In order to understand Andalusia, you have to speak of its people, its way of life, its history and its geographical location.
Through its history, Andalusian cuisine is the result of the blending of several different cultures and key historical developments.
The raw materials used in this region are exceptional and make it unique: its proximity to the sea; its local produce; its livestock; the crops and orchards that supply all of Europe with fruits and vegetables as well as small scale market gardening; the extra virgin olive oil that the Arabs left us together with nuts and spices; the salted fish of the Phoenicians and the fermented fish sauce “Garum” that the Romans left us, currently such a fashionable staple in all kitchens and that provides, according to some, the fifth basic flavor, the “Umami”; the tomato, which came to us from the Americas along the Guadalquivir and is the main ingredient of “Gazpacho”, probably the best known Spanish cold soup; the Iberian pig from which provides countless delicacies and from which nothing is wasted.
This hodgepodge of Arab cuisine, Mediterranean culture of olive tree and vine, providing a gateway to the Americas for all of Europe in ancient times and in particular the idiosyncrasy of being a country of gentlemen farmers and landowners with large estates and day laborers directly influences the traditional Andalusian cookbook.
Essentially, drinking, eating and socializing is a way of life in Andalusia: it is in the Spanish DNA. In Andalusia we enjoy an excellent climate with many hours of sunshine which means that we can spend much of the day outdoors, breathing fresh air and enjoying brilliant blue skies with spectacular light. We have an enviable quality of life, enjoying every moment possible with family and friends and especially eating and drinking.
In Spain “Ir de tapas” – going from bar to bar and eating small amounts of different things – is almost a religion, allowing us to enjoy a glass of wine and preparing us for the next one. Sharing food with a plate at the centre of the table and eating, often with your hands, isn’t bad etiquette, it’s a pleasurable experience involving all the senses, a return to the fundamentals of what is really important.
I know that many will disagree with me on this, but it could be said that the image of Spain in the rest of the world owes much to Andalusia: the gypsy dresses; the Osborne bull; dancing Sevillanas; the bullfighter’s “traje de luce”; the sun and the beach; tapas and fortified wines. In short, the joy of living and enjoying every moment as if it were the last.
Here we have it all. Our festivals and traditions are always accompanied by typical dishes, wine, family, friends. No event is planned without there being good company, good wine and good food. We enjoy the profane as much as the religious, art and tradition. Anything is a good enough reason to get together and celebrate life. We have an unbelievable number of fairs: the “Feria de Abril” in Seville; the August Feria in Malaga; the “Feria del Caballo” in Jerez (Cadiz); the “Nuestra Señora de la Salud” fair in Córdoba; the “Virgen del Mar” feria in Almería; the feria of “San Lucas” in Jaén. We have “El Rocío” and the “Columbian Festivities” in Huelva, “Las Cruces de Mayo”” and “Los Patios” in Córdoba. Motorcycles in Jerez, horse racing in Sanlúcar and Carnival in Cádiz. “Corpus Christi” and “La Tomatina” in Granada, the Pilgrimage of the “Virgen de la Cabeza” in Andújar (Jaén), “Las Goyescas” in Ronda (Malaga). The Holy Week processions, the harvest festivities, the maritime processions of the “Virgen del Carmen” throughout Andalusia. I’m sure I forget some too!
Andalusia has a total of 27 Denominations, two of them are among the oldest in Spain (Jerez-Xeres-Sherry and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda (one) and Malaga). There are 13 local wines and 7 Specific Denominations, colloquially known as Protected Geographical Indications. This gives us an idea of the importance given to quality here.
The first wines for export to practically the whole world, but mainly to Anglo-Saxon countries came from Andalusia. Most of them were fortified wines: they were fortified to 15% proof, higher than other wines, so that they would endure the journey and arrive in optimal conditions.
For many years they were very fashionable and were an essential at any party or event and in any level kitchen.
Nowadays there is no top level restaurant in the world that does not have products from Andalusia, either on its wine list or on the menu.
Andalusia must be experienced, Andalusia is different.