Legends related to Spanish cuisine
Language Resources

Legends related to Spanish cuisine


How did “horchata” get its name? Legend has it that James I of Aragon, nicknamed The Conqueror, was passing over the land of a peasant one day and he asked her for something to drink. She gave him a milky liquid to try which was made of tiger nuts from her garden, which she called “chufa milk”. Feeling comforted after drinking the tasty and refreshing liquid, the King exclaimed in Valencian “Això no es llet; Això es or, xata” (in Spanish, “This is not milk, this is gold, girl”)

The famous tapas apparently have a more recent origin. In the early twentieth century, King Alfonso XIII visited Cadiz where he ordered glass of fino. There was a gust of wind, and in order to avoid the glass being filled with sand, the manager of the bar ordered a slice of ham to cover the glass. The King was amused by this idea and asked for a second glass of fino that also had “a tapa” translated as “cover”. (Remember, the word “tapa” literally means “something that closes a container”).


Another simple Spanish dish is the potato omelette. They say that the recipe was born in 1835, during the first Spanish Civil War or the Carlist War: the Carlist general Zumalacárregui had reportedly ordered something be whipped up with the few eggs and potatoes that were seized from the starving invaders of the City of Bilbao. Others say it was born in Badajoz in the eighteenth century.

But the cooking legend that takes the prize is perhaps that which asserts that French cuisine has Spanish origins. Let us explain: it is well known that Napoleon’s troops ransacked the archives of the monastery of Alcántara (Cáceres). Well, according to the story, the French stole these archives, many of which contained culinary recipes that later spread little by little around France and in time resulted in forming the bulk of distinguished French cuisine. One example would be the existence of consomé (soup), known in Spain in the eighteenth century as consumado.

In some cases there is no documented evidence to support these theories, but as they often say “if it is not true, it is well told” and who doesn’t enjoy a good story at meal times?

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