Though Spanish cuisine has roots in Roman and Mediterranean cooking, influence from Jewish and Moorish settlers differentiates Spain's cooking from the rest of Europe. Later, Spanish conquistadores brought back numerous foods from the Americas that were then introduced to the rest of Europe, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and beans.
Attached to Europe but a stone's throw from Africa, Spain sports the tastes of its many settlers, whose own culinary customs have been shaped by the varying features of its regions.
Early settlers to Spain include the Iberians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Celts and Carthaginians. Later, the Romans dominated Spain, contributing all their best qualities, including language. In the 8th Century AD, the Moslems (known as Moors) conquered the nation bringing the Moslem religion and culture with them and ruled until the 13th Century, when the Christians again took dominance.
When Spain dispatched Columbus to America, it soon after reaped the profits and goods from his and others' explorations. The country's Charles V was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1516, ruling over countries from the Philippines to Germany to the New World. The last great foreign influence prior to its tumultuous modern history came in 1808, when Napoleon overran Spain and his brother took the throne.
Northern Spain's Cantabrian Mountains, humid and green, are home to the independent Basques, many living as sheepherders and still speaking their mysterious, ancient tongue. This uppermost region extends all the way to the seafood-rich Galicia region on the northwest coast. Mediterranean Spain is known for its Catalan language and the fertile farmland and azure coast stretching from Barcelona to Cartagena. Andalusia, in Southern Spain, is home of the famous gazpacho, the cold tomato soup that was created to cool the workers in the hot, dry sun. Moving Inland, a different refreshment is made: the Rioja wines, among the world's finest, and we see the aqueducts and architecture of the Romans, who also left their gustatory influences. Interspersed throughout these regions are touches left by the Moors and even the Sephardic Jews.
From olive oil to red wine, Spain offers the traveler a true taste of world-class cuisine.
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This page modified January 2007
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