Recorded culinary history of Spain began to unfold in the second century before Christ as the Romans maintained their rule of Spain which lasted for hundreds of years.
The Romans developed an infrastructure of roads, bridges, and aqueducts. They built the magnificent cities of Barcelona, Tarragona, Medrida, and ingrained a passion for good food.
The climate was kind; the Romans were skillful. They cultivated olive orchards and taught the Spanish to cook with olive oil.
Grapes for wine and wheat for bread were developed with great success.
Seven hundred years later, as the Roman Empire fell into decline, Germanic tribes invaded and Spain was introduced to spinach, legumes, and radishes. Livestock farming was also developed.
In 711 A.D., the Moors invaded and, with a few exceptions, ruled the country for nearly 800 years.
Traces of their dominance and opulent way of life, are still evident in the Alhambra in Granada and the Mezuita of Cordoba. They established an irrigation system, planted Middle Eastern foods suited to Spain’s varied soils and climates, and imported herbs and spices. Rice, lemon and orange trees, almonds, saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, cilantro and anise are some of their flavors that permanently changed the cuisine of Spain.
Early in the eleventh century, Christians began efforts to reunite Spain. They met with success in 1492, when Granada, the final Moorish stronghold, was reclaimed.
This was also the year of discovery of the New World, and Spain, at the height of her prestige, was the European gateway for new foods arriving from America. Spain quickly adopted tomatoes, peppers, corn, cocoa beans, and potatoes into her cuisine and made them her own.
Today, Spain is again emerging from an unhappy period in her history and is a prosperous nation of autonomous regions and city enclaves on Africa’s north coast.
Spanish is spoken throughout the country, but some regions do maintain their traditional regional languages and culture. Catholicism is predominant, but Judaism and Islam are practiced in some communities.
With such differences of cultures, topographies, and micro-climates within the country, and the unbelievable abundance of sea food along the entire coast line, its understandable that regional cuisines flourish.
Over all, Spanish food is simple, straight-forward, and appetizing. The true flavors of the cuisine derive from the extremely high quality of ingredients and are never masked by strong or harsh flavors of spices.
As any Spaniard will tell you, their food is to be savored at leisure and accompanied by good Spanish wine.