The cuisine of many countries is influenced by the additions introduced by other cultures. This is especially true with Spanish cuisine. The influences of other cultures on the cuisine in Spain go a long way back and as other influences were incorporated, Spain developed a cuisine that is uniquely its own.
Spain is situated with water around most of it. It connects to France on the northeast and is just a short distance from Morocco on the southern tip where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. This puts Spain in a good position to be influenced by many cultures that sail both seas. Much of Spain is considered to have a Mediterranean diet as many of the cultures that influenced Spain’s cuisine came from that part of the world.
Each region of Spain has added it own variations to what these other cultures have brought. Vegetables as well as meats are consumed with great pleasure in Spain. With so much of Spain surrounded by water, fish and seafood are also very much a part of the cuisine.
The Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean and brought their sauces to Spain. The Greeks gave the Spanish cuisine the gift of olives and olive oil though the Romans are at times credited with introducing the Spanish to these important ingredients. Other cultures that have contributed to the Spanish cuisine are the Jews and the Carthaginians. While they left their mark on the cuisine, it is the Moors who most strongly influenced Spain’s cuisine.
For over five hundred years, the Moors ruled Spain so it is no wonder that they indelibly left their mark on the cuisine. The Moors brought many of the fruits that are eaten in Spain today. Mixing fruits, nuts, fish and meats with light seasonings was one appetizing introduction. Rice was brought by the Moors and is a staple of the Spanish diet. This accounts for the abundance of rice dishes in Spain, especially Paella. The Moors also brought nutmeg, saffron and cinnamon to Spain. A cold soup that is catching on around the world that is typically Spanish is gazpacho and we can thank the Moors for that, too. If not for the Moors, Spanish cuisine would not be the gastronomical pleasure it is today.
At one point in the Moorish rule, Christian, Jews and Moors lived fairly harmoniously and this helped to blend many of the individual culture’s contributions to the cuisine. Pork is eaten a lot in Spain and is a contribution by Christians, as neither Jews nor Moors would eat it. However, pork dishes did have seasonings added and methods of preparation used that were influenced by the Jewish and Moorish cultures.
There are many things in the Spanish diet that came from a rather great distance and were enthusiastically adopted and incorporated into the cuisine before the rest of Europe. After Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492, other Spanish explorers soon followed and brought back many delightful additions to the Spanish diet. Among them were tomatoes, chocolate, vanilla, various types of beans and potatoes, all of which are now considered basic to the Spanish cuisine. Though we think of potatoes as an Irish staple, they became a staple in the Spanish diet before they were even introduced to Ireland.
So, as you can imagine, Spanish cuisine is influenced by many cultures. The Spanish food history of this wonderful cuisine was popular many years ago and is becoming increasingly popular today.