Language & Culture, Fall 2013, Issue II
Cooking shaped mankind...
…and it is shaping our students’ experience. During the past few weeks, students enrolled in our Language and Culture Program have been experiencing local culture through gastronomy. Barcelona exemplifies the rich gastronomic tradition of a country that for many years has been influenced by a variety of cultures and events: the result is a symbolic recipe book which, together with language, traditions and cultural products, have shaped the city’s identity.
The first recipes in Latin-derived languages (from the 14th and 15th centuries) are written in Catalan, and Medieval cuisine represented a golden age for gastronomy in Catalonia. Then the Arabs introduced many products to the Iberian peninsula and again new elements were added through the relationship with the Americas. Necesity also fostered local cuisine during and after the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). More recently, traditional gastronomy has met creative cuisine thanks to the world famous chef Ferran Adrià and the new wave of Catalan chefs experimenting with all elements involved in culinary arts: colors, textures, unexpected combination, senses.
During their Cook & Taste class, LC students had the opportunity of learning about traditional dishes, such as tortilla de patatas (omelette with onions and potatoes), crema catalana (a dessert similar to crème brûlée) and paella, the perfect combination of products from both the sea and the land. As Ferran Adrià said, “All cuisine is world heritage. When you eat paella, you are eating gastronomic culture and history.”
Another essential element of local history and cuisine is bread. A group of LC students participated in a cooking workshop dedicated to Pa de Pagès: a traditional Catalan bread which is round, with a crisp crust, tender crumb and large alveoles, which must always be shaped by hand. It is produced using traditional methods and slow fermentation. Pagés means farmer or peasant in Catalan. Pa de pagès was the bread made in rural areas throughout Catalonia for local consumption. It was therefore an artisan bread, as it was made in the masías (farmhouses) and in the villages. With the industrial revolution and the two World Fairs held in Barcelona in 1888 and 1929 many rural workers moved to the city, converting pa de pagés in a local gastronomic landmark.
Fresh products are at the basis of the Mediterranean cuisine. Barcelona’s markets offer an extensive variety of fresh products. Every neighborhood in the city has its own market, specifically connected to the area’s history and identity. The market network is connecting past and present, while space rehabilitation actions look towards the future. For one of their culture classes, Spain in Translation, LC students explored the Santa Caterina Market, one of the city’s architectural landmark.
Lastly, our students had the opportunity of attending a castellers practice, experiencing first-hand the physical representation of traditional Catalan values: sense of community, team-building, equality and trust. Spanish classes and language exchanges with local students are playing a big role in getting LC students more and more integrated into the local culture. We will keep you posted!