Stereotypes about Catalonia - “Tapas, paella, patates braves and pa amb tomàquet are the dishes that define Barcelona’s way of life”, said Parisian Laure

For chef 7 Michelin-star, Santi Santamaria, with 2 restaurants in Catalonia, 1 in Dubai and 1 in Singapur, tapas are for tourists. “We prefer more to deeply experience dishes”, he states.

CNA / Jordi Font Comas d'Argemir / Gaspar Pericay Coll

November 22, 2010 11:58 PM

Barcelona/Paris (ACN).- Laure Elise has wanted to visit Barcelona for years now after hearing praise of the city from many of her friends. Even though she has not had the chance to visit yet, 26 year-old Laure already knows about Catalan cuisine such as ‘pa amb tomàquet’ (bread with tomato). “My friends who have visited Barcelona have always talked about tapas, bravas, paella and pa amb tomàquet”. Dishes that, according to Laure, define the character of the Catalan capital. But for largely recognised chef Santi Santamaria, from the famous 3 Michelin-star Can Fabes Restaurant, tapas are essentially for tourists. “Catalans have been taught that if you eat too much you won’t be hungry anymore…so we prefer to deeply experience dishes”, he argues.

The type of cuisine that can be found in Barcelona’s restaurants is not always what can be found in Catalan homes. As the most important city and principal tourist attraction, Barcelona has the role of projecting Catalan cuisine into the world. This cuisine consists of traditional recipes accompanied by cooking styles from around the world. Barcelona has the majority of its tourists coming from France. It is hard to find a young person who has not visited at least once. Laure Elise in an exception. She has never been to Barcelona, but she assures that she will visit soon after hearing many good things about the city from her friends.

Paella, bravas potatoes, tapas and pa amb tomàquet are the four foods that come to Laure’s head. These are the foods that her friends enjoyed the most. Laure believes that these types of foods define the way of life in Barcelona, one full of “happiness and parties… that is very much appreciated by the French”. While these dishes are indeed a staple in Barcelona’s restaurants, Catalan gastronomy has much more to it.

A small country with culinary contrasts

“It is a small country…with great climatic contrasts” that produces “very diverse” foods, says Catalan chef Santi Santamaría. In tourist cities like Barcelona “public restaurants have an extraordinarily diverse variety with cuisines from around the world”, making it more difficult to find cuisine that is “strictly local”. This cuisine is one that has a relationship with “the land, memory and Catalan culture”.

Santamaría thinks that it is easy for tourists to “get a little bit lost”, especially when “the first thing that pops into their head are tapas, a dish that is essentially for tourists”. In Catalonia, do not normally eat tapas because they “fill you up” and later one is not hungry any more. In Catalonia, “we like to deeply experience dishes”, states Santamaria.

According to Santamaria, Catalan cuisine has incorporated rice as an “element of distinction”, cooked in many different ways. Paella is the most internationally recognised, but in Catalonia there is also “arròs a la cassola” (casserole rice), or many other rice dishes, such as “arròs caldós or mariner” (cooked in juice or seafood broth).

In Catalonia, fresh Mediterranean fish is always available, including shrimp “that makes you lose your senses”, says Santamaría. At the same time, the quality of meat in Catalonia is also very good, with emblematic dishes such as the “escudella i carn d’olla” (a complete dish consisting of soup, side vegetables, a stew made with Catalan sausage and different meets).

For Santamaría, it is evident that Catalonia is a country where “eating becomes a party…a social act through which we manifest our joy”. “They know that in Catalonia they will find a cuisine of identity, realities and good products that relate to the territory, farmers, fishermen, livestock-growers and artisans. With a lot of feeling and self-esteem, the products we ingest are more than just food”, concludes the chef.