Only outside of Spain do people talk about a generic Spanish cuisine. Spaniards themselves are much more apt to refer to the country’s traditional dishes by their region of origin, such as cocido Madrileño, fabada Asturiana and crema Catalana. Spain is not known for its strong sense of nationalism in general, and this goes for its cuisine as well.
Spanish cuisine is regional
The reality is that Spanish cuisine is eminently regional, with each region offering its age-old traditional dishes to the country’s rich gastronomic fabric. Today’s modern Spanish table reflects this diversity, and in major cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia you can find restaurants that serve the most popular dishes from other regions.
But it wasn’t always this way. For the greater part of Spanish history, what people ate depended almost entirely on the region in which they lived. And even today, each of the different regions of Spain, called Comunidades Autonómicas (Autonomous communities), conserves its distinct culinary culture.
On the map you can see the seventeen Autonomous Communities that make up Spain. Officially there are two additional Autonomous Communities, the African cities of Ceuta, and Melilla.
Each region is its own culinary world
The cultural diversity in general found in Spain is surprising for the first-time visitor, expecting to find matadors and flamenco dancers throughout the land. Instead they will discover that each region is almost like a different country. Galicia is as different from Valencia as Ireland is from Greece. These differences include language, history, geography, customs, traditions, holidays, and cuisine. The reason for this lies in Spain’s unique geography, which you can read more about in XX.
Sub-cultures within regions
In addition, even within regions there are distinct culinary traditions on a more local level. In Asturias for example, the coastal fishing villages offer superb seafood specialties, while the mountain villages are famous for their cheeses (over 40 varieties) and hearty bean dishes. So it is quite worth your while to venture outside the major cities and into lesser-known territories.
Traditional Spanish cuisine and authentic atmosphere
If you really want to get to know Spanish cuisine, it is necessary to grab your map, pack your suitcase, and bit by bit explore each of the wonderful regions that it is comprised of. This must be done on ground level—by car, bus or train, and by foot and with a heavy dose of serendipity. Once the general route is laid out, you should leave plenty of room for the unexpected, the surprises that offer you much more than you ever imagined.
Choose your setting – discover the unexpected
A big advantage in getting to know Spain and its varied gastronomy is its manageable size. I know of nowhere else in the world that houses so much geographic and cultural diversity in such a small territory (505,988 square kilometres)—an area smaller than the state of Texas (678,051 square kilometres.)
This relatively small area is home to 6 official languages (Castellano, Euskera, Catalán, Gallego, Aranés, Valenciano)and many more that have not yet received official status or are considered dialects (e.g., Extremeño, Canario or Babel in Asturias).
Its geography offers the soaring heights of the Pyrenees mountains (more than 50 peaks topping 3000 m.), vast expanses of protected natural wilderness (includes a network of 14 national parks of the most varied geography and ecosystems) as well as 3500 kilometres of coast.
This extensive coastline boasts of beautiful, secluded island coves with pristine waters, winds and waves that provide a paradise for surfers of all varieties, picturesque ports with their colourful fishing boats and houses nestled into the mountainside, as well as the most luxurious of beach resorts.
Vibrant cities and rustic villages
Spain´s urban centres offer the latest trends in fashion and design, while its rural villages of ancient stone offer an odd kind of time warp where a simpler life style from another era is still being carried out.
Wherever you go in Spain, your taste buds will be delighted
And wherever you go you can broaden your knowledge of Spanish cuisine by enjoying popular picks like tortilla and tapas, or less well known traditional favourites, such as the Basque Country’s bacalao al pil pil (cod with garlic and an olive oil emulsion), Navarra’s menestra de verduras (a mélange of stewed and fried vegetables, and Valencia’s fideuá (a seafood pasta “paella”).
I cannot encourage you enough to explore the cultural and gastronomical treasures that are Spain. If your plans include Valencia, we at City Garden B&B welcome you to our newly opened bed and breakfast, located in the centre of the city in the vibrant neighbourhood of Ruzafa, Valencia. There you can enjoy a spacious terrace and an atmosphere that is at the same time genuinely urban and absolutely peaceful.