone without imagination. Yet, you realize, medieval cooking has a tremendous richness of seasoning and variety.

Socially speaking, of course, it wasn’t the common people who could afford the great meals. Today there has been social progress, and normal people can visit restaurants. Barriers have been broken, gastronomy has become accessible. People come into the restaurant without fear. If they have 150€, then they can enjoy it as much as the ones who have the most money. They, it’s true, can afford more visits. But there’s no class distinction at the restaurant. When I was a child, we passed in front of some restaurants in Barcelona and the possibility of eating there never crossed my parents’ minds. Why? There, in that room, there was a given class: financiers, politicians, but not the common people. Today this has been overcome. And it’s a very positive cultural phenomenon. It’s an immense step forward. Immense.

Pedro: How would you compare Catalonian cooking with other cooking in Europe and Spain (Basque Country, France)?

Santi: I believe that Basque cooking is quite limited. Extremely good, the things they have are amazing, but it lacks in product variety. Here, the Mediterranean sea is much more damaged, but also much more diverse. There’s more diversity. We also have a diversity of climates: not only do we have a Mediterranean climate, but also Continental and Alpine climates. Therefore, in a relatively small territory, we have incredible diversity of flora and fauna.

<img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1123620128/gallery_29805_1195_11725.jpg">If you take a look to the map, Northern Catalonian cooking is very different from Southern Catalonian cooking: suquets cooking versus rice cooking. We also have Barcelona’s cosmopolitan cooking. We can talk of a cuisine of espadenyes, of pulpitos, a cuisine of miniature products, which drive Catalonians mad. We’re a people, curiously, mad about little things: fishes that aren’t very big . . . all this conforms a very particular cuisine, which along with the French influence (mainly from Provencal cooking), and the Italian cooks that came in the beginning of the twentieth century for the Universal Exposition of 1929 with all their pasta contribution, all results in a very rich and varied cuisine, which gets reflected in today’s cooks.

Pedro: Is it that recent, the use of pasta in Catalonian cooking?

Santi: Yes, it’s very recent. Eighty years old or so. These are traditions of recent vintage.

Then we have to take into account all the migratory processes, which have left footprints in Catalonian cooking. The young restaurants, among which I include mine, are doing cuisines that have influences from all over Spain. For instance, years ago I started working with suckling pig (cochinillo). There was a relatively long tradition in Catalonia of working with cochinillo.

Pedro: Oscar (Madrid Sant Celoni’s chef) cooks it very well.

Santi: Yes, he does. The crusty cochinillo . . . But he has to, because he is from Segovia. When he came to Can Fabes, I already prepared it confited, then we evolved to sous-vide . . .

Pedro: Perhaps pork is one of the products that define Spain’s cooking, if you think we can talk about a single Spanish cuisine.

Santi: I’ve worked with pork a lot. A lot.

I believe in Spain’s cuisines, in plural. Andalusian cooking is very different from Galician cooking, Galician cooking from Catalonian . . . the cultural and linguistic mosaics also have a reflection in cooking. In a different way from other places in Europe, cultural identities have been preserved. In France they’ve also been rather well preserved. Surprisingly, language has been greatly homogenized, but culinary traditions are being preserved: Brittany, les Landes, Provence, Haute Savoie. They have a very important mosaic.

Pedro: Do you think that having a cuisine like Catalonia has, a strong and deep-rooted traditional cooking, helps creativity?

Santi: I do, it helps me a lot. I go through cycles, but many times I get inspiration from medieval cooking treatises. I love it. I read the Sent Soví at least once a year. At least. Reading these books acts as a cleansing therapy for me.

Let’s see, the origins, the essence. I say it meaning that today it’s better to be a meeting point than a departure point. Catalonia’s Regional President said something along these lines about this new stage: we’ve got to preserve the cultural phenomena, but cultural phenomena in pure state don’t exist. We are what we learn, and a melting-pot culture is essential. What occurs if you become reduced to stereotypes without believing in what you’re doing, without training, is that you get a global cliché that has no value at all. I believe more in the personality of each cook and each country.

(His sous-chef comes to say goodbye. The two of them review the tasks to prepare service for dinner).

Coming back to the question, I do believe it helps. We also have to understand that after the Civil War, all Spain and specially Catalonia was at none to zero. Very bad situation. With democracy there’s been a process where everyone has grown.

(He signs some books)

The issue is that we get such an incredible amount of information: the number of gastronomy magazines, television programs, books. People, cooks, are so stuffed that they end up not assimilating. The information doesn’t leave a trace. This is the problem that I see in gastronomy, and not only in Spain. I realize all the things I do every year: I go to Asia, to America. Things that many people haven’t done in their whole lives. And you wonder, at the end of the day, what have we assimilated? Passing our lives as tourists? This is the risk, ending up doing a cuisine for tourists: some Chinese, some French, some Italian, some Catalonian. What’s left in the end?

Pedro: A cooking of juxtaposition, not fusion?

Santi: A hodgepodge that could be here, that could be in Australia. When we talk about Europe, this is of great importance: there are many centuries of knowledge and wisdom. It’s like saying: we are tired of Romanesque churches, they’re horrible, they don’t sell anymore, we’re losing some tourists who don’t visit us, we’re going to demolish all these old churches and let’s build some ultra-modern churches. We’re doing something similar in cooking.

(Some customers want to see him and ask him some details about a recipe. He comes back still boiling over.)

This is not a question of self-esteem. Self-esteem is something we all have; sometimes we allow ourselves to be carried away by this current.

Pedro: Nowadays maintaining any tradition requires an effort in almost any field.

Santi: I’m aware that if I include three or four strongly traditional dishes on the menu I’m going to be heavily criticized. I have to modernize them, elaborate them more, give them a new dimension. It’s a pity.

Pedro: Does this occur in France?

Santi: No, it doesn’t happen in France. I think it’s a pity because, coming back to what I said before, not everything that has to be said has to be unprecedented or unknown. There is contribution in tradition, there’s creativity. What’s creativity? When you’re cooking, you’re creating. But from the moment when you make a mold, it’s not creation, it’s industrialization. There are cuisines that have become excessively industrial. I see it with the youngsters: they come to the restaurant and they don’t know how to cook, how to season, how to cook meat a point. It’s very sad. Very sad. They go to a restaurant, they spend three months there, maybe six. They want a change of restaurant three times a year. They pass the time doing silly things. All day doing gominolas (candy).

Pedro: I thought that there had been advances in training.

<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1123620128/gallery_29805_1195_25860.jpg">Santi: Sincerely, I think not that much. What is culinary education? As we said, there’s a handicraft component, of skill, that we mustn’t forget. It’s a discipline and requires practice and practice. Discipline in a good sense. Not as exaggerated as in Japan, where your father has to spend his whole life with the same type of fish, cutting it always in the same way, then after I don’t know how many years you can take his place. There’s a middle ground.

The youngsters that come into a kitchen have to have the strength of mind of thinking everyday, that when you’re repeating a recipe, actually you’re making it new each time. It’s like Antonio Gades, the incredibly talented dancer who recently passed away: as if anytime he danced Bodas de Sangre he would have had to start from the scratch. He’s been performing Bodas de Sangre for many years. No. The thing to do is to improve and improve and improve. And in this improvement, there’s creation. And you sense it when you see it. You notice when you’re really cooking a dish, when you’re reaching sublimation, when you have control of the fire. To be capable of understanding this. There there’s creation. Creation is not saying: I’m going to cook this chicken with ginger, with cardamom, I’m going to stuff it with who knows what. That’s already in the script. Creativity lies in mastering how you can sublimate that chicken from a raw state to make it sublime to a human being. And when they find it sublime, they will acknowledge creation. The simplest thing can be the most exquisite. From exquisiteness to vulgarity . . .

Pedro: There’s a short distance.

Santi: This is the true magic of cooking, I’d say. The true magic is that a very simple thing can become something magical. And the same product can be equally boring.

Pedro: Santi, perhaps we’re taking too much time from you. You haven’t even eaten yet.

Santi: It’s fine with me. I’ll go to the mountain with Angels for a picnic when we finish. I enjoy it very much when we go for a picnic. One or two times a week, I go up to the mountain, we walk about nine kilometers. I’ve located a vine, we have our butifarras . . .

This is the second of three parts. Part one is here.

<i>Pedro Espinosa (aka <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showuser=10675">pedro</a>) is an eGullet Society manager, and host of the Spain and Portugal forums.

Pedro wishes to thank Víctor de la Serna (vserna), Steven Shaw and Andy Lynes for their help with this interview.

Lead photograph by Ellen R. Shapiro. Other photographs copyright 2005 Can Fabes Gastronomic Leisure Center.</i>

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Bravo Pedro and Chef Santimaria!

Because a time will come when people will get tired. I remember, years ago, when people who didn’t watch art cinema were treated as culturally ignorant. In the end, you went to the movies and watched absolutely boring films. Today, we see the same with cooking: there are people who are capable of going to a restaurant, paying 150€, not to enjoy what they’re eating, but because they feel compelled to say that they do enjoy it. Because socially, if they say they haven’t enjoyed that cooking, they will be labeled as ignorant. We’re not in that league.

How do we, people who truly love traditional cooking, who believe in working with a cuisine of good products, that think modernity is not shrillness but an evolution in tastes and techniques -- how do we position ourselves in a market that it can be said punishes the formal, the correct, the well done? It’s not easy. The public doesn’t penalize us. To the contrary. But in the media there are things that are difficult to understand. There are cycles.

Brilliant. I recall Chef Corelli said similar things.

I couldn't agree more. Thank you for the interview and I look forward to the final installment.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

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Great interview, Pedro. Chef Santamaria is obviously very thoughtful. He is also a brilliant chef. The meal I had at Can Fabes last September was one of the very best I have had anywhere. I was particularly intrigued by his comments regarding ancient cuisines. As someone who enjoys occasionally listening to older music on original instruments, I would be very curious about experiencing expertly prepared medieval cuisine. While he may use these texts for inspiration, these are obviously not his only sources. However one may wish to define creativity, he obviously has it.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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Pedro,

Thank you, Victor, Andy and Steven for putting together such a great series with this Chef. This was inspiring to me and hope to have the opportunity to sample his work as he is a special person. I will forward this interview to my friends who will appreciate it.

Thanks Again,

Molto E

Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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I was in the process of posting a detailed reply when my computer froze up on me and I had to reset the computer and it all disappeared. :angry:

Anyway, though, I loved this interview. I've never been to Catalonia, had never heard of Chef Santamaria before this, and know little about Catalonian cuisine, but I doubt that made this less interesting for me. Chef Santamaria is so eloquent and gives the reader so much to think about -- and of course the interviewer had a lot to do with eliciting the responses, too.

I'll post separately about some of the content.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Chef Santamaria talked about the "illusion" of a Michelin rating. Did he mean that something temporary is illusory? I'd say, rather, that a temporary thing is elusive. Is there a way in which a yearly rating is more of an illusion than most other things in life?

I found a contradiction in these two statements by the chef:

There’s also an excess of Americanization in Spain’s society, particularly in the cities. Who would have imagined, for instance, that the La Brecha market in San Sebastian would have as its more emblematic establishment, when you enter, a McDonald’s? When today, it’s still one of the markets where you find the best fish, the best vegetables. But it has to share the entrance with McDonald’s signage, in San Sebastian! This has to make all us think long and hard.

Pedro: Do you think that, in the media, there’s a certain degree of polarization about the vision of Spain’s cooking?

Santi : It could be that a certain polarization exists in the media, but not among the public. I believe that the public is extremely intelligent and knows how to choose. It knows when an establishment has quality standards, where there’s cooking with character; and when people feel like having a given cooking style they go for it, and when they don’t, they look to other places.

Perhaps context is all, but what intelligent public is Chef Santi referring to in the second place, when he referred to the popularity of McDonalds in the first place? I don't think he would consider McDonalds to be a quality establishment where there's cooking with character.

We found examples of this in music: we have people like Jordi Savall, who is recovering music from the Renaissance and older, great prestige around the world. Nobody doubts his talent and creative capability. Today, if someone cooks a dish from the 13th century, or from the Sent Soví [the first Catalan cookbook and one of the oldest in Europe, circa 1324], he’s going to be treated as archaeologist -- as someone without imagination. Yet, you realize, medieval cooking has a tremendous richness of seasoning and variety.

Quite. I think this is an important statement. As a musician who loves to listen to and play music from various historical styles and periods, I do not relate to the idea that recipes from more than x number of years ago are ipso facto irrelevant.

If you take a look to the map, Northern Catalonian cooking is very different from Southern Catalonian cooking: suquets cooking versus rice cooking. We also have Barcelona’s cosmopolitan cooking. We can talk of a cuisine of espadenyes, of pulpitos, a cuisine of miniature products, which drive Catalonians mad. We’re a people, curiously, mad about little things: fishes that aren’t very big . . . all this conforms a very particular cuisine, which along with the French influence (mainly from Provencal cooking), and the Italian cooks that came in the beginning of the twentieth century for the Universal Exposition of 1929 with all their pasta contribution, all results in a very rich and varied cuisine, which gets reflected in today’s cooks.

Very interesting. Pasta hadn't reached Catalonia during the period of the Caliphates or earlier? Is the issue how the word "pasta" is defined?

Also, would some of you like to elaborate further on regional differences and international influences in Catalonian cuisine, or point me to a thread where these are elaborated?

I couldn't help taking note of Pedro's remark about pork as one of the ingredients that defines Spanish cuisine. That's surely a legacy of the Reconquista and the Inquisition. The former Muslim and Jewish inhabitants during the period of Muslim rule obviously didn't use it, but that goes back over 500 years now.

I think this is a great statement, and I really relate to it:

When we talk about Europe, this is of great importance: there are many centuries of knowledge and wisdom. It’s like saying: we are tired of Romanesque churches, they’re horrible, they don’t sell anymore, we’re losing some tourists who don’t visit us, we’re going to demolish all these old churches and let’s build some ultra-modern churches. We’re doing something similar in cooking.

Of course, the difference is that the existence of "ultra-modern" cooking doesn't necessitate the destruction of traditional cooking, but the point is made, and that would be an over-literal reaction. Chef Santi is right: The wisdom of the ancestors shouldn't be discarded just for the sake of being new or serving what he calls "a cuisine for tourists" and what, based on his description, I might call the cuisine of tourists. Don't get me wrong: If it tastes good, I like it, regardless of what you want to call it, but the chef's respect for tradition strikes a chord in me. I don't think that we're smarter than all previous generations and don't believe in the inevitability of Progress. The French Socialist anthem, the Internationale, in its English translation features the words "No more traditions' chains shall bind us" but does not call for all traditions to be smashed, only those which are holding people back from progress, as socialists saw and see it. Politics aside (?), I feel that a general disrespect for tradition is a kind of nihilism.

I think I like these remarks most of all:

The youngsters that come into a kitchen have to have the strength of mind of thinking everyday, that when you’re repeating a recipe, actually you’re making it new each time. It’s like Antonio Gades, the incredibly talented dancer who recently passed away: as if anytime he danced Bodas de Sangre he would have had to start from the scratch. He’s been performing Bodas de Sangre for many years. No. The thing to do is to improve and improve and improve. And in this improvement, there’s creation. And you sense it when you see it. You notice when you’re really cooking a dish, when you’re reaching sublimation, when you have control of the fire. To be capable of understanding this. There there’s creation. Creation is not saying: I’m going to cook this chicken with ginger, with cardamom, I’m going to stuff it with who knows what. That’s already in the script. Creativity lies in mastering how you can sublimate that chicken from a raw state to make it sublime to a human being. And when they find it sublime, they will acknowledge creation.

I recognize in these remarks the soul of a fellow performing artist.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Chef Santamaria talked about the "illusion" of a Michelin rating. Did he mean that something temporary is illusory? I'd say, rather, that a temporary thing is elusive. Is there a way in which a yearly rating is more of an illusion than most other things in life?

Oops. My mistake. It seems I ran into a false friend when I translated the original ilusión to illusion. Thrill is what Santi meant.

I found a contradiction in these two statements by the chef:
There’s also an excess of Americanization in Spain’s society, particularly in the cities. Who would have imagined, for instance, that the La Brecha market in San Sebastian would have as its more emblematic establishment, when you enter, a McDonald’s? When today, it’s still one of the markets where you find the best fish, the best vegetables. But it has to share the entrance with McDonald’s signage, in San Sebastian! This has to make all us think long and hard.

Pedro: Do you think that, in the media, there’s a certain degree of polarization about the vision of Spain’s cooking?

Santi : It could be that a certain polarization exists in the media, but not among the public. I believe that the public is extremely intelligent and knows how to choose. It knows when an establishment has quality standards, where there’s cooking with character; and when people feel like having a given cooking style they go for it, and when they don’t, they look to other places.

Perhaps context is all, but what intelligent public is Chef Santi referring to in the second place, when he referred to the popularity of McDonalds in the first place? I don't think he would consider McDonalds to be a quality establishment where there's cooking with character.

Yes, context is all. The latter question referred to the preeminence that avant-garde or hypermodern cooking has achieved in media. So really, we were referring to public which visit gastronomic restaurants.

If you take a look to the map, Northern Catalonian cooking is very different from Southern Catalonian cooking: suquets cooking versus rice cooking. We also have Barcelona’s cosmopolitan cooking. We can talk of a cuisine of espadenyes, of pulpitos, a cuisine of miniature products, which drive Catalonians mad. We’re a people, curiously, mad about little things: fishes that aren’t very big . . . all this conforms a very particular cuisine, which along with the French influence (mainly from Provencal cooking), and the Italian cooks that came in the beginning of the twentieth century for the Universal Exposition of 1929 with all their pasta contribution, all results in a very rich and varied cuisine, which gets reflected in today’s cooks.

Very interesting. Pasta hadn't reached Catalonia during the period of the Caliphates or earlier? Is the issue how the word "pasta" is defined?

I don't think pasta had reached Spain at all during that period, neither I believe there's an issue with the definition of pasta.

I couldn't help taking note of Pedro's remark about pork as one of the ingredients that defines Spanish cuisine. That's surely a legacy of the Reconquista and the Inquisition. The former Muslim and Jewish inhabitants during the period of Muslim rule obviously didn't use it, but that goes back over 500 years now.

I think there's widespread agreement that a single Spanish cuisine as such doesn't exist, rather there're several Spanish cuisines, or as Santi says, Spain's cuisines. That said, you're right about the presence of pork being a legacy which goes back to those days, when after Muslims and Jewish inhabitants were forced to either leave or convert from their religion to Catholicism, eating pork was a way to show how true the conversion was.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Thanks for reminding me that I was surprised to read that noodles in Catalunya don't go back before 1929. I had long thought pasta came to the region after Catalan invaders took the town of Alghero in Sardinia in the 14th century. The style of cooking noodles is so different than in Italy, that I am surprised it doesn't date back further in the region.

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