I’ve loved all things Spanish for some years now. This is thanks to a good friend who introduced me to the country. Stupidly, I thought that Spain was all about the worst of northern European tourists and their rather restricted diets! How wrong could I be – there is so much more to the country and its culinary heritage than the worst elements of the tourist industry.
Every time I visit Spain (I try to get there at least once a year), I love to visit a new Parador. The Paradors are authentic Spanish hotels, which are situated in the most fantastic locations. The hotels are very often converted monestaries or other historic buildings. The great thing is that they are often located in places that I would never consider visiting, so, over the years I have discovered some real gems.
The latest of these discoveries is the Parador in Carmona, a real Spanish town, only 30km from the city of Seville and 23 km from Seville airport. As with all Paradors, the menu’s reflect the local cuisine, but, as good as they are, there is nothing like getting out and about and tasting it for yourself. For me, Carmona is all about the tapas. If you ever get there, head for the main square and take your pick. Every bar has it’s own speciality. Some are more meat based and some more fish. The local speciality is a tapa or ‘racione’ (larger portion) made with chickpeas, spinach and spices. This definitely has a taste of Northern Africa so often found in the food of Andalusia. The city walls were not the only thing the Moors left behind, their influence on the food is obvious too.
Apart from tapas, there is another simple aspect of Spanish food life that I really enjoy. I like to find a local café, one that is buzzing. I head there around 10:30 each morning for a coffee and tostada con tomate. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is nothing special, but, this simple morning snack of toasted bread with butter or olive oil and some puréed tomatoes is something much more to me. It is the essence of Spanish food and life. Simple, good ingredients, respect for food, pride in giving good service, friends, family, life, love……Spain.